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I have a bad feeling about Windows 8 backup already. I sure hope I'm just being plain dumb and somebody can enlighten me.

Short story: Windows 8 System Image Recovery does not find my system image. I made it just before I used Windows 7 recovery to momentarily re-install my old os (Win 7) in order to export my EFS key. The plan was to revert back to Windows 8 without having to install all the programs I've been busy installing during the last 2 weeks.

Details:

  1. Previous system: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (full retail license) on a smaller SSD, most user files on a secondary HDD.
  2. Upgraded to Win 8 Pro (upgrade license), doing a clean install upgrade, deleting the old Windows 7 partitions before installation (100 MB system reserved + larger main partition)
  3. Noticed I had forgotten to export my EFS key. Got the bright idea of using system images to quickly dive into my old system, export the EFS key, and return to the present system.
  4. Used the "Windows 7 File Recovery" option in the Windows 8 Control Panel to make the system image (saved to my secondary HDD). Seemed to complete without issues. I did rename the old WindowsImageBackup-folder that already existed (containing my Windows 7 system image) to prevent it from being magnled by the Windows 8 image.
  5. Succesfully restored the old Windows 7 system image from to my primary drive (overwriting Windows 8) using Acronis 2013 (I did first try Windows 7 image recovery tools but they aborted the recovery after a few seconds, complaining some file was corrupt).
  6. Succesfully logged in to the Windows 7 system and recovered the EFS key.
  7. Re-applied the Windows 8 upgrade (step 2), giving the computer the same name as my first Windows 8 installation, and creating the same user name.
  8. Booted the freshly installed Windows 8 into recovery tools and selected "System Image Recovery"
  9. Got the error "Windows cannot find a system image on this computer". Hitting Retry did not help. Hitting Cancel let me choose "Select a system image" and click "Next", showing me an empty list. Under the list was the button "Advanced" which let me "Install a driver" or "Search for a system image on the network". At one point, I even copied the WindowsImageBackup-folder to a network drive I have, but the backup wasn't recognized that way either.

Even though the image recovery tool is not recognizing the backup, I can use the command prompt from the Windows 8 recovery mode to navigate and explore the backup files. They are also visible if I choose the "Install driver" option (which lets me explore the directory tree via a file selector).

I then tried to use Acronis 2013 (which after all did help me restore my old Windows 7 image) to restore the backup that way, only to find that Acronis did not support the new VHDX format used by Windows 8 backups. As a last desperate attempt, I tried converting the VHDX files into VHD format using Hyper-V Manager. Windows Backup still did not find the backups, but I managed to use Acronis to restore the converted VHD files. That did not work, the computer complained "Missing operating system" on bootup, and using Windows 8 installation to make an "Automatic Repair" did not solve the problem.

Very curiously, even though the Windows 8 System Image Recovery does not see my Windows 8 image, I noticed that it does see VHD-format backups that I have on my Windows 7 system. Surely the recovery tools are scanning also for VHDX files as that seems to be the format in which Windows 8 creates these backups? What are the factors by which the recovery tool decides whether relevant backup files exist?

Any ideas or pointers to help me utilize the existing backup image are greatly appreciated!

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I have the same problem I am interested if you found a solution to that. –  Eduard Florinescu Jun 3 '13 at 9:40
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1 Answer 1

Surely you have solved your problem by now, but this may help someone else. I too have noticed that Win8 does a poor job of detecting System Images that it has written to a local disk. Sometimes it can see them, sometimes not.

However, I found that the System Repair CD/DVD does seem to be able to see the System Images that are locally attached. It also can read System Images that are accessible as network shares (even if originally written to a locally attached device).

It's a shame that the System Image mechanism is so broken.

And just in case its not obvious, you can create that System Repair CD/DVD from the "Windows 7 File Recovery" applet in the Win8 control panel.

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