I'm running Windows Vista SP 2. My Windows OS drive is bitlocker encrypted. I have a Complete PC Backup of the OS drive on a secondary drive also bitlocker encrypted. I want to replace the OS drive with a large one and then do a Complete PC Restore from the backup on the secondary bitlocker encrypted drive. What is the correct procedure to do this restore from the image on the bitlocker encrypted backup drive?

3 Answers 3


I had the same question, and this post was the closest thing that I could find to an answer so I went ahead and tried this over the weekend just to see what would happen.

I Bitlockered an external drive, created a system image and a recovery disc, booted into the disc and was prompted as part of the recovery process to unlock the Bitlockered drive. All in all it worked flawlessly without me having to type anything on the command line or really deviate from the normal recovery process.

You can find the details of my experiment here: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itprosecurity/thread/6cbc202b-094b-48ff-b4d6-486f3821c604


Wow, you don't make it easy!

I am not sure if there is an easier way of doing this, however this is how I would acomplish it.

If you inserted the recovery disk, click cancel to get out of Complete PC Restore and click Command Prompt

For this to work, you need to know your recovery key. From within Windows, you can create a new one by using the Bitlocker management tools.

To interact with a bitlocker encrypted drive from Windows PE, use the manage-bde.exe file located at %systemroot%\system32\

The command you want is

%systemroot%\system32\manage-bde.exe -unlock d: -RecoveryKey c:\blabla.bek

Where c:\ is your system drive, d: is the drive to unlock and c:\blabla.bek is that backup key file.

If you get an error message, then try entering the key in the following manner:

%systemroot%\system32\manage-bde.exe -unlock d: -rp [bunch of numbers without hyphens]

I would recommend that you put both the manage-bde.exe and the recovery key file on a USB flash drive or somewhere unencrypted so that you can easily use it.

Next, go back to the selection menu and you should be able to go back to complete PC Restore and the drive should be readable.

  • I hope to give this a try today or tomorrow. I'll post whether or not I was successful.
    – ne0sonic
    Apr 15, 2010 at 12:18

Shadowcat is correct that the BitLocker drive can be unlocked during the regular restore process with a system recovery USB stick. There are, however, a few details to remember:

  • The UI will only ask you to unlock your backup drive if you attach the drive before clicking on the "System Image Recovery" menu option. If you attach it after starting the system image recovery wizard, the wizard will just claim that no backup device can be found. In that case, cancel the wizard, return to the menu and try again.

  • The UI will only allow you to unlock your drive with a Recovery Key (the bunch of numbers separated by hyphens printed on the recovery sheet), not with the password. To unlock the drive with a password, you need to use the Command Line menu option before starting the System Image Recovery wizard and unlock the drive with the manage-bde tool (which is included on the recovery media):

    manage-bde.exe -unlock d: -Password

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