Back up system state and restore to bare metal by using Azure Backup Server

Azure Backup Server backs up system state and provides bare-metal recovery (BMR) protection.

  • System state backup: Backs up operating system files. This backup allows you to recover when a computer starts, but system files and the registry are lost. A system state backup includes the following elements:
    • Domain member: Boot files, COM+ class registration database, registry
    • Domain controller: Windows Server Active Directory (NTDS), boot files, COM+ class registration database, registry, system volume (SYSVOL)
    • Computer that runs cluster services: Cluster server metadata
    • Computer that runs certificate services: Certificate data
  • Bare-metal backup: Backs up operating system files and all data on critical volumes, except for user data. By definition, a BMR backup includes a system state backup. It provides protection when a computer won't start and you have to recover everything.

The following table summarizes what you can back up and recover. For information about app versions that system state and BMR can protect, see What does Azure Backup Server back up?.

Backup Issue Recover from Azure Backup Server backup Recover from system state backup BMR
File data

Regular data backup

BMR/system state backup
Lost file data Y N N
File data

Azure Backup Server backup of file data

BMR/system state backup
Lost or damaged operating system N Y Y
File data

Azure Backup Server backup of file data

BMR/system state backup
Lost server (data volumes intact) N N Y
File data

Azure Backup Server backup of file data

BMR/system state backup
Lost server (data volumes lost) Y N Y

BMR, followed by regular recovery of backed-up file data
SharePoint data

Azure Backup Server backup of farm data

BMR/system state backup
Lost site, lists, list items, documents Y N N
SharePoint data

Azure Backup Server backup of farm data

BMR/system state backup
Lost or damaged operating system N Y Y
SharePoint data

Azure Backup Server backup of farm data

BMR/system state backup
Disaster recovery N N N
Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V

Azure Backup Server backup of Hyper-V host or guest

BMR/system state backup of host
Lost VM Y N N
Hyper-V

Azure Backup Server backup of Hyper-V host or guest

BMR/system state backup of host
Lost or damaged operating system N Y Y
Hyper-V

Azure Backup Server backup of Hyper-V host or guest

BMR/system state backup of host
Lost Hyper-V host (VMs intact) N N Y
Hyper-V

Azure Backup Server backup of Hyper-V host or guest

BMR/system state backup of host
Lost Hyper-V host (VMs lost) N N Y

BMR, followed by regular Azure Backup Server recovery
SQL Server/Exchange

Azure Backup Server app backup

BMR/system state backup
Lost app data Y N N
SQL Server/Exchange

Azure Backup Server app backup

BMR/system state backup
Lost or damaged operating system N Y Y
SQL Server/Exchange

Azure Backup Server app backup

BMR/system state backup
Lost server (database/transaction logs intact) N N Y
SQL Server/Exchange

Azure Backup Server app backup

BMR/system state backup
Lost server (database/transaction logs lost) N N Y

BMR recovery, followed by regular Azure Backup Server recovery

How system state backup works

When a system state backup runs, Backup Server communicates with Windows Server Backup to request a backup of the server's system state. By default, Backup Server and Windows Server Backup use the drive that has the most available free space. Information about this drive is saved in the PSDataSourceConfig.xml file.

You can customize the drive that Backup Server uses for the system state backup:

  1. On the protected server, go to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Data Protection Manager\MABS\Datasources.
  2. Open the PSDataSourceConfig.xml file for editing.
  3. Change the <FilesToProtect> value for the drive letter.
  4. Save and close the file.

If a protection group is set to protect the system state of the computer, then run a consistency check. If an alert is generated, then select Modify protection group in the alert, and then complete the pages in the wizard. Then run another consistency check.

If the protection server is in a cluster, a cluster drive might be selected as the drive that has the most free space. If that drive ownership is switched to another node and a system state backup runs, then the drive is unavailable and the backup fails. In this scenario, modify PSDataSourceConfig.xml to point to a local drive.

Next, Windows Server Backup creates a folder called WindowsImageBackup in the root of the restore folder. As Windows Server Backup creates the backup, all the data is placed in this folder. When the backup finishes, the file is transferred to the Backup Server computer. Note the following information:

  • This folder and its contents aren't cleaned up when the backup or transfer finishes. The best way to think of this is that the space is reserved for the next time a backup finishes.
  • The folder is created for every backup. The time and date stamp reflect the time of your last system state backup.

How BMR backup works

For BMR (including a system state backup), the backup job is saved directly to a share on the Backup Server computer. It's not saved to a folder on the protected server.

Backup Server calls Windows Server Backup and shares out the replica volume for that BMR backup. In this case, it doesn't require Windows Server Backup to use the drive that has the most free space. Instead, it uses the share that was created for the job.

When the backup finishes, the file is transferred to the Backup Server computer. Logs are stored in C:\Windows\Logs\WindowsServerBackup.

Prerequisites and limitations

  • BMR isn't supported for computers that run Windows Server 2003 or for computers that run a client operating system.

  • You can't protect BMR and system state for the same computer in different protection groups.

  • A Backup Server computer can't protect itself for BMR.

  • Short-term protection to tape (disk to tape, or D2T) isn't supported for BMR. Long-term storage to tape (disk to disk to tape, or D2D2T) is supported.

  • For BMR protection, Windows Server Backup must be installed on the protected computer.

  • For BMR protection, unlike for system state protection, Backup Server has no space requirements on the protected computer. Windows Server Backup directly transfers backups to the Backup Server computer. The backup transfer job doesn't appear in the Backup Server Jobs view.

  • Backup Server reserves 30 GB of space on the replica volume for BMR. You can change this space allotment on the Disk Allocation page in the Modify Protection Group Wizard. Or you can use the Get-DatasourceDiskAllocation and Set-DatasourceDiskAllocation PowerShell cmdlets. On the recovery point volume, BMR protection requires about 6 GB for a retention of five days.

    • You can't reduce the replica volume size to less than 15 GB.
    • Backup Server doesn't calculate the size of the BMR data source. It assumes 30 GB for all servers. Change the value based on the size of BMR backups that you expect in your environment. You can roughly calculate the size of a BMR backup as the sum of used space on all critical volumes. Critical volumes = boot volume + system volume + volume hosting system state data, such as Active Directory.
  • If you change from system state protection to BMR protection, then BMR protection requires less space on the recovery point volume. However, the extra space on the volume isn't reclaimed. You can manually shrink the volume size on the Modify Disk Allocation page of the Modify Protection Group Wizard. Or you can use the Get-DatasourceDiskAllocation and Set-DatasourceDiskAllocation PowerShell cmdlets.

    If you change from system state protection to BMR protection, then BMR protection requires more space on the replica volume. The volume is automatically extended. If you want to change the default space allocations, then use the Modify-DiskAllocation PowerShell cmdlet.

  • If you change from BMR protection to system state protection, then you need more space on the recovery point volume. Backup Server might try to automatically increase the volume. If the storage pool doesn't have sufficient space, an error occurs.

    If you change from BMR protection to system state protection, then you need space on the protected computer. You need the space because system state protection first writes the replica to the local computer, and then it transfers the replica to the Backup Server computer.

Before you begin

  1. Deploy Azure Backup Server. Verify that Backup Server is correctly deployed. For more information, see:

  2. Set up storage. You can store backup data on disk, on tape, and in the cloud with Azure. For more information, see Prepare data storage.

  3. Set up the protection agent. Install the protection agent on the computer that you want to back up. For more information, see Deploy the DPM protection agent.

Back up system state and bare metal

To back up system state and bare metal:

  1. To open the Create New Protection Group Wizard, in the Backup Server Administrator Console, select Protection > Actions > Create Protection Group.

  2. On the Select Protection Group Type page, select Servers, and then select Next.

  3. On the Select Group Members page, expand the computer, and then select either BMR or system state.

    Remember that you can't protect both BMR and system state for the same computer in different groups. Also, when you select BMR, system state is automatically enabled. For more information, see Deploy protection groups.

  4. On the Select Data Protection Method page, choose how to handle short-term backup and long-term backup.

    Short-term backup is always to disk first, with the option of backing up from the disk to Azure by using Azure Backup (short-term or long-term). An alternative to long-term backup to the cloud is to set up long-term backup to a standalone tape device or tape library that's connected to Backup Server.

  5. On the Select Short-Term Goals page, choose how to back up to short-term storage on disk:

    • For Retention range, choose how long to keep the data on disk.
    • For Synchronization frequency, choose how often to run an incremental backup to disk. If you don't want to set a backup interval, you can select Just before a recovery point. Backup Server will run an express full backup just before each recovery point is scheduled.
  6. If you want to store data on tape for long-term storage, then on the Specify Long-Term Goals page, choose how long to keep tape data (1 to 99 years).

    1. For Frequency of backup, choose how often to run backup to tape. The frequency is based on the retention range you selected:

      • When the retention range is 1 to 99 years, you can back up daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly.
      • When the retention range is 1 to 11 months, you can back up daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
      • When the retention range is 1 to 4 weeks, you can back up daily or weekly.
    2. On the Select Tape and Library Details page, select the tape and library to use. Also choose whether data should be compressed and encrypted.

  7. On the Review Disk Allocation page, review the storage pool disk space that's available for the protection group.

    • Total Data size is the size of the data you want to back up.
    • Disk space to be provisioned on Azure Backup Server is the space that Backup Server recommends for the protection group. Backup Server uses these settings to choose the ideal backup volume. You can edit the backup volume choices in Disk allocation details.
    • For workloads, in the drop-down menu, select the preferred storage. Your edits change the values for Total Storage and Free Storage in the Available Disk Storage pane. Underprovisioned space is the amount of storage that Backup Server suggests that you add to the volume to ensure smooth backups.
  8. On the Choose Replica Creation Method page, select how to handle the initial full-data replication.

    If you choose to replicate over the network, we recommend that you choose an off-peak time. For large amounts of data or for network conditions that are less than optimal, consider replicating the data offline by using removable media.

  9. On the Choose Consistency Check Options page, select how to automate consistency checks.

    You can choose to run a check only when replica data becomes inconsistent, or on a schedule. If you don't want to configure automatic consistency checking, then you can run a manual check at any time. To run a manual check, in the Protection area of the Backup Server Administrator Console, right-click the protection group, and then select Perform Consistency Check.

  10. If you chose to back up to the cloud by using Azure Backup, on the Specify Online Protection Data page, select the workloads that you want to back up to Azure.

  11. On the Specify Online Backup Schedule page, select how often to incrementally back up to Azure.

    You can schedule backups to run every day, week, month, and year. You can also select the time and date at which backups should run. Backups can occur up to twice a day. Each time a backup runs, a data recovery point is created in Azure from the copy of the backup data that's stored on the Backup Server disk.

  12. On the Specify Online Retention Policy page, select how the recovery points that are created from the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly backups are kept in Azure.

  13. On the Choose Online Replication page, select how the initial full replication of data occurs.

    You can replicate over the network or back up offline (offline seeding). An offline backup uses the Azure Import feature. For more information, see Offline backup workflow in Azure Backup.

  14. On the Summary page, review your settings. After you select Create Group, initial replication of the data occurs. When the data replication finishes, on the Status page, the protection group status is OK. Backups then happen according to the protection group settings.

Recover system state or BMR

You can recover BMR or system state to a network location. If you backed up BMR, then use Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) to start your system and connect it to the network. Then use Windows Server Backup to recover from the network location. If you backed up system state, then just use Windows Server Backup to recover from the network location.

Restore BMR

To run recovery on the Backup Server computer:

  1. In the Recovery pane, find the computer that you want to recover. Then select Bare Metal Recovery.

  2. Available recovery points are indicated in bold on the calendar. Select the date and time for the recovery point that you want to use.

  3. On the Select Recovery Type page, select Copy to a network folder.

  4. On the Specify Destination page, select the destination for the copied data.

    Remember, the destination needs to have enough room for the data. We recommend that you create a new folder for the destination.

  5. On the Specify Recovery Options page, select the security settings. Then select whether to use storage area network (SAN)-based hardware snapshots, for quicker recovery. This option is available only if:

    • You have a SAN that provides this functionality.
    • You can create and split a clone to make it writable.
    • The protected computer and Backup Server computer are connected to the same network.
  6. Set up notification options.

  7. On the Confirmation page, select Recover.

To set up the share location:

  1. In the restore location, go to the folder that has the backup.

  2. Share the folder that's one level above WindowsImageBackup so that the root of the shared folder is the WindowsImageBackup folder.

    If you don't share this folder, restore won't find the backup. To connect by using WinRE, you need a share that you can access in WinRE with the correct IP address and credentials.

To restore the system:

  1. Start the computer on which you want to restore the image by using the Windows DVD for the system you're restoring.

  2. On the first page, verify the settings for language and locale. On the Install page, select Repair your computer.

  3. On the System Recovery Options page, select Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier.

  4. On the Select a system image backup page, select Select a system image > Advanced > Search for a system image on the network. If a warning appears, select Yes. Go to the share path, enter the credentials, and then select the recovery point. The system scans for specific backups that are available in that recovery point. Select the recovery point that you want to use.

  5. On the Choose how to restore the backup page, select Format and repartition disks. On the next page, verify the settings.

  6. To begin the restore, select Finish. A restart is required.

Restore system state

To run recovery in Backup Server:

  1. In the Recovery pane, find the computer that you want to recover, and then select Bare Metal Recovery.

  2. Available recovery points are indicated in bold on the calendar. Select the date and time for the recovery point that you want to use.

  3. On the Select Recovery Type page, select Copy to a network folder.

  4. On the Specify Destination page, select where to copy the data.

    Remember, the destination you select needs to have enough room for the data. We recommend that you create a new folder for the destination.

  5. On the Specify Recovery Options page, select the security settings. Then select whether to use SAN-based hardware snapshots, for quicker recovery. This option is available only if:

    • You have a SAN that provides this functionality.
    • You can create and split a clone to make it writable.
    • The protected computer and Backup Server server are connected to the same network.
  6. Set up notification options.

  7. On the Confirmation page, select Recover.

To run Windows Server Backup:

  1. Select Actions > Recover > This Server > Next.

  2. Select Another Server, select the Specify Location Type page, and then select Remote shared folder. Enter the path to the folder that contains the recovery point.

  3. On the Select Recovery Type page, select System state.

  4. On the Select Location for System State Recovery page, select Original Location.

  5. On the Confirmation page, select Recover.

  6. After the restore, restart the server.

You also can run the system state restore at a command prompt:

  1. Start Windows Server Backup on the computer that you want to recover.

  2. To get the version identifer, at a command prompt, enter:

    wbadmin get versions -backuptarget \<servername\sharename\>

  3. Use the version identifier to start the system state restore. At the command prompt, enter:

    wbadmin start systemstaterecovery -version:<versionidentified> -backuptarget:<servername\sharename>

  4. Confirm that you want to start the recovery. You can see the process in the Command Prompt window. A restore log is created.

  5. After the restore, restart the server.