Recover the Operating System

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

You can recover your server operating system or full server by using a Windows Setup disc and a backup that you created earlier with Windows Server Backup. The Windows Setup disc enables you to access the System Recovery Options page in the Windows Recovery Environment. On some computers you may be able to access the Windows Recovery Environment on a recovery partition. You can also install Windows Recovery Environment locally on your server if you want to configure your servers to fail over to the Windows Recovery Environment if they fail to boot. (For instructions, see

You recover the operating system by recovering all critical volumes—volumes that do not contain system components will not be restored. You recover the full server by recovering all volumes.

When you perform a recovery of the operating system or full server, you will need to specify the following:

  • What backup you will use

  • Where you will recover to

  • Whether you will perform an operating system–only or full server recovery

  • Whether you will reformat and repartition your disks


In a full server recovery, if you choose to reformat and repartition all disks, the existing data will be deleted. This includes any volumes that are currently used by the server but were not included in the backup.

To recover the operating system or a full server, you should first do the following:

  • Install Windows Server Backup. For instructions, see Installing Windows Server Backup Tools.

  • If you are recovering to a new hard disk, make sure the disk is at least as big as the disk that contained the volumes that were backed up, regardless of the size of those volumes. For example, if there was only one volume that was 100 GB on a 1 TB disk during backup, you should use a disk that is at least 1 TB when restoring.

  • If you are recovering just the operating system, make sure that you have a backup available that contains at least the critical volumes of the server. If you are recovering the full server, make sure that you have a backup available that contains all volumes of the server. For instructions, see Perform a Manual Backup.

  • Make sure that you have a Windows Setup disc for Windows Server 2008.

To recover your operating system or full server using a Windows Setup disc

  1. Insert the Windows Setup disc into the CD or DVD drive and turn on the computer. If needed, press the required key to boot from the disc. The Install Windows Wizard should appear.

  2. Specify language settings, and then click Next.

  3. Click Repair your computer.

  4. Setup searches the hard disk drives for an existing Windows installation and then displays the results in System Recovery Options. If you are recovering the operating system onto separate hardware, the list should be empty (there should be no operating system on the computer). Click Next.

  5. On the System Recovery Options page, click Windows Complete PC Restore. This opens the Windows Complete PC Restore Wizard.

  6. Do one of the following:

    • Click Use the latest available backup (recommended) and then click Next.

    • Click Restore a different backup and then click Next.

  7. If you chose to restore a different backup, on the Select the location of the backup page, do one of the following:

    • Click the computer that contains the backup that you want to use, and then click Next.


If the storage location contains backups of multiple computers, make sure that you click the row for the backups for the computer that you want to use.

    Then, on the **Select the backup to restore** page, click the backup that you want to use, and then click **Next**.  
  - Click **Advanced** to browse for a backup on the network, and then click Next.  
  1. On the Choose how to restore the backup page, do the following optional tasks, and then click Next:

    • Select the Format and repartition disks check box to delete existing partitions and reformat the destination disks to be the same as the backup. This enables the Exclude disks button. Click this button and then select the check boxes associated with any disks that you want to exclude from being formatted and partitioned. The disk that contains the backup that you are using is automatically excluded.


Unless a disk is excluded, data on it can be lost—regardless of whether it was part of the backup or whether it has volumes that are being restored.
In Exclude disks, if you do not see all the disks that are attached to the computer, you might need to install the associated drivers for the storage device.

  - Select the **Only restore system disks** check box to perform an operating system–only recovery.  
  - Click **Install drivers** to install device drivers for the hardware that you are recovering to.  
  - Click **Advanced** to specify whether the computer is restarted and the disks are checked for errors immediate after the recovery.  
  1. Confirm the details for the restoration, and then click Finish.

Additional considerations

  • To create a backup using Windows Server Backup, you must be a member of the Backup Operators or Administrators group, or you must have been delegated the appropriate authority. As a security best practice, consider using Run as to perform this procedure. The recovery of the operating system is performed by the Windows Recovery Environment using the LocalSystem user account.

  • For certain server roles and features, additional recovery options exist. For more information, see

  • If you are using BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your server and you need to perform a system recovery, make sure to reapply BitLocker Drive Encryption. This will not happen automatically—it must be enabled explicitly. For instructions, see the Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide (

Additional references