How to backup/restore your Windows partition with the bootable image disk

On this page, there is more technical information about the imaging boot disk created on the page Create a free bootable image disk. If you are not aware yet of the free imaging boot disk, read the page Imaging: create a Windows system image first!


Before you try to create and recover a system image: it is at your own risk. Everything should go well, if you followed the instructions. Make sure there are no personal data on your C: partition! If you enabled EFS (Encrypted File System), there is a chance of loosing data. The files should still be accessible if the account isn't changed but you can never be sure!

Creating an image

Creating an image is done by option 2,3, or 4 in the menu. Partition Saving should start automatically and create a backup of you C: partition. The backup files are stored on the backup partition E: (your first FAT32 partition) and are respectively called WINBU1.000, WINBU2.000 and WINBU3.000. These files have a maximum size of 650 MB which makes it easy to burn them on CD-ROM. If one file is not enough, multiple files be created like WINBU1.001, WINBU1.002,.... for backup number 1 (the last file is always the smallest). If you use the Windows Explorer you will see those files (have in mind that they have the attributes hidden and system!). Make sure there is enough space for the system image on the backup partition!

TIP: With the option to create the second and third image, there is a chance getting an error like missing boot sector. You can ignore this error.

I ADVISE TO DO THIS FIRST: The first backup option in the menu creates a backup of the whole partition (just in case, you never know), even if the data on the non-occupied sectors aren't important. This will create a very big backup archive and can take some time. Before you create I advise to run Active-Eraser for Windows ( first, to overwrite the non-occupied sectors with zero's. This will boost the imaging procedure and save a lot of space.

THE EXISTANCE OF AN EXTERNAL STORAGE DEVICE: While starting the image disk, make sure there is no external storage device with a FAT-partition attached (external harddisk, USB-stick, flashcard), else they will receive a disk letter first, before your back-up partition (D: instead of C:). Because of the higher disk letter, creating a system image will be done on the external device and restoring will be impossible. Of course, this property has it's advantages: by using an external hard disk you are able to create and restore a system image (which is probably safer to!).


If your C: partition is not the first but the second primary partition (this is the case if the first is a recovery partition), you should change the Partition Saving configuration files. Read the item below about Understanding the Saving Partition configuration files.


Option 8 of the menu enables you to backup the master boot record, partition table and boot sector. You only have to press ENTER a few times to confirm saving the information on your floppy (this doesn't work on a bootable CD-ROM). I advise to do this once, it will save you in case you are in big troubles because of a deleted partition table or if you have to replace your hard disk.

Recover an image

Restoring an image takes the same procedure (select option 5,6 or 7 in the menu). Before you restore an image make sure that ALL the files are still on the place where they were stored by the imaging boot disk! Follow the instructions and you will do fine.

Understanding the Saving Partition configuration files

The disk contains 3 configurations files: WINBU1.CFG, WINBU2.CFG and WINBU3.CFG. Generally, those files have the following format (you can edit them with notepad as you wish......).


Some of these settings are important, here is a short description:

Duplicating a partition (creating a multiboot system)

If you would like to copy your Windows to another partition to create a multiboot system, you must have in mind that the Windows system has to be informed as well. First you need to make sure that the new partition is also called C: if you boot it. This is done by hiding the other partition, as described on the page how to create a multiboot system.

But there is more! Windows XP needs to know which partition to use, which is defined in the C:\BOOT.INI file! If you don't change this file, the second Windows XP will use the register of the first Windows XP. It seems to work for some time, but eventually you will get big troubles in both Windows XP versions! The BOOT.INI file needs to refer to the same partition started from!

After you have created an image, restore it immediately to the second partition (this can be done in one step using Partition Saving yourself in MS-DOS). Make sure the first partition is hidden and the second becomes the active partition (see the page about multi booting). Boot the second partition, change the BOOT.INI file and reboot (create an image if needed). Changing the BOOT.INI file can also be done in the Recovery Console (booting from the Windows CD-ROM) or by using Bart's PE.

NOTE: C:\BOOT.INI is a hidden system file, do the following in the Windows Explorer: Tools, Folder Options, tab View, enable Display the content of system folders, enable Show hidden files and folders, disable Hide extensions for known file types and disable Hide protected operating system files.

The file C:\BOOT.INI for your first partition probably look like this:

  [boot loader]
  [operating systems]
  multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP .......

For your second Windows XP you need to change partition(1) by partition(2) (or partition(3)). By running SAVEPART manually in MS-DOS (option 9 in the menu of the boot disk), you can check what partition number it has to be (option 9 in the menu of the boot disk).

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