System Image and System State Backup: Difference Explained

Difference Between System Image and System State Backup header

Windows Server backup software by CloudBerry supports a broad range of data protection scenarios, including system state and system image backup and recovery plans. By using these tools, you can solve several system-wide issues. In this article, we are going to evaluate their possibilities and strengths in depth, and look at how to create system image and system state backups.

Table of Contents

    System State Backup

    System state backup is a data backup type that only includes crucial OS data. CloudBerry Backup extends this function with the ability to store the data on a cloud storage of your choice.

    Typical Windows system state backup contains the following data:

    • Windows System Registry
    • Performance Counter Configuration information
    • Component Services Class registration database
    • Boot and system files, including those protected by Windows File Protection (WFP)
    • The configuration of system-dependent Microsoft applications, such as Certificate Services, Active Directory, IIS etc.

    This backup type can help you solve issues such as configuration-dependent system faults (for example, BSOD errors) and crucial file or system registry corruption of any kind. The main point here is that you cannot manually select data to restore since system state is only backing up or restoring as a solid object. Since it contains only necessary data, the backup is small in size and can be completed quite quickly.

    You can create a system state backup job using the Image-Based button on the main window’s ribbon:

    1. Press Image Based button in the top left-hand corner of the main window.
      System State Backup in CloudBerry Backup, step 1
    2. Proceed to Select Backup Storage step and point to the necessary storage account.
      System State in CloudBerry Backup, step 2
    3. Then select backup storage and backup plan name, and choose System State.
    4. In the next step you should select drive partition for storing temporary backup data:

    System State Backup In CloudBerry Backup, step 3

    You will then be able to enable the block-level backup option that allows you to make a copy of data blocks only changed since the last backup session.

    System Image Backup

    System image backup (or image-based backup) creates a system image that includes the exact copy of all system drive partitions with corresponding metadata and boot records, OS and apps files. It is similar to having a separate copy of your hard drive’s data.

    Image copy created with CloudBerry Backup is stored in one file, which you can keep locally or upload to a cloud storage. Unlike system state backup, image-based data copy can be used granularly – you can select either the whole system’s image or only a few user files.

    This backup type is helpful in most disaster or failure cases, including loss of user or system files, corrupting the system’s configuration, moving OS to the new hardware, hard drive crash etc. For example, you can restore your server in a few hours, even if most of the hardware is physically broken – simply get hardware with enough resources and restore the previous server images on it.

    There is, however, one major drawback of using system image backup in any case – its data file size. Since you need to have the entire system’s data, the backup tool will spend a lot of time carefully copying all system drives and corresponding partitions. If this backup started on a high-loaded system in business hours, the backup window would significantly expand and the system’s performance may deteriorate.

    You can configure system image backup similarly to previous procedures, yet with small differences:

    1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 from the previous chapter and select Image-Based Backup as a backup type.
      System Image Backup in CloudBerry Backup, step 1
    2. Next, you need to select the backup scope. In most cases you need to select Backup only system required partitions, that include system and boot volumes.

    System Image Backup in CloudBerry Backup, step 2

    At this time, you have the choice of selecting the Use block level backup option. You can also use the Synthetic Full Backup feature for image-based backups in CloudBerry Backup. This enhancement decreases the amount of data uploaded to the cloud and accelerates the overall process.

    Configure the rest of the backup wizard steps as with any other backup plan.

    Compare System State and System Image Backup

    You can obviously use system image backup for data and server protection of any kind. Keep in mind though, that it is one of the slowest backups that will use a lot of space in your backup repository. Using system state backup allows you to quickly “snapshot” the system prior to, for example, configuration changes – you can revert the system to the previous state relatively fast. You cannot, however, use system state backup for user data protection or in cases of significant OS malfunctions.

    You can note other considerations in the quick comparison table below:

    System State BackupSystem Image Backup
    Allows system configuration and crucial system file(s) restorationYesYes
    Enables roll back from the improper system configurationYesYes
    Allows recovery of the server in any case of disasterNoYes
    Suitable for server OS cloning or relocationNoYes
    Allows restoration of certain user files, granularlyNoYes
    Suitable for fast “snapshot” backupYesNo
    Suitable for regular backup of the heavy-loaded serverYesNo

    CloudBerry Backup supports both system state and system image backup with ease, as well as many other backup and restoration features. Download CloudBerry Backup for Windows Server and check out its advantages using the FREE 15-day trial. If you have any questions left – contact us in the comments.