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Windows Server 2003 Image-Based Backup

How to Perform Windows Server 2003 Image-Based Backup

Published: by on Post Type: Categories: CloudBerry Backup

In this article, you will find an overview of Windows Server 2003 backup and recovery options using either the built-in NTBackup tool (backup app for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, the forbear of Windows Server Backup) or CloudBerry Backup.

Since NTBackup does not support image-based backups, we will also take a brief look at the differences between a file-level system data copy and an image-based backup.

Table of Contents

    What is the System Image Backup?

    System-image backup is a byte-to-byte copy of selected drive partitions with all corresponding file systems and boot metadata. You can even use this copy for exact recovery of the entire drive. This backup type helps in most disaster recovery scenarios, or it can be used as a part of a server maintenance procedure. 

    For more information on System Image Backup please refer to our guide:

    Further reading System Image Backup and Recovery Guide

    Windows Server 2003 Image Backup with built-in NTBackup

    The built-in tool NTBackup does not support image-based backups - it only allows you to create a file-level backup covering all necessary data to restore from scratch. This copy combines full data backup with a few configuration files that you can use when booting from a Windows installation CD. This technology is called Automated System Recovery (ASR) and it is built into Windows Server 2003 as a part of the NTBackup tool that allows performing bare-metal restores in the event any local system disaster strikes.

    Here is a quick guide on how to perform an ASR backup:

    1Run NTBackup by typing ntbackup in the Run menu. Click Backup Wizard (Advanced) on the start screen.
    Performing Windows Server 2003 image backup with ntbackup

    2Click the Automated Recovery Wizard button and proceed. You will need to select the target backup file - we suggest using the separate (or even external) drive for such a backup.
    Choosing Backup destination in Windows Server 2003 image backup with NTBackup

    3Now click Next and then Finish to start the backup.

    4On the next step, you will be asked to insert a floppy disk. As in 2018, that is an extremely outdated technology, here is a workaround. If you do not have a floppy disk at the moment of the ASR wizard run, you can copy these files later under the path: %windir%\repair.

    5After the wizard is completed, ensure that you copied the contents of the %windir%\repair folder somewhere outside the system. This folder contains a few small files (asr.sif and asrpnp.sif) that are necessary for ASR recovery.

    Limitations of NTBackup for Windows 2003

    Built-in Windows backup software is a powerful tool for a daily routine, but it has a few drawbacks you should remember:

    • You need to use a floppy drive during the restore process since Windows uses it to save pre-restore info such as disk configuration information and system signature. Though there is a workaround, you can use Remote Installation Server instead of a recovery floppy.
    • ASR does not have scheduling out of the box. You need to manually configure such backups using scripting including separately created .SIF files.
    • ASR is not intended to be used for server migration purposes, so any attempt to recover the system on another hardware can require additional efforts such as a hard drive’s controller drivers installation.

    Keeping these cons in mind, let's check how to create an image-based backup using a third-party backup tool. We will use CloudBerry Backup as an example.

    Windows Server 2003 Image Backup with CloudBerry Backup

    The image-based backup contains all system drive contents with partitions allocation table, boot records, OS and apps files included. It is helpful in most disaster or failure cases including loss of user or system files, corrupting the system’s configuration, moving OS to new hardware, etc.

    1Press the Image Based button in the top-left corner of the main window.
    Windows Server 2003 Image Backup with CloudBerry Backup

    2Choose the backup type. It can be Local or Cloud Backup or Hybrid Backup if you would like to back up locally and then - to the cloud.
    Choose the backup type in CloudBerry Backup

    3Proceed to the Select Backup Storage step and choose the necessary storage account.Backup target selection

    4Select Image-Based Backup as a backup type.
    Select Image Based Backup as a backup type.

    5You need to select the backup scope. In most cases, you will need to select Backup only system required partitions, which include the system and boot volumes.

    6You can also select the Use block level backup option that allows you to copy only data blocks that were changed since the last backup. Configure the rest of the backup wizard steps, such as compression, notification, scheduling - as for any other backup plan.

    CloudBerry Backup supports bare-metal restores using the image-based backup. You need to create a bootable USB flash drive using CloudBerry Backup wizard, boot the server from this drive, and then start the recovery process. You can check our separate blog post about bootable USB for Windows Server 2003.

    CloudBerry Backup supports even more recovery options, such as:

    • Bare-metal recovery with USB Flash directly from the cloud.
    • Restore to Hyper-V, VMware or to dissimilar hardware.
    • Individual files recovery from an image-based backup.


    Windows 2003 does not have a built-in tool supporting image-based backups, but you can still use the ASR feature that creates a file-level data copy and allows you to use it for bare-metal recovery. This feature has a few peculiarities, such as the necessity to use a floppy drive. So we suggest choosing modern third-party backup tools with the support of an image-based backup.

    If you do not have a proven backup tool yet, try our CloudBerry Backup for Windows Server for free and see if it meets your business needs.

    Kate C avatarAuthor
    Kate C
    Kate is a CloudBerry content manager. Before joining CloudBerry, Kate worked as a sales representative for a managed services provider. During her time with that company, she studied every aspect of managed services. She is a producer for MSP Voice podcast and a writer of MSP-oriented articles. View all posts
    Published: by on Post Type: Categories: CloudBerry Backup
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