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Consider the scenario of an admin wanting to perform a backup of operating system files.

Question: Does the windir (i.e. "C:\Windows") contain only operating system files / information about OS? Can we simply replace it with previous backup?

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Be careful:

  • Not all OS files are in the C:\windows folder. Some are in the root of C: (possibly hidden). There is a Master Boot Record that Windows uses to boot, but it doesn't appear in the list of files on the drive. You need special software to see it, let alone back it up.
  • You can't replace a file if it is actually in use, so you won't be able to restore your backup over the top of c:\windows if you start your PC in the normal way. You will need to start another copy of windows (or another OS) to restore the backup.
  • If certain files in c:\windows get corrupt, you won't be able to start that copy of Windows either.
  • Not all Windows PCs use C:\windows - the OS could be installed to another path.
  • c:\windows can end up containing files for some applications - not just the OS.
  • You won't be able to restore C:\windows from another machine unless it has identical hardware

I recommend you use specialist backup software.

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You probably want to try Server Fault for this sort of question.

That said, I suspect you'll need some proper backup software, as simply copying your windows directory won't really achieve what you're after.

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+1 Need to use backup software - there is one built into Windows, use that ^^ – Oskar Duveborn Jul 13 '09 at 10:14

The C:\Windows folder contains files additional to core Window files. Some programs would add files to this folder such as screensaver files.

If you are backuping up the OS, u will also need to backup some folders in C:\program files\ such as Common Files.

You may also need c:\Documents and Settings folder (but can use All Users folder to backup if you want minimum - and these can be stuff like lnk files and avoid temp folders)

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No - C:\Windows may also contain files from a previous Windows install. In such cases C:\WinNT may contain the current OS files. The environment variable %SystemRoot% will tell you where the currently running Windows version stores its files.

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Why do you want to backup operating system files? It makes sense to either backup documents, setups or complete drive image. If you tell what you want to achieve from this backup may be people can suggest you better way then trying to backup just operating system files.

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Be aware that some older applications will also place files in the Windows folder, or sub-folders. Those will mostly be DLLs but may be others, such as INI files.

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