We create regular nightly backups of our physical server to (rotating) external hard drives. Our physical server is a Windows Server 2016 running two Server 2016 VM instances: the domain controller and the production server.

I am performing a disaster recovery test for the scenario where the server breaks, replacement hardware is not (immediately) available and the VMs need to be restored to a client machine to resume operation until replacement hardware is available.

Is it possible to restore files from a backup created with Windows Server Backup (Server 2016) on a Windows client machine (e.g. Windows 10)?

(What I tried so far: I attached the external HDD to a Windows 10 PC, stared "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" and selected "Select another backup to restore files from", but no backup device was found.)


Great you are actually testing your disaster recovery! So many admins blindly rely on their backups.

Unlike Remote Server and Role Administration Tools that are available on Windows 10 (i.e. can be turned on from Windows Features), Windows Server Backup is only available on Windows Server operating systems in the Add Roles and Features Wizard in Server Manager.

However, in your scenario you are not restoring to the host operating system but to a VM. Some of the recovery options works within the newly installed server: Recover Files and Folders or Volumes.

Then, some of the options needs VSS writer running all the time, making them only available for restoring a previous state, like Recover Applications and Data; they are out of option here. Finally, Recover the Operating System or Full Server must be launched from the Windows Recovery Environment. I haven't personally tested, but this is something you could try: test if it is possible to use the Windows Recovery Environment within "Install an OS from a boot CD/DVD".

Then, outside the Windows Server Backup (& restoring to a client machine) used here, there's another option: you can use Azure Site Recovery and Replicate Hyper-V virtual machines to Azure. This way, you can skip the possibly long restoring phase and have up-to-date off-site backup of the whole servers in a cloud. Like in your situation here, it's also possible to run the fully functional server on Azure until you have the replacement hardware. You just need a temporary site-to-site VPN and possibly modify your network configuration. Naturally, it's wise to test this in advance, too.


I only have access to one Windows Server, but managed to rehearse the 'server won't boot but can only fully read user files from Server Backup via 'Windows Backup tool' on a server' conundrum by downloading an evaluation copy of Server 2019 Essentials from the Microsoft Evaluation Center and spinning up that 6-month trial copy in a Virtual Machine (in my case, on a mac - i know, right!). In the eval server, you may have to install the Bitlocker 'feature' in 'Roles and Features' in order to unlock the External backup drive (or you could disable bitlocker on that drive via Win10?). Thereafter, the full 'Windows Server Backup' tool functionality is available to navigate the source backup as if the original server was up. (Be sure the external drive is unlocked and mounted BEFORE running the Windows Backup tool' - so that it can autodetect the archive during RESTORE).

  • Alanh, I think that this answer could be improved by you being more definitive as to what will work (avoid "you may have to...". If you don't know the answer then perhaps comments would be better.
    – Daniel K
    Nov 25 '19 at 8:41

Since, in your case, you don't want to do a bare-metal recovery but only extract some files and folders (the VMs), you can do that by directly accessing the vhdx files created by Windows Server Backup:

  1. On your external drive, navigate to WindowsImageBackup\MyServer\Backup yyyy-mm-dd hhmmss.
  2. In there, you will see vhdx files corresponding to the physical hard drives that have been backed up.
  3. Copy those files to another location (to ensure that you don't accidentally modify your backup files).
  4. Mount those copied files (for example, by selecting the file in Windows Explorer and choosing Mount from the context menu).
  5. Assign drive letters in Disk Management.
  6. Copy all the files you need (for example, the VM disks and configuration files).
  • This works for individual files. Notice that only files modified are on an individual Backup yyyy-mm-dd hhmmss. Without the actual Windows Server Backup tool it's really hard to follow the incremental backups. Jun 1 '17 at 13:56

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