This is a theoretical question on disaster recovery. I've looked for guides and tutorials on this specific situation and have not be able find any.

Say I have a system state backup (from a 2008R2 server), and a brand new 2012 Server installation. That it. Nothing else. The original domain servers, backups, everything has been lost except for this one system state backup.

Is it possible to restore the domain and if so where can I find instructions on how to do it? All the ones I have found assume a operating DC is still accessible or there is a full bare metal backup available.

Thank you very much.


Determine in your business continuity plan if this scenario is one you need to recover from. If it is, make this not a theoretical question, document and test this restore.

In a word, yes:

Note: If the only available backup contains the system state and no other data, it is still possible to restore the DC by installing the operating system, adding the Windows Server Backup feature, and restoring the system state.

Dell Knowledge Base - Windows Server - How to Restore a Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2 Domain Controller from a Backup

But think about how you can meet your recovery time objective in a complex rebuild and restore scenario. You may be down for several hours.

  • Is it worth standing up another DC, possibly in a remote site, to recover via replication? This is probably faster and easier than a backup restore.
  • Is it faster to to a bare metal restore of the OS? Maybe it is worth keeping enough backup copies to ensure this will be available.
  • Thank you. I created the system state on site and copied it to an Oraclebox VM secondary HD. When I try the restore it does not find the backup. There is a 2012R2 system on the target already. I can't see that making a difference. If I search for a driver, the disk with the backup does show up, so it's being found, but I guess the backup is not being recognized as such.The file structure, size .etc. seems to be the same as the original. How can I troubleshoot this? – PMK Mar 25 '18 at 13:44

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