Solving Windows Image Backup problems

Windows Image Backup, also known as complete PC Backup, was first introduced with Windows Vista but, sadly, was only included in a few versions of that OS.  With Windows 7, the ability to create a full system image backup of your Windows 7 installation is available in every edition of the OS.

I would always recommend that when you have Windows 7 installed and working as you want it you should use this feature to create a backup copy.  This means that when/if you need to reinstall Windows you can quickly and simply restore from the backup and be back up and running in minutes.

However this system is not without its problems.  These are caused by the boot files and the new BCD Boot loader.  Depending on which way the wind is blowing and whether or not there’s an R in the month, Windows might store these on your Windows 7 disk or partition, it may create a System Volume where it stores them or it may put them on another disk or partition that you’re using for something else.

When you then come to create a backup, you could find that either you get the message below…

There is not enough disk space to create the volume shadow copy on storage location. Make sure that for all volume to be backup up, the minimum disk space required for shadow copy creation is available. This applies to both the backup storage destination and volume included in the backup. Minimum requirement for Volumes less than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 50 megabyte of free space. For volumes more than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 320 megabytes of free space. Recommended at least 1 gigabytes free of disk space on each volumes if volumes size is more than 1 gigabytes (0×80780119)

…or that Windows 7 also insists on backing up a partition that you have files and data on.  This means that not only will your backup file be far larger than you want, but that when you come to restore it, any and all new files on this drive will be wiped and the original ones put back.

Fortunately the fixes for both of these problems are the same and quick and simple to rectify.

By default the System Volume partition containing Windows 7 boot files will sit at 100Mb just before your Windows partition.  100Mb really isn’t enough though and in order for Windows Image Backup to work it needs at least 40Mb of free space here.  Sometimes this can drop to the low 30’s causing the error message seen above.

To fix both problems you can move this system partition to a new location and increase its size.  To do this follow these instructions…

  1. Right-click on Computer in your Start Menu and select Manage from the options that appear.
  2. In the Computer Management Window click Disk Management in the left hand pane.
  3. Right click on the partition containing your Windows 7 installation and select Shrink Volume from the context menu that appears.
  4. Shrink the volume by 400Mb, so type 400 into the box (this doesn’t need to be precise and if the dialog window amends this figure slightly don’t worry) so that you will have roughly 400Mb free after your Windows partition.  Click OK to complete this shrink, it should only take a few seconds.
  5. Right click in the new empty space after your Windows 7 partition and create a new simple volume using the maximum amount of available space.  You should call this something like Boot or BCD and format it as NTFS.  Give it a drive letter, for instance F:.
  6. In the start menu type cmd in the search box there and right click on it when it appears in the search results to run it as an administrator.
  7. In the Command window that appears…
    1. Type bcdboot/exe C:Windows /s F: and press Enter, where C: is the drive on which you have Windows 7 installed and F: is the new system volume partition that you have created.
    2. Type DISKPART and press Enter.
    3. Type select volume F and press Enter.
    4. Type active and press Enter.
  8. Back in Computer Management > Disk Management remove the drive letter for this new partition.
  9. When you reboot your machine Windows will have moved all the boot and system settings to this new partition.

Doing this means you will then be able to use Windows Image Backup properly with no problems and there will be plenty of space for this new partition and the data contained on it.

The fact that Windows 7 only makes this system partition, if it creates it at all, 100Mb is short-sighted.  I can only hope that future versions of Windows handle the System Volume in a more sensible manner.

by Mike Halsey :

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7 Responses to Solving Windows Image Backup problems

  1. Anton_van_wamelen September 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    Since W7 was launched programmers have spotted this bug frop the beginningon and have sought after a solution…
    They found it in the same corner you’ve found it..
    So this is VERY OLD news, but nevertheless right and on the ball.
    Still W7 had not better this way of backup, the Vista Backup was simpler and far better than this version. W7 Backup still has child diseases…and has to grow up.

  2. Falael September 12, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    W7 “regular” Backup seems buggy to me. When I select the folders to be saved, I skip the “videos” & “music” ones to save some space & time, but Windows still wants to include them in the backup…

  3. Exe DLL Files September 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks for the article, I didn’t know about this free tool within the windows operating system. Will check it out…

  4. thrilla59 October 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I am having the problem exactly as described. I tried the suggested fix. When I got to step 7, substep 4 where I typed active and press enter, I got an error message..”Virtual Disk Service error: The specfied partition type is not valid for this operation”. Did I miss anything? I nevertheless tried to backup but I got the same error message ar before. Help!!!!!

    • Jcafeolai March 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      Hell thrilla59, did you get any solution to your problem ? i have acactly the same situation where I typed active and press enter, I got an error message..”Virtual Disk Service error: The specfied partition type is not valid for this operation”.
      thank you 🙂

  5. Derkiedotcom December 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    I tried this fix on my windows 7 pc and it then refused to boot up so it cost me a new hard drive and I lost all my data BEWARE!

  6. Anonymous May 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Great article!
    It looks like my backup will finish now, it’s running as I type.

    I have found no other articles besides this to explain the problem.

    I just bought an Intel SSD drive to replace my hard disk OS drive. The Intel utility to clone my disk was one reason I chose Intel but it shrank my System Partition down from 100 MB to 28 MB, but hey I didn’t care, it was supposed to shrink partitions and I wasn’t going to say it needed more for a partition  I didn’t even know existed till then. 

    I was backing up about 120 GB of system data to my external disk with about 700GB of space and it kept saying I ran out of space. Yup, sure, NOT!

    Thanks for the article!

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