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First published on TECHNET on May 24, 2007

I’ve seen numerous newsgroup customers report that they can’t restore files from a file-based backup. In this post I cover two common problems, their causes, and how to solve them.

“I tried to restore files from a backup but there are no files listed!”

Ever get to this screen and wonder what to do? At first (or half) glance, you might think your backup is empty. Never fear! You just need to click one of the buttons— Add files, Add folders, or Search —to locate files and folders you want to restore. You won’t see a big tree of folders with check boxes. Instead, you browse using Windows Explorer to navigate the files and folders in the backup. Need to restore multiple files? You can press and hold the Ctrl key to select them. Not sure where a particular file is in your backup? Just use the Search button.

“I inserted my backup DVD but I keep getting an error that no backup was found!”

I see this complaint a lot, usually from customers who know the backup is there because they can see the backup folder on the disk or DVD. Why doesn’t the Restore Files program find the backup? One of these reasons is usually the culprit:

The wrong backup DVD is inserted

When a backup spans multiple DVDs, you have to insert the very last DVD you burned during your backup. This seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? You have to insert the final, not first, DVD because that’s where the catalogs are stored. The catalogs aren’t on the first DVD because all files must be backed up first before the catalogs can be created.  In other words, since catalog creation is the last step in the backup process, the catalogs go on the last DVD.

The mediaid.bin file is missing

When a backup is created on a volume on a hard disk, a file called mediaid.bin is added to the root of the volume. Your backup folder is there as well. If you move your backup folder but forget to move the mediaid.bin file, Windows Vista won’t recognize your backup. Our advice is to not move backups, and if you do, be sure to copy the mediaid.bin file.

Windows Vista has been re-installed since the last backup was made

This restore problem is often encountered by customers who do a full backup prior to reformatting their hard drive and reinstalling Windows Vista (either by installing from DVD or by restoring an image of Windows Vista created by Complete PC Backup). The restore fails here because Backup does not consider the newly installed computer to be the same computer where the backup was made. The solution is to start the restore again using the Advanced restore option and then select Files from a backup made on a different computer .

“Restore files” does not restore files from image-based backups

Customers who use the Ultimate or Business editions of Windows Vista have two buttons for creating backups: Back up files and Back up computer , like so:

Back up files creates a file-based backup, and Back up computer creates an image-based backup. These buttons, which launch separate programs, have their own restore counterparts: Restore files and Restore computer .

I often see customers try to use the Restore files button to restore files from a backup made using the Back up computer button. The two programs that make these backups, File Backup and Complete PC Backup, cannot restore from each others’ backups. You have to use the correct button, either Restore files or Restore computer , to perform your restore.  (Note that Restore Computer is only actually performed once the computer is booted to Windows Recovery Environment. Clicking Restore Computer only gives instructions on how to get to Windows RE.)

If you’re not sure which program you used to create the backup, you can find out by looking at the name of the folder where your backup is saved:

·         File backups are stored in a folder with the same name as your computer.

·         Image-based backups are stored in a folder named WindowsImageBackup.