Backing up Windows Servers

I had always assumed that NTBACKUP.EXE did the right thing. Somehow, magically, it grabbed all the files – even those that were open. However, in upgrading our backup systems, I noticed why most recovery requests for Windows sites fail: Windows cannot back up files that are open by other processes. This means that the ultra-important MDB file you’re using as a database cannot be saved unless your application saves it someplace.

Well, nobody does that, so I decided to do something about it.

I took NTFS-3G- the NTFS driver most often used by Linux users- and PuTTY- a popular SSH client, and glued them together to produce WINBACK.EXE, backup software for windows that actually works:

Basically, if the BackupRead api fails because the “file is in use”, WINBACK.EXE uses NTFS-3G to read the raw disk sectors containing the file. It then uploads these files to our backup server, and if it accepts it, removes the archive-bit.

I only found one other software package that does it. It’s a kernel driver which means it can muck up your ability to do restores. Nevertheless, if your backup software doesn’t use Softpedia’s FAM, and it isn’t my WINBACK.EXE, then it simply doesn’t work.

WINBACK.EXE took less than a week to hack out, so it could use some polish. Nevertheless, it does a much better job than anything else, and because it’s basically a copy-utility, recovery is much easier than with other systems.

By the way, I am aware of Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy Service. It doesn’t work on Windows 2000, and it doesn’t work well on Windows 2003.

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