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Win 8.1 - I've Got It 99.9% as Functional as Win 7


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#1
NoelC

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First off, let me say I'm chiefly interested in configuring Windows 8.1 for serious business use.  I care not for games nor do I feel there's much if any merit in the Microsoft App Store.

 

Thus I'm really only concerned with the Desktop, not Metro/Modern.

 

I've been able to configure / tweak / augment Windows 8.1 into being very nearly as functional as Windows 7.  It even offers a VERY few new features, such as the ability to directly mount ISO files.

 

But it's missing an important feature that I actually used:

 

Previous Versions:  The ability to restore individual files or folders that have been saved in Restore Points and System Image backups.

 

Many folks didn't know about Previous Versions, but it's really a handy way in Windows 7 to access just a single file or folder from backup if you need to.  In Windows 7, it was available in the right-click context menu in Explorer.  Not really a mainstream feature, but when you need it (and you know it's there) it's incredibly handy to have.

 

Windows 8+ offers a feature called File History, but it's not the same thing (and a lot of folks have had trouble even making it work right).  If nothing else, it requires more backup space because if you're making System Image backups you'll also need to have File History backups separately.  File History certainly can't substitute entirely for a System Image backup.

 

So my question is this: 

 

Since it IS still possible to make system image backups in Windows 8 (and Restore Points are still created), does anyone know of another method to access data inside them?

 

-Noel




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#2
xpclient

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Restore Points will only cover system files. I thought the shadow copy service doesn't back up documents and other file types any more as the option was removed by Microsoft morons citing some unexplained "performance reason" (I'm guessing it ate too much disk space on the boot volume). You can't have all your space eaten up on low capacity mobile devices. Stick with Windows 7 till the idiots wake up and realize not everyone wants to own a crappy limited mobile device with compromises.


Impossible to run NT6 without third party fixes.


#3
Fequois

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First off, let me say I'm chiefly interested in configuring Windows 8.1 for serious business use.  I care not for games nor do I feel there's much if any merit in the Microsoft App Store.

 

-Noel

 

Care to elaborate on what you've done? Just the general gist, not step-by-step. I'm doing pretty much the same since the release of Windows 8, but there's a good chance you've done something that I have missed. :)

 

(Pardon the off-topic.)



#4
NoelC

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Thanks for the responses, guys. 

 

XPclient, yes, I agree that it's a reasonable temporary strategy not to send Microsoft any money until they actually improve the product.  My own main workstation is still happily running Windows 7 x64 Ultimate, and quite stably (it's been 14 days 22 hours since the last reboot due to Windows Update).  But this strategy won't keep forever.

 

I'm researching this for my latest book, because there are people who feel the intangible benefit of "keeping current" outweighs functional degradations.  It's hard to say how many, but the Windows 8 version of the book is selling, so some folks obviously do care.

 

Fequois, right now my Win 8.1 draft is 112 pages of tweaks and advice and recommendations to add certain 3rd party software (e.g., BigMuscle's Aero Glass for Win 8 tool, ClassicShell, etc.).  I make File Explorer work better, minimize chrome, define a backup strategy, remove things like Indexing that get in the way, remove software that doesn't need to run to make the system lean, install some of the great freeware out there and that I know I've been able to make work reliably, etc.  The cool thing is that following the book from start to finish I can set up a really nice and solid Windows 8.1 environment from scratch in just a couple of hours.  I've been developing these strategies for years, going all the way back to the first versions of Windows.

 

Possibly my one greatest (and simplest) piece of advice is to do whatever it takes to install an OS fresh and clean, NOT as an upgrade to an existing OS.

 

I'm willing to discuss specifics here if you'd like.  Do you have particular things you'd like to see work better?

 

-Noel



#5
NoelC

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Restore Points will only cover system files. I thought the shadow copy service doesn't back up documents and other file types any more as the option was removed by Microsoft morons citing some unexplained "performance reason" (I'm guessing it ate too much disk space on the boot volume). You can't have all your space eaten up on low capacity mobile devices. Stick with Windows 7 till the idiots wake up and realize not everyone wants to own a crappy limited mobile device with compromises.

 

System Restore along with System Image backups does appear to cover everything on the system volume.  You can make bare metal restorals or retrieve backed-up files/folders in Windows 7.  I have yet to actually try a restoral of a System Image backup with Windows 8.1 to ensure that it can do it, but it appears all the data is still there.

 

The Volume Snapshot process integrates restore points with the backup process nicely, making even the System Image backups incremental, and the Previous Versions feature (in Win 7) accesses them both seamlessly.

 

PreviousVersionsIntegration.png

 

One can still schedule wbadmin commands in Windows 8.1 to accomplish the System Image backup.  The only thing is that it appears to now offer an all or nothing restoral process - that is until someone comes up with a way to access files within the snapshots/backups, as Microsoft's Previous Versions feature did.

 

Even without Previous Versions capability, you'd be hard-pressed to find such a well-integrated backup solution in 3rd party software, though certainly such software does exist.  At some point it may come time to give up on the Microsoft software and just buy the backup solution, but I don't think that time has come just yet.  Assuming sufficient backup storage space, and the ongoing absence of Previous Versions, it's possible a File History + System Image backup strategy will provide everything needed.

 

-Noel



#6
xpclient

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Are you setting up a System Image backup in Windows 8.1 on C:\? Wouldn't that require at least one full huge backup before incremental copies start getting created? Then if you mount the VHD, a tool like http://www.shadowexplorer.com should be able to show you the shadow copies. The problem isn't that. The problem is in Windows 7, the System Protection component created backups of system AND non-system files modified in a folder upon a set interval, Windows 8 takes shadow copies of only system files. There was no need in Windows 7 to take a full backup which would certainly greatly fill up the local volume. So some software is needed which watches the file system for modded non-system files/documents using a filter driver and creates a shadow copy of only those modified files.

 

File History is a massive FAIL because it doesn't seem to support incremental snapshots. Doesn't support anything outside of Libraries and doesn't seem to support encrypted files? And many other fails which I haven't bothered looking into.

 

Peter Bright ported the server version of vssadmin to Windows client some time ago: http://flaming-grack...es-on-windows-8 If it is compiled and set up with the right switches to create shadow copies upon a schedule, then that's all that's needed along with Shadow Explorer although it won't be as integrated as the neat property sheet of Windows 7.


Edited by xpclient, 03 November 2013 - 03:22 PM.

Impossible to run NT6 without third party fixes.


#7
NoelC

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Are you setting up a System Image backup in Windows 8.1 on C:\? Wouldn't that require at least one full huge backup before incremental copies start getting created? Then if you mount the VHD, a tool like http://www.shadowexplorer.com should be able to show you the shadow copies.

 

Yes, I'm talking about a backup strategy where an external hard drive receives an initial full System Image backup that is then kept up to date incrementally.  The idea is to be able to recover from catastrophic failure, as well as have some access to the backed-up files to do incremental restorals as needed (e.g. to correct for human "oops" type errors).  I do this now with Windows 7 and it's eminently workable.  I am trying to achieve the same thing with Windows 8.1, and I can get as far as the incremental System Image backups, and presumably bare metal restorals, but don't have access to the insides of the backups.

 

I will check into that Shadow Explorer that you mentioned.

 

I think I hear you telling me that Windows 8.1 backs up less than everything in a System Image backup, but I'm not sure, and I certainly haven't seen evidence of that in the data.  But I'll know more after I do some more experiments (e.g., actually trying a bare metal restoral).

 

-Noel



#8
NoelC

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File History is a massive FAIL because ...

 

Another problem I'm hearing is that it just incessantly copies the same files over and over, whether they've been modified or not.

 

And frankly I don't want to have to run the several other (seemingly unrelated) services (like HomeGroup networking) to be able to run File History.  Thanks very much for the info on how to access shadow copies and backups.  Just what I was looking for.

 

-Noel



#9
NoelC

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I have just verified that it's possible to boot from a Windows 8.1 disc and restore a System Image backup to bare metal.  It certainly makes you jump through hoops, but the whole system is there when it's done, including all user files.

 

Repair_1.png

 

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Next steps:  To  check out the shadow copy / backup data access tools XPclient identified (thanks!).

 

-Noel



#10
NoelC

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Are you setting up a System Image backup in Windows 8.1 on C:\? Wouldn't that require at least one full huge backup before incremental copies start getting created? Then if you mount the VHD, a tool like http://www.shadowexplorer.com should be able to show you the shadow copies.

 

It's actually better than that...  Unbelievably better.  There are some really great 3rd party developers out there!  Thanks to XPclient for pointing me to another one.

 

With ShadowExplorer I'm just able to access all the backed-up data directly, simply by starting up the application (I'm running the portable version).  No VHD mounting required, as long as the backup location is available (e.g., a network location or attached backup drive).  Any file in the backup can be exported to a folder location on the running system - in other words this is full file by file and folder by folder access to all the backed up system image data.  Better than I'd hoped.

 

WhatShadowExplorerShows.png

 

This is arguably a better UI than Microsoft's Previous Versions feature, since a file has to exist to bring up Microsoft's UI, but this tool will let you select a file or folder you've deleted and just export it.

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, XPclient!  I believe that's now 100%+ (with plenty of 3rd party augments, of course).

 

-Noel


Edited by NoelC, 04 November 2013 - 06:32 PM.


#11
Aloha

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http://www.backup-ut...p-software.html

 

I used the above to back up the whole Win 8 before upgrading it to Win 8.1.
It has more choices to create a system image. And it works very nice!


#12
DosProbie

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Thanks for the info Aloha, been using the EaseUS ToDo Backup but this one looks good as well..DP



#13
NoelC

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FYI, I've discovered that the current version of ShadowExplorer can return corrupted files.  I've submitted a problem report to the author.

 

There's another program out there to access Shadow Copies:  Z-VSScopy

 

I'm evaluating it now.

 

-Noel






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