Automated System Recovery

There's a bit of confusion between ASR and System Restore, another feature of Windows XP. System Restore periodically makes checkpoints of the system state, including driver files. System Restore allows you to roll back to a previous checkpoint, effectively restoring the computer to a known-good condition. Windows Server 2003 does not include System Restore, which was designed primarily as a means of enhancing the reliability of client computers, which often have devices added and removed by end users. As a server operating system, Windows Server 2003 should be managed by experienced administrators (such as yourself), who can manually create backups prior to adding or changing hardware devices.

ASR is a feature of both Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP and is designed as a last-ditch means of returning a computer to operation. Essentially, ASR repeats the operating system setup and then overlays that setup with your last-known system state, services, and other baseline information. Prior to using ASR to restore a server, you should try restarting in Safe Mode, using the Last Known Good configuration and the other recovery tools you've become accustomed to in Windows 2000.

ASR Backup

ASR consists of two parts: the ASR backup set and the ASR restore process. You create an ASR backup set by using Windows Backup. The backup set contains the system state data, system services, and disk signatures. This backup enables the ASR restore process to reinstall Windows Server 2003, your system state, disk signatures, and system services in one operation.

To create an ASR backup set, simply launch Windows Backup. The Backup or Restore Wizard includes an option to create an ASR set: Select All Information on This Computer when the wizard asks you the following: What do you want to back up? You can also use Windows Backup's Advanced mode: Simply select ASR Wizard from the Tools menu, and follow the instructions on the screen.


Be sure that you're creating regular backups of any files or application data on your server. Restoring an ASR set wipes out all files and application data, so you'll need to have a recent backup in order to recover that information.

ASR Restore

Restoring a system by using ASR is straightforward. You'll need your ASR backup set, the backup media containing your files and application data, and the Windows Server 2003 installation CD. You'll also need a floppy disk containing drivers for your mass storage devices, if those drivers aren't included with Windows Server 2003.

Simply start your computer by booting with the Windows Server 2003 installation CD. During installation, press F2 to enter ASR restore mode. You'll be prompted to provide your ASR backup set. After the ASR restore is complete, you can restore your files and application data.


ASR won't reinstall any applications that aren't included with Windows Server 2003. Be sure you have the installation media, installation keys, and any other necessary components to reinstall Microsoft or third-party applications prior to starting an ASR restore.

Keep in mind that ASR restores your system files to the state contained on the installation media. Unless you have an install CD with the most recent service pack integrated, you'll need to reinstall the latest service pack after ASR completes its restore. Also, you'll need to review your hotfix and security update situation to ensure that the server is brought up-to-date after the ASR restore completes. Tools such as Hfnetchk and SUS, both discussed earlier in this chapter, can help identify and apply recent updates.