Windows Server Backup Differential Backup Instead of Incremental Backup

Posted by @Cody

April 14, 2016

Understand how Windows Server Backup differential backup works although microsoft call it incremental backup.

Windows Server Backup with differential backup

In Windows Server Backup, you can configure it to do a full backup or incremental backup while setting up a scheduled backup. An incremental backup is a type of backup that only includes the changed or new created files into the backup since the latest backup taken before. Similar to incremental backup, A differential backup also only saves the added and changed files in the backup, but it is based on the latest full backup. After creating a full backup, at the next backup, Windows Server Backup will only backs up the changed data and merge it with the last backup. Therefore, you only see one full backup in the backup drive, which is quite convenient and fast for restoration. Actually, the way Windows Server Backup works is more like differential backup though Windows claims to be incremental backup.

Configrue Performance

Create differential backup in Windows Server

If you create a scheduled backup with Windows Server Backup, it will using “differential backup” by default. You can click Configure Performance Settings in WSB wizard select full backup or incremental backup. However, in Windows Server 2008, you can only create scheduled backup using Wbadmin enable backup command. For example, to create a bare metal backup to G: drive performed at 00:00 every day, you can use the following command:

Wbadmin enable backup -backuptarget:G: -allcritical -include:systemstate -schedule:00:00

If you are not familiar with WBadmin, luckily, Microsoft has added the schedule backup function to the GUI backup wizard since Windows Server 2008R2. Windows Server Backup uses volume shadow copy to save the previous versions of backups. If you create a scheduled backup job to network shared folder or a mapped network drive, all the backups will only be performed by full backup because network location is not a volume. If you need to create differential backup or incremental backup to network folder, you need to third party backup software. Nevertheless, Windows Server Backup has some crucial limitations that need to be considered. The backup drive to store scheduled backups has to be a separate hard drive (Windows 2008) or volume (Windows Server 2012), only NTFS-formatted volumes can be set as backup source or backup target, system state backup can only be performed as full backup instead of other types of backup in Windows, you have to manually delete Windows Server Backup job when the backup disk is full, and you cannot keep more than one scheduled backup task.

Differential backup software--AOMEI Backupper

For a better way to perform differential backups without those limitations than Windows Server Backup has, you can use server backup program AOMEI Backupper Server. It enables you to created multiple scheduled backups performed with full backup, incremental backup and differential backup as you like. Besides volume, you can include individual file or folder, system or the whole hard disk in a backup. What’s more, it support all the Windows Server system and most used file system.

To create differential backups with AOMEI Backupper:

1. Download the software for Windows Server 2008/2012/2016, Install and launch it

2. Under the “Backup” tab, select “System Backup” to backup the system. You can also choose “Disk Backup”, “Partition Backup”, and “File Backup” based on your needs.

System Backup

3. For system backup, you do not have to select what to include in the backup as the program will do it automatically. All you need to do is click “Step 2” to select a the location that is detected in File Explorer to save the backup image.

Destination Path

4. The click the “Schedule” button to choose when you want the backup to run. In the Schedule windows, click the “Advanced” tab to select Full/Differential/Incremental backup. Incremental backup is the default setting as the screenshot below.

Differential Backup

5. Back to the System Backup screen, you can click “Scheme” to enable Disk Space Management for automatic old backups cleanup if needed. When all is well set, click “Start Backup” to run the backup job.

If your server is somehow is serious problem, you can use bootable media (USB drive or CD) created by AOMEI Backupper or AOMEI PXE tool (implemented-in tool) to restore system backup and restore to dissimilar hardware is also supported. All in all, instead of using Windows Server Backup for differential backup, AOMEI Backupper is the best differential backup software for Windows Server. Apart from backup and restore, it also provides cloning functions in case you need to clone hard drive or only OS to SSD.