Blog Articles
Read MSP360’s latest news and expert articles about MSP business and technology
Windows Server 2003 Image-Based Backup

How to Perform Windows Server 2003 Image-Based Backup

How to Perform Windows Server 2003 Image-Based Backup

In this article, you will find an overview of Windows Server 2003 backup and recovery options using either the built-in NTBackup tool (backup app for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Since NTBackup does not support image-based backups, we will also take a brief look at the differences between a file-level system data copy and an image-based backup.

Table of Contents

    What Is System Image Backup?

    System image backup is a byte-to-byte copy of selected drive partitions with all corresponding file systems and boot metadata. You can even use this copy for exact recovery of the entire drive. This backup type helps in most disaster recovery scenarios, or it can be used as a part of a server maintenance procedure.

    For more information on System Image Backup please refer to our guide:

    Further reading System Image Backup and Recovery Guide

    Whitepaper icon
    Why You Need to Back Up Windows Server and How MSP360 Helps
    Discover the ins and outs of a server backup strategy using MSP360 Backup.
    New call-to-action

    Windows Server 2003 Image Backup with Built-In NTBackup

    The built-in tool NTBackup does not support image-based backups - it only allows you to create a file-level backup covering all necessary data to restore from scratch. This copy combines full data backup with a few configuration files that you can use when booting from a Windows installation CD. This technology is called Automated System Recovery (ASR) and it is built into Windows Server 2003 as a part of the NTBackup tool that allows performing bare-metal restores in the event any local system disaster strikes.

    Here is a quick guide on how to perform an ASR backup:

    1Run NTBackup by typing ntbackup in the Run menu. Click Backup Wizard (Advanced) on the start screen.
    Performing Windows Server 2003 image backup with ntbackup

    2Click the Automated Recovery Wizard button and proceed. You will need to select the target backup file - we suggest using the separate (or even external) drive for such a backup.
    Choosing Backup destination in Windows Server 2003 image backup with NTBackup

    3Now click Next and then Finish to start the backup.

    4On the next step, you will be asked to insert a floppy disk. As in 2018, that is an extremely outdated technology, here is a workaround. If you do not have a floppy disk at the moment of the ASR wizard run, you can copy these files later under the path: %windir%\repair.

    5After the wizard is completed, ensure that you copied the contents of the %windir%\repair folder somewhere outside the system. This folder contains a few small files (asr.sif and asrpnp.sif) that are necessary for ASR recovery.

    Limitations of NTBackup for Windows 2003

    Built-in Windows backup software is a powerful tool for a daily routine, but it has a few drawbacks you should remember:

    • You need to use a floppy drive during the restore process since Windows uses it to save pre-restore info such as disk configuration information and system signature. Though there is a workaround, you can use Remote Installation Server instead of a recovery floppy.
    • ASR does not have scheduling out of the box. You need to manually configure such backups using scripting including separately created .SIF files.
    • ASR is not intended to be used for server migration purposes, so any attempt to recover the system on another hardware can require additional efforts such as a hard drive’s controller drivers installation.


    Windows 2003 does not have a built-in tool supporting image-based backups, but you can still use the ASR feature that creates a file-level data copy and allows you to use it for bare-metal recovery. This feature has a few peculiarities, such as the necessity to use a floppy drive. So we suggest choosing modern third-party backup tools with the support of an image-based backup.

    MSP360 Managed Backup.
    Simple. Reliable.
    Powerful cross-platform backup and disaster recovery that leverages the public cloud to enable a comprehensive data protection strategy.
    New call-to-action
    MBS CTA image