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Published on 10.25.07 by Brent Trahan

Schedule a Complete PC Backup

Set Windows Vista to perform a Complete PC Backup on a schedule.

Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise have a great image based backup called Complete PC Backup that backs up your entire computer including Windows, programs, settings, and files.

Unfortunately Complete PC Backup can’t be scheduled from the control panel. This guide shows you how to use the command line version of Complete PC Backup (wbadmin) and the Task Scheduler to backup your computer with Complete PC Backup on a schedule.

Prerequisites: Before you can schedule a complete PC backup you need the following:

  • Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, or Enterprise: You must be running Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, or Enterprise.
  • Administrative Privileges: The user account you use to create the scheduled task that creates a Complete PC backup must have admin privileges in this example.
  • Password: The user account you’re logged into when creating the scheduled task must be password protected.

The wbadmin Command

The wbadmin command is a command line tool for Windows Vista’s Complete PC Backup. Since Complete PC Backup isn’t schedulable from the control panel I’m going to use wbadmin with the help of the Task Scheduler to automatically create a Complete PC Backup on a schedule.

How-to Use wbadmin

Here’s an example wbadmin command:

WBADMIN START BACKUP -backupTarget:f: -include:c: -allCritical -vssFull -quiet

Note: This command needs to run in an elevated command prompt to work properly.

Here are the parts of the command broken down and explained:

  • wbadmin The wbadmin command.
  • start backup Tells wbadmin it’s going to perform a backup.
  • -allCritical Makes sure all system files are included in the backup.
  • -backupTarget:B: Where the backup will be saved. The wbadmin command can save a Complete PC Backup in a drive (D:), folder (D:\backups\MyPC), or a network share (\\FileServer\JoesPC).
  • -include:C: What drive to backup. Multiple drives can be backed up by separating them with commas (-include:C:,E:,F:\folder).
  • -vssFull Performs a full backup using Volume Shadow Copy. Each file’s history will be updated to reflect it was backed up. Warning: Do not use this if you’re using other backup programs.
  • -quiet This tells the wbadmin command to not ask you any questions and just do what it’s told.

Schedule Complete PC Backup

In this example I’m going to set my computer to run a Complete PC Backup every week to backup my C: drive and save it on my E: drive. Use this example to set your computer up.

  1. Click the Start button, point at All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then select Task Scheduler.

    Note: Your user account must have administrative privileges to create this task.

  2. Click Create Task in the Actions column of the Task Scheduler window.
  3. Give the new task a name and check off Run with highest privileges in the General tab of the new task.

  4. Select the Triggers tab and then click New.
  5. Check off weekly, check off a day of the week, setup a time, and then click OK when you’re finished.

  6. Select the Actions tab and click New.
  7. Type wbadmin in the Program/script box.

  8. Type START BACKUP -backupTarget:f: -include:c: -allCritical -vssFull -quiet in the Add arguments box and then click OK to save it.

    Note: -backupTarget: is where the backup will be saved, and –include: is what will be backed up. You might need to change the –backupTarget: switch’s drive letter.

  9. Click OK in your scheduled task properties window to save it.
  10. Test this task by right-clicking the new task in the top center pane of the task scheduler and select Run.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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19 Responses to “Schedule a Complete PC Backup”

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  1. dman says:

    This is a good guide.

    readers should also note, this is the ONLY way you can create a backup image to a network drive. The GUI will not allow network shares or UNC locations as valid backup destinations for a complete image backup.

  2. RichTrapp says:

    Works great, but when I reboot and go into “Repair computer” and select “Complete PC Restore” I can only see the backups I’ve created with the GUI. Those created with this method are not visible. I can go into COMMAND mode and do a “wbadmin get versions” and they don’t show up. If I reboot into Vista and execute the same command “wbadmin get versions” they all show up. Any ideas?

  3. Krishna says:

    wbadmin get versions -backuptarget:
    will list the versions in WinRE.
    because in Offline OS (WinRE) – the system is booted from WinRE which doesnt have system catalog.

  4. Sven says:


    When Vista does a Windows Complete PC Backup, does this include the DOS drive and all the data on all external drives as well? Or is it just the data that is on the physical machine not including any external storage?

  5. Brent Trahan says:

    By default it only backs up the system drive (C:) but you can include others drives as well.

  6. Sven says:

    Thanks again, Brent.

    You’ve been a big help!

  7. Brian Connelly says:

    Thanks- though I would point out that I was not able to use a drive letter for backuptarget, “-backupTarget:f:”. I got an error message insisting that I use a URL, which I did, “backupTarget:\\san\backups\ws_1”

  8. pegas says:

    Really smarty! However can I somehow adjust the created taks resp. its parameters to show up GUI instead of command prompt that is not so fashioned. I would rather see the Complete PC Backup GUI with progress bar of backup and option to stop the backup.
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Brent Trahan says:

      Not that I know of.

      • pegas says:

        Thanks for your quick reply! It’s a pity though but still better to see the command prompt than to trigger the backup manually. Anyhow just curious, if the backup can be run completely silently, I mean even without having seen the command prompt.

  9. Alan says:

    “-vssFull Performs a full backup using Volume Shadow Copy (VSS). Each file’s history will be updated to reflect it was backed up. Warning: Do not use this if you’re using another backup programs.”

    Does this mean I cannot have another backup program running SIMULTANEOUSLY as a Complete PC Backup? Or can I use another backup program at a different time to running a Complete PC Backup, and still use -vssFull.

    I am using GenieSoft Backup Manager 8.

    • Alan says:

      PS – When you run Complete PC Backup from the control panel, is it set to use -allCritical and -vssFull?

    • Brent Trahan says:

      You should never use another backup program that uses volume shadow copy.

      Let’s say you have 2 backup programs. Backup program 1 backs up your computer using volume shadow copy. You edit a few files and then backup your computer with backup program 2 that also uses volume shadow copy. Backup program 2 marks the freshly edited files as backed up using volume shadow copy. When backup program 1 backs up the files again it won’t backup those freshly edited files becuase they were marked as backed up by program 2.

  10. XP Ann Arbor says:

    We saw something like this in our corner of Michigan recently.

    Can’t wait all these XP systems to start needing upgrades.

    Thanks for the post.

  11. PC Arbor says:

    Interesting. Just pulled up your blog post doing a search for XP repair.

    I like XP but it can be tough to fix sometimes. (But it is still easier for me to understand than NT!)

    Thanks for posting.

  12. Josh says:

    Hey, I know this post is kinda old but I had a quick question. When I make a subsequent complete images of a machine (assuming the same destination, of course), are the changes incremental? If so, is there no way to interact with older versions of the image? or is that what that whole “catalog restore” business is about? Thanks!

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