Restore data from Vista full computer backup to Windows 7

by Marin Franković on 24 February, 2009

VHDmount.exe CLIThe moment Windows 7 was out for trial I downloaded my copy from MSDN and started preparing my computer for fresh installation of new operating system. Of course, I made several backups. First, I created full computer backup (all partitions) on external USB drive using Windows Vista Backup utility so I can revert to Vista if anything goes bad, and also I copied all my documents, downloaded files etc. to a folder on an external USB drive.

My first attempt was to upgrade my Vista installation to Windows 7. It took almost 4 hour to upgrade (disk had 2 partitions, 50 % full), and after that my computer was dragging around like a dead cat. 🙂

I repartitioned my disk into two new partitions (previous BitLocker problems :)). Next up was full format of C: partition and fresh installation, which took no more than 40 minutes. Now was time to install all applications and to set them up. As I expected, some drivers had to be download from manufacturers site (card reader, bluetooth). And now to the fun part! Windows 7 Backup utility cannot restore data from Vista Backup. 🙂 Oh joy! Complete data from D: partition was lost! The only thing I could do at that moment was full restore of previously backed up Vista. And then, the moment of clarity! Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 has utility which can mount vhd files as local disk drives! And Vista Backup is nothing more than vhd file!!! 🙂

So how does that “vhdmount” utility works ?!

Vhdmount is command line utility which can mount, dismount, commit or discard changes to vhd files that are mounted as local disk drives. Some of available switches are:

/p – Plugs in the specified VHD as a virtual disk device without mounting the volume.

/m – Plugs in the specified VHD as a virtual disk device and mounts the volume.

/f – Performs the specified operation without creating an Undo Disk. This parameter is applicable for /p and /m. All changes to the mounted disk are directly written to the specified VHD.

/u – Unplugs the virtual disk device for the specified VHDFileName.

/c – Updates the original VHD with all changes that were stored in the Undo Disk anddeletes the Undo Disk after unplugging the disk. This parameter is only applicable if the VHD was mounted without using /f.

/d – Discards all changes to the mounted disk and deletes the Undo Disk after unplugging the disk. This parameter is only applicable if the VHD was mounted without using /f.

/q – Displays the disk name of the mounted virtual disk device for the specified VHDFileNam

VHDFileName – VHD name including full path.

DriveLetter – Optional parameter for /m option. If drive letter is specified the volumes are mounted starting at the specified drive letter. If drive letter is not specifiedit is automatically assigned.

All – Applies the operation on all mounted virtual disk devices. This parameter is applicable for /u and /q.

By default, VHDMount creates an Undo Disk in current user’s temporary folder. All changes to the mounted disk are written to this Undo Disk. Use /c to commit or /d to discard these changes at the time of unplugging the disk device. Use /f option to mount a VHD without an Undo Disk.

VHDMOUNT /p [/f] VHDFileName
VHDMOUNT /m [/f] VHDFileName [DriveLetter]
VHDMOUNT /u [/c | /d] VHDFileName | All
VHDMOUNT /q VHDFileName | All

With help from Ben Armstrong, Program Manager on core virtualization team from MS created registry trick to add mounting capabilities to right click (save as .reg file and double click to import into registry):

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 




@="\"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\Vhdmount\vhdmount.exe\" /u \"%1\"" 


@="\"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\Vhdmount\vhdmount.exe\" /p \"%1\"" 


Now you can doublelick to mount vhd file or right click on iz to dismount it. There are known problems with Vista (regarding UAC), because you need administrative privileges to mount vhd file. You ca neither disable UAC (not recommended) or set up vhdmount.exe to always run with elevated privileges.

If you do not need full Virtual Server instalation, you can select “Custom” during instalation procedure and clear all components except VHDMount.

Of course, now when I was able to mount vhd file (created by Vista Backup), I could easily copy all my document and other files to Windows 7 installation.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Srivats April 18, 2009 at 17:24

Thank’s for the Wonderfull information..


Scorp May 27, 2009 at 21:01

Cool information, but Windows 7 has bult-in VHD file mount support…
Via Disk Management!
This is fundamental on earlier Windows verisons!


Marin May 27, 2009 at 23:51

True. Windows 7 has the ability to create and mount vhd files through Disk Management console.


Jm July 23, 2009 at 12:49

I’ve installed Windows 7 on my laptop now. I want to restore some files from my previous backup of Windows Vista Business in “vhd” format. It’s a Complete PC Backup, i just wana copy some important files from it. The Disk management procedure is giving error “file system limitation”and i cant Attach VHD. I’ve also downloaded and installed Microsoft Virtual PC, but dont dont know how to mount the backup file with it. Also, just wana tell you that i’ve made a Complete PC Backup on several DVD’s, about 5 i guess. I didnt had a usb with enough space at that time.
Can anyone help me retrieve files from my backup????


Marin Franković July 23, 2009 at 12:57

Maybe this is your problem: “You can only attach a VHD that is located on an NTFS volume.”. DVD uses UDF and not NTFS. Try to copy vhd files to NTFS drive or to SMB shared disk. More can be found here:


dp September 6, 2009 at 16:33

this may help you out as well. I am testing out some features and ran across this and it came in very handy for me. You can mount the VHD from within the disk management console.


John November 5, 2009 at 16:59

Thank you guys for the great know-how!


sofrata February 2, 2010 at 5:56

is it possible to restore applications from vista when i upgrade to windows7? and how?


Marin Franković February 2, 2010 at 8:02


my recommendation would be to run Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to test all drivers, hardware and applications for compatibility before you install Windows 7. There are no Microsoft applications that will restore your custom installations from Vista backup to Windows 7 installation. Best way is to reinstall applications in Windows 7.


Chris March 10, 2010 at 4:24

Wow, you guys are way over my head on this. Simply put….I don’t know what the crap you are talking about. I too backed up my laptop when switching from Vista to 7. I backed it up onto an old pc hard drive. Now when I need to get all of my outlook files and emails onto the new system I am f’d and I have no idea what all of what you guys are tlkaing about. I am not a computer guru. I just need my shit back asap… can anyone explain to me how to do this in English please…….


Kevin April 12, 2010 at 3:34

“And Vista Backup is nothing more than vhd file!!!”

hmmm… I did a recent Vista backup and don’t see any *.vhd files associated with it. ‘catalogs’ and .zip files only…


Marin Franković April 12, 2010 at 8:19

Hi Kevin,

I guess we have a misunderstanding. When you do “standard backup” you end up with .zip files. If you do “Full PC Backup” you will end up with .vhd files.

From “MS Storage Team (”

“Why did you use .ZIP files for backups?
We intentionally chose “industry standard” ZIP files for the file backup and restore feature to ensure that our customers would be able to restore their backups on a non-Windows Vista PC (or even a Mac or Linux box). That was a major shortcoming (according to our customers) of NTBackup’s proprietary BKF format. And by using separate files, vs. one monolithic file, we’re able to span across multiple media (CDs and DVDs), while still being resilient to any one of the media failing.

The Complete PC Backup and Restore feature users the VHD (virtual hard disk) format from the Virtual PC and Virtual Server team.”


Felicia April 12, 2010 at 16:28

I agree with Chris. I need help restoring ZIP files created with Vista Backup & Restore Center. I thought this would be easy, but these files (which are there) are not recognized. I depended on this feature to work while I reformatted my computer. And now, if I can’t get my files, I am totally f’d. Can anyone help with this??


Marin Franković April 12, 2010 at 21:28

Hi Felicia,

did you try opening zip files wit WinZip or WinRAR?


Mark Gidman May 10, 2010 at 22:36

hi can somebody explain this in simple terms thank you


Marin Franković May 10, 2010 at 22:41

Hi Mark,

there are lots of comments on this post. What is your question?


Mark Gidman May 10, 2010 at 22:44

i dont understand it.i was on windows vista 32bit ive backed everything up through recovery manager and have done a clean install of windos 7 64bit and want to get my back up onto it from my vista thanks


Marin Franković May 10, 2010 at 22:55

Hi Mark,

what application did you use to back up your data? Did you use Windows Vista backup application or third party? If you did full computer backup with Vista backup, you should have one or more .vhd files which can be attached to Windows 7 by using Disk Management tool ( and then you can access them as any other disk. If you did backup of selected files only, then you should be able to unzip them.


Jessi May 21, 2010 at 18:48

I want to ask, what should I do because I can’t find the Disk Management everywhere…
I backup my whole laptop, so the files are VHD..
can any one explain it in simple way.?
thank you.


Marin Franković May 21, 2010 at 19:27

Hi Jessi,

– Start – right click on Computer and select Manage.
– Select Disk management (wait for the console to populate)
– Right click on Disk management and select Attach VHD
– Browse to your backup and click OK

Now you should see another disk drive when you open Windows Explorer. It is your backup.


Jessi May 22, 2010 at 12:17

It is restored now.. 😀



Shannon July 21, 2010 at 14:30

Marin (or anyone), I followed the last steps listed here and though it created two more disks I’m still not able to access my information from the old hard drive. I too backed up in Vista and am trying to import files into W7 and I only have the hard drive as the computer was sent back to the manufacturer.

What sucks is that in trying to figure out what to do I think I accidentally backed up my new computer on the old hard drive as well though I’m 90% positive the old information is there. There are two rather large vhd files that I think contain all my old information but like I said when I go to “attach vhd” though disk management and open them both I’m only given files that I can’t quite decipher that look as though they’ve come from the new computer. These files were there before I even backed up the new computer though so i don’t know why that is happening.

I’m desperate to get my information back because every picture I’ve taken of my daughter is on there as well as years of my music. I am so so desperate. Please help.


Marin Franković July 21, 2010 at 15:29

Hi Shannon,

when you attach VHDs to your computer and open them through My Computer, did you try to browse through Users folder on them and within Users folder, should be My Documents folder? I am pretty sure that if you did backup your new computer to the same HDD, new backup would not overwrite old one. If old backup is overwritten, it will be hard to get old data back. I would like to help you, but it is very hard for me to do so over text messages.


Did you try to use search on those attached VHD files? After you attach VHD to your computer, open it and try to search some familiar files that were on your old computer.


Nancy August 22, 2010 at 16:17

I am preparing to do a clean install for windows 7. Before I do it, I have done a PC backup in Vista. After reading these posts, I checked the type of file they are and it is compressed zip file. I tried to do the windows image and backup option but it would not saying that my drive (western digital my book was ineligible). will the compressed zip files be available when I go to windows 7? alternatively what should I do. I don’t mind reinstalling software but would like to have all my information to transfer…again a signficant amount of pictures and data.


Marin Franković August 22, 2010 at 22:17

Hi Nancy,

zip files can be unzipped in Windows 7, but you will have to do it manually. If you can not create full PC backup (vhd file) I recommend you do copy/paste of all your important data to an external drive and later on move it to Windows 7 installation. You will have to reinstall all applications either way. Another way to go (I do not recommend it) is to do in-place upgrade of Vista to Windows 7.


Lisa August 31, 2010 at 17:21


I just switched laptops and switched at the same time from Vista to 7. I had to turn in my Vista to get my new one, so I backed it up a few ways: updated my prior backup, did a new full backup, and tranferred all of the files I needed. (It’s a good thing I have such a large external.) I’m just trying to figure out if it is best to bring my files over from the transferred files or from the full backup. (I don’t really mind either one or ease of it. I just want to know which is best.)


Marin Franković August 31, 2010 at 17:27

Hi Lisa,

basically it is the same thing. If you mount your full backup vhd file you can copy your data from it since it will show as disk drive in Windows 7. Or you can simply transfer copied data to Windows 7 by copying it from external drive. In any case, do not delete you backups. If you can, store them for safe keeping.

Best regards


Lisa August 31, 2010 at 17:34

Thanks for both the reply and the very quick response! I just wanted to double check – and I’m definitely not getting rid of my backups!


Jaco January 21, 2011 at 15:22

Hi Guys

I did the backup and ended up with .zip files aswell. I thought that winzip was the solution but now some files and programs I had gives me an ‘ invalid win32 application’?

Any ideas on how to fix this



Marin Franković January 21, 2011 at 15:25

Hi Jaco,

this type of backup is intended for user data only, not applications. You will have to reinstall applications.


Mohammed Ali March 11, 2011 at 18:40

Hi there,
I have a little query here which is giving me sleepless nights. I upgraded from Vista home premium 32 bit to windows 7 home premium. I had earlier backed up all the data i had on an external hard drive using the windows backup utility. now when i switched to windows 7, i find that they simply can’t be transferred straightaway. There is a program called windows easy transfer which lets you transfer your backed up data from vista to win7 if you had utilised it to back up in the first place. Now the issue is that whatever backup data i have is in zip format, and it is very inconvenient for me to be looking into 250 zipped folders to manually search and locate what data, or what pictures i want. Is there any easier way of doing this? any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Most Obliged.


Marin Franković March 16, 2011 at 19:07

Hi Mohammed,

I do not think that there is an easier way of recocering your data. You will have to do it manually. One of the solutions could be to install another Vista in virtualized enviroment and then to use its backup tool to restore data to that virtualized enviroment. Then use Easy transfer (from Win 7, it can be downloaded from MS web) and use it in virtualized Vista to create backup that can be later on transfered to Windows 7.


Audrey March 20, 2012 at 1:32

HI, I installed windows 7, backed up Vista on DVD’s and can’t restore
Data from Vista. Kinda new at this, please explain in senior citizen


Marin Franković March 20, 2012 at 13:12

Hi Audrey,

check this video for more info: .


Max June 4, 2012 at 13:01

Hi Marin,
I also used Vista Business Windows Complete Backup before a clean install of Win7 64 bit and after the install did a complete Win7 backup. I followed the instructions you gave Jessi, found one 100Mb VHD and another 111Gb VHD file and attached both. The small one is unreadable, the large one had My Documents which was an empty folder. I feel this VHD is the recent Win7 backup. Would the Win7 backup have overwritten the earlier Vista Backup? I searched my external backup drive with *.vhd but found no items matching. Cheers, Max


Marin Franković June 4, 2012 at 15:06

Hi Max,

it is a great possibility that Windows 7 backup overwritten your old backup. How come you have 111GB VHD file? Win 7 installation is only about 7-8 GB. Try searching for some familiar documents within mounted 111GB file.


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