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NTBackup is the built-in backup application introduced in Windows NT around 1997 and part of all subsequent versions up to and including Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It uses a proprietary backup format (BKF) to back up files. Files can be backed up to tape, ZIP drives, floppy disks, and hard drives. It also features integration with Task Scheduler and has several command line switches for scheduled automated backups.[1]

In Windows Vista and later operating systems, NTBackup was replaced by Windows Backup and Restore, which uses the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file format, supports backup to modern media such as DVDs and image-based full system backups.

For server operating systems, Microsoft has replaced NTBackup with Windows Server Backup beginning with Windows Server 2008, which includes the new wbadmin command.[2] This new backup application, wbadmin, no longer supports tape drives, which means that users have to install third-party applications to back up to tape on these new operating systems.

For reading/restoring older backups, Microsoft has made available the NTBackup Restore utility for Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008 [3] and for Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 [4] which can only read BKF files.

When used with tape drives, NTBackup uses the Microsoft Tape Format (MTF),[5] which is also used by BackupAssist and Backup Exec and Veeam Backup & Replication[6] and is compatible with BKF.[7]


NTBackup supports several operating system features including backing up the computer's System State. On computers that are not domain controllers, this includes the Windows Registry, boot files, files protected by Windows File Protection, Performance counter configuration information, COM+ class registration database, IIS metabase, replicated data sets, Exchange Server data, Cluster service information, and Certificate Services database. On domain controllers, NTBackup can back up Active Directory, including the SYSVOL directory share.

NTBackup supports Encrypting File System, NTFS hard links and junction points, alternate data streams, disk quota information, mounted drive and remote storage information. It saves NTFS permissions, audit entries and ownership settings, respects the archive bit attribute on files and folders and can create normal, copy, differential, incremental and daily backups, backup catalogs, as well as Automated System Recovery. It supports logging and excluding files from the backup per-user or for all users. Hardware compression is supported if the tape drive supports it. Software compression is not supported, even in Backup to files.

NTBackup can use removable media devices that are supported natively by the Removable Storage Manager (RSM) component of Windows. However, RSM supports only those tape devices which have RSM-aware WDM drivers.[8]

NTBackup from Windows XP and newer includes Volume Shadow Copy (VSS) support and thus can back up locked files. In the case of Windows XP Home Edition, NTBackup is not installed by default but is available on the Windows XP installation disc.[9][10] Windows XP introduced a wizard-style user interface for NTBackup in addition to the advanced UI.

An expert system administrator can use the NTBackup scripting language to create a functional backup system. Scripting enables the system administrator to automate and schedule backups of files and system state, control the RSM to follow a media rotation strategy, reprogram the RSM to work with external HDD and NAS as well as tape, send email reminders to prompt users to insert the media and compile backup reports that include logs and remaining capacity. An alternative to scripting is GUI software such as BackupAssist, which automates NTBackup and can perform automatic, scheduled backups of Windows-based servers and PCs using NTBackup.

Third-party plug-ins can be used with the deprecated Removable Storage component in Microsoft Windows to support modern storage media such as external hard disks, flash memory, optical media such as CD, DVD and Blu-ray and network file systems exposing the pieces of media as virtual tape to NTBackup which is based on Removable Storage.

NTBackup can be used under Windows Vista and up by copying the NTBackup files from a Windows XP machine. To use tapes or other backup locations that use the Removable Storage Manager, you will need to turn it on in the Turn Windows features on or off control panel, but in Windows 7 and up, the component was removed.[11][12]

Corrupt or damaged backup files

Due to the large size typical of today's backups, and faulty data transmission over unreliable USB or FireWire interfaces, backup files are prone to be corrupt or damaged. When trying to restore, NTBackup may display messages like "The Backup File Is Unusable", "CRC failed error" or "Unrecognized Media". Third-party, mostly commercial solutions may recover corrupt BKF files.[13]


  1. ^ NTBackup command line Reference
  2. ^ NTBackup replaced in Windows Server 2008
  3. ^ Windows NT Backup - Restore Utility
  4. ^ Description of the Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7 and for Windows Server 2008 R2
  5. ^ Media Sets, Media Families, and Backup Sets: MSDN
  6. ^ http://helpcenter.veeam.com/backup/70/bp_vsphere/hiw_tape_archiving.html
  7. ^ Win9x & XP & NT MSBackUp File Format and Data Recovery
  8. ^ Installed Tape Device Is Not Recognized by Removable Storage Manager
  9. ^ HOW TO: Install Backup from the CD-ROM in Windows XP Home Edition
  10. ^ How to use the Backup utility... in Windows XP...
  11. ^ Storage Networking Platform Features in Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 (Powerpoint)
  12. ^ http://www.slickit.ca/2009/07/running-nt-backup-under-windows-7.html
  13. ^ How to recover corrupt or damaged BKF backup files

External links

  • Microsoft
    • Backup Basics from Microsoft
    • NTBackup Guide for Windows XP Professional
    • MSKB104169: Files that are automatically skipped by NTBackup
  • Microsoft Tape Format (MTF) Specification Document by Seagate
  • mftar: a filter to convert MFT/BKF files to the more common tar format (Linux and Unices)
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