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Restore Windows Server Active Directory from bare metal

This guide will show you how to restore your Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2016 from a bare metal backup image to a working AD Operating System. Now, the term "bare metal" should probably be changed to read "bare virtual" instead, because nowadays nobody is restoring anything -or should not be restoring anything- as sensitive as AD into a physical machine. By now you should be running 100% virtual, no excuses!!

With that in mind, the second step to consider is that a restore is only as good as the backup had been, so ensure that you have a proper backup procedure in place on your Active Directory virtual machine server before it crashes. Follow this to get started:


Preparation - Backup procedure for your "active" Forest Root Domain Controller server

Your FRDC is one of the most important machine in your environment. To ensure it is backup properly, add s secondary hard drive to it of about 60GB, and after formatting it with NTFS ensure you remove any drive letter to it, so that it doesn't show under My Computer

 Restore drive with no letter assigned

 Then, install the Windows Server Backup Feature by running this cmdlet in PS:

Install-WindowsFeature Windows-Server-Backup

Launch the application, and you know what to do: that's right: a Full server (recommended) schedule backup of your server to that hidden hard drive, needless to say that you obviously need to exclude that hidden drive from the actual backup

Hide share

That's it! All you have to do now is to ensure that this Virtual Machine is backup on regular basis to your backup repository using Veeam Backup or any other solution that you have at work, because you'll need to drive to restore the AD in the unlikely event if goes supernova


Restore the bare metal image into a different virtual machine

Now, create another virtual machine and do as follows:

  1. Create the same hard drive sizes that you had on the FRDC, for example 100GB for the C:\ drive and 60GB for the backup drive
  2. Install an Operating System (any Microsoft-modern flavor) into that new VM
  3. Restore the "WindowsBackupImage" folder that was created during the schedule backup of the FRDC, and copy the contents into the second drive on this new virtual machine. Ensure that the folder structure follows the name WindowsBackupImage >> Server name; if you don't have a folder called "WindowsBackupImage" at the root of the secondary drive, this procedure won't work
  4. Once you're done, insert a DVD with the correct OS that you want to restore into this new VM and boot from it

For this example I'm choosing Windows Server 2012 R2, obviously the OS of your choice must be the same one as the one the FRDC had. Upon booting, click on "Repair your computer"

Windows Server 20212 R2 Repair your computer

Click on "Troubleshoot"

Troubleshoot in Restore Windows Server Active Directory from bare metal

On the window, click on "System Image Recovery"

System Recovery Image

Click on the next window the operating system of your choice (there should only be Windows Server 2012 R2) and click on next. Aha! Maybe you'll be presented with this error message: "Windows cannot find a system image on this computer", meaning you've done something wrong: the "WindowsImageBackup" root folder is NOT there... so yeah, let's give it a reboot after this error shows up and verify that that folder containing the backup actually exist with that exact name

Window cannot find a system image on this computer

Once you verified that the "WindowsImageBackup" folder is there, the System Image will find it, and you're ready to proceed with the full restore



Ensure the option "Format and repartitions disks" is selected and click on Finish to action the restore

 In progress Restore Windows Server Active Directory from bare metal

It might take a while, yes..... and once the machine comes back online, just remember to change its IP address to the original one the FRDC had and you're done!

Thank you for reading

If you like this article, you might be interested in this other one too:


London, 10 April 2020