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Windows 7 File Recovery Absent from Win8.1

As I’m getting to learn the latest Windows 8.1 release from the current Pro Preview version that’s available, I’ve been finding my way into some of its more obscure or random wrinkles. In responding to a reader inquiry about my recent post about the WinDirStat utility (“Run as Administrator” Adds to WinDirStat File Visibility, 8/19/2013) this morning, for example, I learned that the built-in Windows backup utility which appears in Windows 8.0 as “Windows 7 File Recovery” in Control Panel, is no longer present in Windows 8.1. This same utility is a port of the “Backup and Recovery” utility that was present in Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 as well. But it’s apparently gone, gone, gone in Windows 8.1.

Output from the winver command in Windows 8.1 shows that it’s labeled Version 6.3 (Build 9431) and is desigated as “Windows 8.1 Pro Preview,” with an expiration date of 1/15/2014.

For those who might need to access the .vhd or .vhdx files that the Windows 7 File Recovery utility creates as part of its backup file collections from older versions of Windows 8, I was also surprised to learn that Hyper-V’s “Import Virtual Machine…” interface won’t permit you to mount and access the contents of those virtual disks. Nor, to my greater surprise, will Elaborate Bytes’ usually excellent Virtual CloneDrive tool. You can always use the “Attach VHD” option in the Windows built-in Disk Management (diskmgmt.msc) utility, though, to mount and grab files from backup images that the older utility created on Windows 8 prior to an in-place upgrade to Windows 8.1 (which shows up as Disk 7/M: Drive in the following screencap).

The ‘brute force technique’ for accessing a Windows 8 image backup created using the Windows 7 File Recovery utility is to use Attach VHD in the Disk Management console.

After a bit of poking around, I found a free utility named VHD Attach 3.80 that provides right-click support for mounting VHD and VHDX files in Windows 8. It did the job nicely once I figured out I had to use the “Run as administrator” option to grant the program sufficient rights to mount the virtual disk file that the Windows 7 File Recovery utility creates and protects with system level privileges. Armed with this insight, I tried to do likewise with Virtual CloneDrive, but still found it blocked by access restrictions. Thus, if you want to get into image files in Windows 8.1 that originated from the Windows 7 File Recovery utility in Windows 8.0, it looks like you’ll need to use Attach VHD in the Disk Management console, or grab and use VHD Attach as an alternative.

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