By Alison / Last Updated September 5, 2022

Overview of Hyper-V Backup

Microsoft Hyper-V is a cost-effective type-1 hypervisor that built into 64-bit Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 8 and later versions. Using Hyper-V Manager you can create and manage multiple VMs for testing or development.

Due to the nature of virtual machines, they are often used for running critical projects or risky operations. So it's a necessary initiative to backup Hyper-V VMs regularly in case of unwantted data loss and business interruption. But how to do that exactly? Is there any built-in option to do so? And should you backup Hyper-V host? In this article I will answer these questions and provide 3 common ways to backup Hyper-V VMs.

Hyper-V logo

Things you should know before backing up Hyper-V

Despite the similar definitions and roles, the physical machine backup and virtual machine backup still differ in approach and classification. So before you take actions to backup Hyper-V, there are some things you need to consider first.

Should you backup Hyper-V host

Actually, it is generally agreed by IT staff that it is Not Necessary to back up your Hyper-V host. In most cases, what really matters is to back up virtual machines on the host.

Backing up Hyper-V host refers to backing up the Hyper-V hypervisor settings, including storage, networking, roles, permissions, and the virtual switch configurations, etc. Currently there is no direct way to do this.

Ideally, Hyper-V hosts should be kept simple so that VMs can be flexibly migrated to other hosts or hypervisors. This makes reconfiguring the Hyper-V host a simple and quick job, takes even shorter time than restoring from a backup.

Hyper-V host-level vs guest-level backup

Basically there are 2 approaches to perform Hyper-V backup: host-level backup and guest-level backup.

Host-level VM backup will back up the entire VM, including its configuration, allowing you to restore an entire VM and make it instantly available.

Guest-level VM backup will back up the VM as the physical machines by installing an agent on guest operating system, namely agent-based backup. You can select what to backup inside the VM flexibly and specifically. But when restoring, you need to create an empty VM and install a guest OS, and then reinstall the agent on the guest OS.

Host Level vs Guest Level Backup

Should we perform Hyper-V backup in host or guest level? This actually depends on your needs. But in most cases, host-level backup is more recommended as it facilitates the batch management and entire VM recovery.

If you have a wide variety of backup and recovery needs, you can also use a combination of the two.

Two built-in methods to backup Hyper-V virtual machines

In this section, I will introduce 2 built-in ways to perform host-level Hyper-V VM backup. You can jump to them by clicking on the anchor text.

Export Hyper-V VMs: By exporting VMs to OVF or OVA templates you can restore to other Hyper-V hosts. However, you can only backup one VM at a time.

Using Windows Server Backup: Windows Server Backup (WSB) is a built-in feature that provides backup and restore options for Windows server environments, allowing you to schedule automatic backup tasks of multiple VMs. But you cannot monitor the backup status this way.

Except for the above 2 ways, you can also gain a complete and independent VM copy by manually copying VM files and creating a new VM, then attaching VHD file to restore the data. But it is not recommended because Hyper-V puts VM files in different locations.

Note: Hyper-V checkpoints should not be used as backups because they rely on parent disk completely, if the parent disk is corrupted or deleted, checkpoint files cannot be used to restore VM.

Way 1: Export Hyper-V VM on Hyper-V Manager

You can use Hyper-V Manager to export VM as a Hyper-V backup means. Here's how to do it:

1. Launch Hyper-V Manager. Right-click the VM you want to backup, select Export…

Select Export

2. Click Browse to specify where you want to save the files in the pop-up window.

Browse

3. Wait for the Export progress. The more software you installed in this system, the more time this process will cost.

When it’s accomplished, you will find 3 folders in the destination location. The VHD files, the VM configuration files, and the snapshots.

Way 2. Backup Hyper-V VMs using Windows Server Backup

You can also use Windows Server Backup for Hyper-V VMs. Try following steps:

1. Launch Server Manager. Click Manage and select Add Roles and Features. Click Next.

Add Roles and Features

2. Select Role-based or feature-based installation as the Installation Type. Click Next.

3. Select the Server from the server pool and click Next.

4. Click Next on Server Roles page.

5. On Features page, find and check Windows Server Backup in Features list. Click Next to install.

Install Windows Server Backup

6. When it’s done, close the window and back to Server Manager. Click Tools and select Windows Server Backup.

7. As you can see, you can choose Backup Schedule, Backup Once, and Recover in Actions menu. Here we click Backup Once.

8. In pop-up Backup Once Wizard, select Different options and click Next.

Backup options

9. In Select Backup Configuration page, you can select Custom to choose a specific folder or files. Then click Next.

Select Backup Configuration

10. Click Add items to select the Hyper-V VM you want to back up.

Click Add items

11. Specify a Destination Type and click Next. As you can see, you can choose backup to local drive or network share.

Specify Destination Type

12. Select the Destination location and click Next.

Specify Destination location

13. Confirm the settings and click Backup to start. Thus you can restore Hyper-V VM from Windows Server Backup when necessary.

✎WSB has an automatic disk usage management feature which can shrink the storage space allocated for snapshots to delete old backups and make space for new backups. But this feature often leads to failures of backups and other errors, because WSB will not shrink the storage space to less than 1/8 of target volume size.

✎You can also use System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) to backup Hyper-V virtual machines, either in host-level, or guest-level. To learn how you can refer to this article: Backup Hyper-V virtual machines

One agentless and free backup solution for Hyper-V VMs

Among the two ways introduced above, using export feature you can only backup one VM at a time, while WSB can automatically backup multiple VMs, but again, its backup cleanup feature is very unstable.

Therefore, many Hyper-V users would choose to use a dedicated utility for better functionality. Here I will use AOMEI Cyber Backup, the agentless and free Hyper-V backup software that can schedule automatic backup task of multiple VMs, monitor backup status and cleanup old backups. It well compensates for the lack of native backup ways.

Below I will illustrate how to backup Hyper-V VMs. You can click on the button to enjoy the perpetual free edition:

Download FreewareVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
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*You can choose to install this VM backup software on either Windows or Linux system.

3 quick steps to create automatic Hyper-V VMs backup tasks

Step 1. Bind Devices

Navigate to Source Device > Hyper-V > + Add Hyper-V to add a host, and click > Bind Device.

Add Hyper-V host

Step 2. Create Backup Task

Navigate to Backup Task > + Create New Task, and specify the Task Name, Backup Type, Device, Target, Schedule on a simple page.

Create a Hyper-V backup task

  • Device: AOMEI Cyber Backup allows you to backup multiple, or even all VMs on the host at once.
  • Target: You can select to back up to a local path, or to a network path.
  • Schedule: You can create a backup schedule to perform full, differential or incremental backup, and automate execution daily, weekly or monthly according to the frequency you specified.

Set up backup schedule

Step 3. Create and execute the backup

Click Start Backup you can select to Add the schedule only, or Add the schedule and start backup now.

Start Backup Hyper-V VMs

Restore Hyper-V from any backed up point

Simply navigate to Backup Management > History Versions and select the VM and restore point you want to restore to, click > Restore and you can restore the entire VM to an usable state quickly and easily.

Then click Start Restore to perform the VM recovery.

Restore to

✎While the Free Edition has covered most of VM backup needs, you can also upgrade to enjoy:
Backup cleanup: Specify a retention policy, and the old backups that exceed the limit will be auto deleted.
Restore to new location: Create a new VM from the backup to the original or another datastore, host, and reset the RAM and Vital Processor.

Restore to new location

AOMEI Cyber Backup will clearly record all operations made to the VMs, and separate error logs for easy reference and troubleshooting. 

Summary

In this article I briefly introduced 2 types of Hyper-V VM backup, and the specific steps to export Hyper-V VMs and using Windows Server Backup. And if you want a professional backup tool, AOMEI Cyber Backup is definitely worth a try.

Besides Hyper-V backup, you can also centrally manage VMware ESXi VMs on AOMEI Cyber Backup. It supports Windows Server 2012 and all later versions, VMware ESXi 6.0 and all later versions.