(Fixed) Windows Server Backup Volumes Greater Than 2TB

If you don't know how to fix Windows Server Backup greater than 2TB, continue to read this article and learn the possible reasons as well as 6 effective methods.


By Ivy Updated on October 20, 2022

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Windows Server Backup cannot support volumes greater than 2TB

I know that Windows Server 2008  and 2008 R2 are limited to 2TB volume and the reason is Windows Server Backup uses VHD file and it has a 2TB backup limit. And I tried all suggestions on the internet but there is no luck. So, my question is: does anyone knows if there is a fix for 'Volumes larger than 2088958 megabytes cannot be protected. Thanks in advance.

Windows Server Backup Greater Than 2tb

Two possible reasons for the 2TB limitation 

This problem is usually found in earlier versions of Windows Server. Due to the limitation within Windows and the VHD file format, all volumes that are part of the backup must be less than 2TB in size. Also, it is likely to happen in newer system, such as, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. 

Reason 1: The limitation of the VHD file

Instead of using the BKF file (created by Windows NT and XP Pro), Windows Server Backup backup volumes to several virtual hard disk (VHD) files, each VHD file for a volume in the backup. 

A VHD file has a capacity limit of 2040 GB (2TB). So in early OS using this format like Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, you cannot back up files and folders on volumes that require more than 2040 GB. Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 as well as newer systems breaks the limitation, since they uses new file format - VHDX. 

Reason 2: The limitation of the MBR partitioning scheme

On the other hand, MBR (Master Boot Record), being an older partitioning scheme, sets a 32-bit limit on the number of bits that can be used to represent the number of logical sectors. The maximum number that can be represented using 32 bits is 4,294,967,295, which translates into a capacity of 2.199 TB by using 512 bytes of sectors. Thus any capacity over 2.2 TB also leads to the 2TB barrier and cannot be addressed. 

To make more bits available for addressing, the storage device must be initialized by using GPT, which allows up to 64 bits of information to be used in logical sectors, and translates to a theoretical limit of 9.4 ZB. To reboot from a device initialized with GPT, your system must be UEFI capable. This way even if your current partition scheme is MBR, you can convert it to GPT to break the 2TB barrier.

Note: Some early systems (such as Windows Server 2003 and R2) are based on an aging BIOS platform, which only supports booting the computer from MBR-initialized disks.

How to fix Windows Server Backup 2TB limit effectively

After learning two possible reasons for the 2TB backup limitation for WSB, you could consider fixing it based on them. We summarize the following ideas, select the one you think it's easy: 

>> If your 2TB backup limit is caused by VHD, you could consider:

  • upgrading to newer systems that support VHDX file. Please go to Method 1.
  • creating a partial volume backup instead of full backup. Please go to Method 2.
  • shrinking your volume to smaller than 2TB before backup. Please go to Method 3.

>> If your 2TB barrier is caused by the MBR partition scheme, try to initialize the disk to GPT or convert MBR to GPT. Please go to Method 4. If your system is earlier systems, upgrade to new server will be a better choice.

>> If you find a Windows Server Backup alternative to backup volume larger than 2TB, try Wbadmin or third-party backup software. Note it's not suggested to use Wbadmin unless you are familiar with it, since any small error may result in data loss.

Then, let's start to fix the greater than 2TB limit or directly backup volume larger than 2TB with the following methods:

Method 1: Upgrade your server to newer versions

As mentioned before, Windows 8 + and Windows Server 2012 + can open and manipulate VHDX files natively, which can break the limitations caused by VHD format. Besides, early versions like Windows Server 2003, 2003 R2 and Windows XP don't support UEFI, and therefore cannot boot from a GPT disk to break the 2TB limitation. You can click here to check more requirements information.

Anyway, in these situations, it's necessary to upgrade to a new server or clean install Windows Server 2012, 2016, 2019, 2022, etc. Since the latest operating system has higher system requirements, you cannot directly upgrade Windows Server 2008 to 2019 or 2022. Please refer to the following upgrade rules and you may need to upgrade drivers, hard drive, etc to fit on the newer system. 

Available in-place upgrade paths

To upgrade Windows Server, you need to prepare for the following things:

  • Installation disc or recovery disk
  • An active license. You can purchase it from Microsoft.
  • Backup system to avoid any data loss and system failure. 
  • Check if your system is UEFI capable in BIOS.

For detailed steps, please check: Windows Server in-place upgrade vs clean install. Honestly, the most simple way is to clean install if you use an aging systems like Windows Server 2003. 

Select the Installation Type

Method 2:  Create a partial volume backup instead of full

In Windows Server 2008, you are only allowed to select volumes smaller than 2TB into the backup due to the VHD limit. But you still can use the “Custom” backup configuration to include files or folders equal to or larger than 2TB. The process is very similar, you just need to use a different backup configuration. 

Open the backup wizard by clicking Backup Once or Backup Schedule, click Next and select Custom, choose all the items on the volume that is large than 2TB, where to save them, and click Backup to backup data volume larger than 2TB. 

Create a partial volume backup

For details to create a partial volume backup, please check: volumes larger than 2088958 megabytes cannot be protected.

Method 3: Shrink volume to smaller than 2TB 

The actual data stored in a volume of more than 2TB may not be that large. You can try shrinking the volume in Disk Management to make it smaller than 2T so that it doesn't break the limit and can run normally.  

Click Server Manager  >  Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management to open disk management. Right-click the volume greater than 2TB and select Shrink volume, enter the amount of space to shrink in MB, confirm it, and click Shrink to make the volume smaller than 2TB.

Shrink Volume to Smller than 2TB

Method 4: Initialize disk to GPT 

If you use a newer system, but still receive the Windows Server Backup greater than 2TB error, you need to initialize the disk with GUID Partition Table (GPT). If you have previously initialized it to MBR, you can choose to convert MBR to GPT to make the operating system fully support storage devices that have capacities that exceed 2TB. And it requires UEFI firmware instead of BIOS.

To initialize disk:

Open disk management, right-click the disk that shows Not Initialized, select Initialize Disk, confirm the disk you want to initialize and select partition style (MBR or GPT), click OK to start this process. Note if the disk is offline, you need to make it online before initializing. 


To convert MBR to GPT: 

Open disk management, right-click MBR disk greater than 2TB, select Convert to GPT Disk, then just wait until the process completes. The MBR disk will be converted to GPT disk.

Convert MBR to GPT Disk

Method 5: Use Wbadmin to backup files or folders larger than 2TB

If you are a professional and want to directly backup files or folders larger than 2TB, try wbadmin command line. It's used to backup larger amounts of files and folders in a large volume. 

Step 1. Right-click “Start” and select “Command Prompt (Admin)”.

Step 2. Type the following commands and hit “Enter” to execute. Assuming that the over 2TB volume to be backed up is F: drive and you want to backup it to an external hard drive with a drive letter G.

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:G: -include:f:\download -quiet

and then,

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:G: -include:f:\* -exclude:download -quiet
Note: the “-quiet” switch means to run the backup without being prompted.

Method 6: Easier way to backup volume over 2TB in Windows Server

Usually, a third-party tool is much easier and allows you to backup volumes large data with fewer obstacles. For the best server backup and restore software, AOMEI Backupper Server is worth mentioning. Below are the reasons why I said this:

First, this software does not have the 2TB backup limit and comes with full backup solutions like system backup, disk backup, partition backup, and file backup.
At the same time, it comes along with many useful features, among them, schedule backup makes it run automatically, and some are helpful for making it smaller, such as compression, incremental or differential backup, backup scheme, etc. 
It is able to create multiple backups to enhance data security by backing up to differential locations, such as, external disk, USB drive, network share or NAS, cloud drive, etc. 
With a backup image created by this software, you can easily migrate to new server, even with different hardware, or perform selective file restore.
Last but not the least, it has an intuitive interface, which makes users can understand this software easily.

To backup Windows Volume over 2TB, use the following steps:

Step 1. Download, install and open AOMEI Backupper Server. For unlimited PCs or servers, try the AOMEI Backupper TechPlus edition. On the main page, click “Backup” and “System Backup” subsequently.

Download Free Trial Server 2008/2012/2016/2019/2022
Secure Download

System Backup

Note: Also, you can choose to create disk backup, partition backup, file backup, or cloud backup. The last backup solution comes with a cloud drive - AOMEI Cloud and 1 TB free cloud storage in 15 days.

Step 2. By default, this software will select system partition and boot-related partition to avoid unnecessary system failure due to missing system reserved partition or similar. Click the inverted triangle and select a backup destination larger than 2TB. Any location that is available in File explorer can be set as the destination location.

Select Backup Destination

Step 3. Click the “Schedule Backup” and set settings as you like. To set backup methods or delete old backups, click "Backup Scheme" at the lower location. Then, click “Start Backup” to get the backup started.

  • Daily/weekly/monthly: These backup settings help you backup your system regularly, including the latest updates, newly installed apps, modified files etc. Also, you can enable Wake the computer to run scheduled tasks during the off-peak hours.

  • Event triggers: To backup system without any interference, you could use "System Shutdown" in event trigger backup.

  • USB Plug in: It's a plug-and-pull backup method to backup computer to USB flash drive automatically when detected, with no human intervention.

Schedule Settings Advanced

Tip: To backup a volume larger than 2TB, you need to minimize the space occupied by your backup. Because of more and more backups, less and less space. To get rid of this problem, you could use the “Normal” or “High” compression level, Splitting etc in Options, or incremental and differential backup and automatic backup cleanup in Backup Scheme.  

Final Thoughts

Now you may already fix Windows Server Backup greater than 2TB with above methods and have a system backup in hand. The simple way is to use Windows Server Backup alternative - Wbadmin or AOMEI Backupper. And the third-party software is more powerful, which allows you to restore Windows Server to new hardware with the help of its Universal Restore feature. 

To perform system deployment on multiple computers, you need to use the image deployment software - AOMEI Image Deploy on the technician plus edition of AOMEI Backupper. And it still offers unlimited billable technical services to clients and also enables you to copy the installation directory for portable version creation.

Ivy · Editor
Ivy is an editor of AOMEI Technology, she covers backup & restore,hard disk & partitions management and cloud files transfer and so on for AOMEI. She is an outgoing girl and enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. She loves traveling, eating, reading and so on. She usually hangs out with friends at her leisure time.