Essentials 2012 R2 – Client Restore

Logo1Congratulations on the purchase of your brand new Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Server. I’m sure she will give you years of trouble free.. er.. serving.

No doubt one of the features that attracted you to Essentials R2 over its predecessor was the unique way it can be licensed in Hyper-V. No?

Regardless of that, you may well be familiar with the Client PC Backup Service that comes as part of this OS. You may also know that you create a USB key to boot the client PC from in order to launch Bare Metal Restore. Something i documented with real aplomb on YouTube. 

However, if you have decided to virtualise your Essentials server – how are you going to get that USB disk plugged in? Assuming you do already have a USB key what if your NIC is not supported?

Never fear, WDS is here.

As part of improvements in the Client Backup/Restore service Essentials R2 now leverages WDS to form part of the restore process, allowing a client to PXE boot to the restore environment rather than relying on a USB key, or messing around with drivers.

You also may be forgiven for thinking this will be all automatically setup for you. Well, it isn’t. In fact you can’t even create the USB key on the server until you have finished this part of the setup, which has gotten Susan Bradley quite riled up.

Perhaps confusingly a client can successfully backup regardless of whether or not these additional steps have been completed, and if you have a key ready made from another Essentials R2 server, then you can also still restore PCs.

So to enable your Essentials R2 Server to create a USB Key (and enable PXE restore) We need to go into the Dashboard, and the Devices tab.

Click on Client Computer Backup Tasks, and the Client Restore Service tab.

Restore Service Tab

You will see a button that says ‘start’. If you click this you will get an error!

Cannot find the Windows Preinstallation Environment image.

Restore Service WinPE Error

You are then invited to download WAIK. My advice is download this from a client PC and copy the setup files to the server, because i went round and round and round and round battling with IE and IEESC. Eventually i gave up and turned ESC off, but it still didn’t work.





Randomly i closed IE and reopened it and then it did work. But that is half an hour of my life I’m not getting back.

So once you have downloaded the files, you will need to install.


You can accept all of the defaults and you don’t need to change any of the settings at all to install the right components for Essentials.

WAIK Install

WAIK Choose Features

WAIK Installing

Once you are all setup, return to the dashboard and click ‘Start’ again.

This time Essentials will say ‘Customizing WinPE Images..’ and you can sit back and relax for an indeterminate amount of time.

Customize WinPE Images

At some point the Wizard will return a Green Check and say ‘Client Restore Service is Running’


You are now able to PXE boot a client to the restore service and you need not worry about USB keys anymore.

If you are in Hyper-V you will need to add a legacy NIC to your VM to restore it, and also make sure the first boot device is your Legacy NIC.

Add Legacy NIC

HyperV Legacy NIC

HyperV Boot Order

Don’t forget to hit F12 or you will not PXE boot!



The client will now boot up the same way as if it had the normal USB Key attached.

There are other ways to make the USB key rather than using the dashboard tool, but on R2 you still do need to have completed the WinPE Download.

If you browse to:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Data\ClientRestore\8.100.25984_8.100.25984_6.3.9600.16384

There will be a subfolder, with a name similar to 0409. Inside this folder is the contents of a USB key.


You can simply copy this data out onto a bootable USB key.

I also created an ISO by using MagicISO, i loaded an existing 2011 Essentials Restore ISO, deleted the contents and replaced with the contents from the above directory and saved it.

If you have multiple Essentials Servers on your network, the restore wizard will find them and you will have the choice of choosing which one to connect to. So you don’t need to worry about having a unique key made from each server.

Multiple Essentials Servers

If you are running on a Standard Server, using the Essentials Experience Role the above topics also apply!

About Robert Pearman
Robert Pearman is a UK based Small Business Server enthusiast. He has been working within the SMB IT Industry for what feels like forever. Robert likes Piña colada and taking walks in the rain, on occasion he also enjoys writing about Small Business Technology like Windows Server Essentials or more recently writing PowerShell Scripts. If you're in trouble, and you can find him, maybe you can ask him a question.

33 Responses to Essentials 2012 R2 – Client Restore

  1. paulbraren says:

    Terrific article, very much relates to recent Google+ discussions after a related podcast
    where I spoke (briefly) about how wonderful it is to do network boots, without having to search for USB recovery media. Thank you!

  2. Paul Myers says:

    How can i create the USB Start Stick if the win 2012 R2 Essential run in virtuell environment(Hyper-v)?

  3. intexx says:

    Is there a way to do this without a legacy adapter? When I installed my WSE R2 I didn’t know about this and I went with a Gen2 VM (which doesn’t have legacy adapters).

    I’ve got a hell of lot of work under my belt so far on the thing and I’d hate to have to start over because of this. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to scrap the Gen2 VM and create a new Gen1 VM pointing to the GPT VHDX.

    What do you think?

  4. intexx says:

    I noticed this for Gen2:

    “PXE boot by using a standard network adapter”

    Is your use of a legacy adapter here (and thus a Gen1 machine) solely because of the PXE boot requirement?

    If so, it appears we may now use Gen2 (sans legacy).

    Your opinion, please.

    • Yes it would have been as I was on a non R2 Host at the time.

      • intexx says:

        Very good, thank you.

      • intexx says:

        Update for your other readers, just in case: 2012 R2’s Gen2 VMs can PXE boot without a Legacy Adapter. I’ve just tested this and it went well. I haven’t tested on WSE 2106.

      • intexx says:

        BUT… you can’t use Gen2 if you’re restoring an MBR-based backup. Gen2 is strictly GPT/UEFI, and so doesn’t support the older MBR disk initialization.

  5. Doran Burton says:

    I know this is a relatively old thread, but it’s the closest thing to the issue I’m having. I have a 2012 R2 Server running Hyper-V and a 2012 R2 Essentials Server VM that I have done the WAIK install for and it shows a green check mark on “Client Restore Service is Running.” I want to PXE boot my physical client computers when I need to do a restore. The Essentials server is running DNS, but not DHCP, I have another 2012 R2 BDC running DNS and DHCP. DHCP is running fine on this physical server, as I could not get it working with the Essentials VM. I have no options 60, 66 or 67 selected, as per all the instructions I’ve seen. I get a error that there was no boot file received. This is a test box/home server setup. I have a WDS server that I built at work and it works just fine, I’m not sure what I’m missing, unless the difference is in how the routers work. Firebox at work vs a D-Link consumer router at home. Can’t see that being the case though. I have no VLANs setup on my switch, although I do have all server LACP Lagged, but everybody seems happy, just can’t PXE boot to the Essentials WDS.

    Any thoughts? Need more info? It’s not the end of the world, but it’s very frustrating.

    Thank you.

  6. Chris Mottershead says:

    do you know where the boot images used by WDS for client restore are located on the server or where i can get a copy of them from

  7. Mick Mickle says:


    Thanks for posting this great article . . . a perfect fit for my situation more than 2 years later. I used your information to copy the contents of C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindows ServerDataClientRestore8.100.25984_8.100.25984_6.3.9600.16384 9 to a USB flash drive after making it bootable using diskpart. I needed to do that since my WS2012R2E is in a VM and wouldn’t recognize the USB key plugged into the host except as a network drive, so the Dashboard tool wouldn’t work as you mentioned.

    One of my client computers, an older laptop which I could never get Win 8 installed on but seems happy with Win 10, mysteriously started showing up as stuck on1% backup in the Essentials Dashboard after months of flawless backups. Coincidentally, another post of yours was first up in Google and recommended uninstalling and reinstalling Windows Server Connector. I did that but still had the problem. A very nice thing about Essentials daily backups is the ease of restoring a computer’s drive to get back into good working order, especially when booting from the network. I’ve done it many times. But this laptop has an internal 100Mbps NIC and a plug-in 1Gbps PC card NIC. The laptop won’t boot from the PC card, and I couldn’t stand the thought of restoring over the 100Mbps connection. Likewise, waiting for a WS restore CD/DVD to boot up is an exercise in patience. The USB key that I made using your article info worked well to start a full restore, and the backups have been completing since then.


  8. mcbsys says:

    Have you found the files for the bootable USB on a Server 2016 + Essentials Role install? No longer in ProgramData.

    BTW I did solve one issue with 2016 Client Restore setup: you have to fix the ADK:

    • mcbsys says:

      Er … never mind … was looking on the wrong server! Files are still in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Data\ClientRestore\10.1.15063.0_10.1.15063.0_10.0.14393.0\0409.

    • mcbsys says:

      On Server 2016 Essentials, the folder has changed:
      C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Data\ClientRestore\10.1.17134.1_10.1.17134.1_10.0.14393.0\0409

  9. Eric Lewis says:

    WinPE missing: Is there any current information about how to generate a USB boot disk for restoring a Win10 client to WinServer2012r2 Essentials? I have installed the ADK and the WinPE for Win10 1903 but the Dashboard “Create Computer Recovery Key” cannot find the WinPE environment. I can’t find any fix for this but see it referenced in old threads. My client is able to boot over the network but does not seem to see any boot option, how is it supposed to locate the server? All I see is it trying DHCP then boots to the C: drive.

    • I would abandon the client backup feature and look to a product that receives support.

      • erlewis2014 says:


        Are you able to confirm that Win2016 Essentials is able to correctly connect to a Win10 client and complete a full “bare metal” restore?

        If so I am ready to abandon Win2012r2 which seems to backup Windows 10 machines very well.

        I am not certain anyone is able to restore a Win10 client with Win2012r2 though I’ve scoured the forums for help. The client I want to restore to a previous point in time (before the update to 1903) is able to boot over the LAN but I can’t seem to make it connect to the server, no doubt my ignorance doesn’t help. What I’ve seen on forums doesn’t match my experience.

        Please let me know if you are able to confirm Windows Server 2016 Essentials (last version with client backup) is able to restore a Windows 10 computer.

        Thank you.

        Eric Lewis

      • Last time I tested it, it worked but the problem you have is the changes to windows 10 are never tested against the essentials connector. So it may no longer work.

    • Mick Mickle says:

      I still use the same USB flash drive I made over 3 years ago using info from this article to restore backups of a couple of client computers of WS2012R2E when needed.

      Make the USB flash drive bootable using DiskPart . Copy contents of C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Data\ClientRestore\8.100.25984_8.100.25984_6.3.9600.16384\0409 on server to the flash drive.

      When you boot from the flash drive, you should get a choice pretty quickly whether you want to do a full system restore for either 32-bit or 64-bit. As the software initiation progresses, it should find your server on the LAN and have you log in.

      • Eric Lewis says:

        C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows Server\Data\ClientRestore\ has no sub-folders and three .xml files (& three .bak files) on my Win2016r2 system. Is this the reason the Wizard in the Dashboard is unable to find the WinPE environment file?.

        I installed adksetup & adkwinpesetup. C:\WinPE_amd64 and C:\Program files(x86)\Windows Kits\10\Assessment and Deployment Kit\amd64\ contains 6 folders including BCDBoot.

        Is the Dashboard Wizard looking in the wrong place for the WinPE files?

        What are the files that constitute a bootable USB drive that will connect to a local Win2016r2 server? I believe the methods listed in this thread work for Windows 8.1 but don’t seem to work for me.

      • If I remember correctly you can use processmon whilst running the wds bit in the dashboard and it will display the path to the ADK it is looking for. Chances are it will be an old version of the ADK.

      • erlewis2014 says:

        WinPE is Missing – Windows Server 2012r2 Essentials for Windows 10 client restore.

        The problem is related to the Windows 10 adksetup/adkwinpesetup. The feature installs without error but the Dashboard cannot find the WinPE software while trying to create a USB client boot/restore drive. I don’t yet know where it is installed but have verified it is not in the folder the Dashboard expects.

        Remedy: Remove the Windows 10 version of the tools. Install the Windows 8.1 version of the adksetup.exe
        The Dashboard is now able to create a USB boot drive for the client, the client booted to the USB drive, and the complete system restore to a prior version of Windows 10 (1809) completed successfully. This confirms that the Windows 8.1 adksetup works correctly with a Windows 10 client restore.

        My goal was to determine if the Windows 10 (1903) upgrade disabled audio out via the HDMI cable. It did. Now three W10 versions old, my HTPC is back up and running with audio. Thanks to Robert and Mick for helping me through this.

  10. Mick Mickle says:

    For me, WS2012R2E still restores bare metal Windows 10 clients perfectly. I don’t know what the issue is.

    From time-to-time, I’ll get a corrupted client C: drive with a Win 10 feature update that’s incompatible with the various aged hardware I have (or for some other reason – dodgy software our something). Restoring the last or an earlier daily backup is a snap with a LAN boot, requiring only an hour or so. Even less time now that I’m using SSDs for most of my OS drives.

    • erlewis2014 says:

      I too am able to do a full restore to a previous version of Win10 … after removing the Windows 10 WinPE and installing the Windows 8.1 WinPE which, thankfully, is still available for download.

      Note to WinServer 2012r2 users … do NOT remove the Win 8.1 WinPE and replace it with the Win10 WinPE. The WinPE for 8.1 works just fine restoring a Win10 machine.

  11. ncarty97 says:

    So the Windows 8.1 WinPE is no longer available and as mentioned above, the Win10 WinPE installed doesn’t get Client Restore Service to recognize the PE. I found a slight workaround to at least get the service running by copying the 8.1 files from an old machine, but when I try to create the client restore USB, it reverts to saying it can’t find PE

  12. I have a USB drive that I believe is the Win8.1 WinPE that I used to do a restore as mentioned above. I can’t recall right now how to make an .iso file copy of a USB drive but if I could, I could send it to you. Perhaps via OneDrive?

  13. ncarty97 says:

    Thanks for the offer. I actually found a drive that had WSE 2012R2 installed on it from a previous build and was able to pull it from there. I still can’t actually create a bootable USB, but was able to manually copy the files onto another bootable USB and get the restore done. A lot of bandaids, but for now it works.

    • erlewis2014 says:

      I found a tool USB Image Tool and made an .iso file, 1,957,888 KB which my server will backup tonight. This is the WinPE for Windows 8.1 that I used to restore a previous version of Windows 10 back when Intel was very late in updating their audio driver. Intel since did update the driver and my HTPC is now running the current Windows 10 version(s).

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