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Windows Server 2012 Essentials Tip: Configure PC Backups

When you connect a PC to Windows Server 2012 by installing the Connector software, a few different things happen behind the scenes. Key among these is configuring centralized backup for the PC, and while you can’t change how this works during the connection, you can and should do so after the fact through Dashboard.

(You do get to configure one backup-related option during the Connector install: You can choose whether the server can wake up the PC to back it up.)

Once a PC is connected, launch the Dashboard and navigate to Devices. Here, you’ll see a list of the PCs and devices that are connected to the server, including the one that was just added.


Right-click on the PC whose backup configuration you’d like to change. Then, choose Customize backup for the computer from the pop-up menu that appears.


In the next window, choose Add or remove backup items if you wish to change the backup configuration. Or choose Disable backup for this computer to prevent Essentials from backing up this PC.


If you chose the first option, you will see a collapsible and expandable view of the disk structure(s) on that PC. From this window, you can choose exactly what will get backed up by Essentials. Note that by default, everything is backed up and Essentials creates a system image you can use later to recover the PC if there is a hardware failure or other serious issue.


This is simple enough on most PCs, which only have a single hard drive. But on my desktop computer, I have a 256 GB SSD drive and a 2 TB data disk. So I’ve opted to backup only parts of the system.


If you do opt out of centralized PC backup, you can of course configure it later. As before, just select the PC from the list in Dashboard, Devices and then choose Set up Backup for this computer. You’ll be asked to choose between backing up all of the files and folders and selecting which items to backup.

Note that connecting a Windows 8 PC to Essentials 2012 will also enable File History backups, which like the file, folder, and image-based backups discussed above, will be centralized on the server. If you do disable PC backup, File History backup is not disabled, as you can see by viewing the File History control panel.


My advice is not to mess with this, even if you don’t wish to use Essentials 2012’s centralized PC backup feature. (And File History caches the latest file versions on the PC so that it works when you’re disconnected from the network too.)

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