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.

8 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.

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