Need to restore a Win3.1x backup onto a WinXP system
March 22, 2007 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I need to restore a Windows 3.1x backup from 3.5" disks to a safe area of my Windows XP machine. Is that even possible? If so, how can I do it?

Evil fate has decreed that I need a large document I deleted around fifteen years ago. However, I do still have a set of 60 3.5" disks containing a complete system back-up I did sometime around 1992-3, and I believe the document is on it.

The original system was either a 386 or 486 running Windows 3.1x and the backup was created using the built-in Windows Backup utility. I think. I mean, it was fifteen years ago. I am assuming the 3.5" disks are still good.

I know that step one of the process of restoring this backup is "Buy a 3.5" drive". Step 2 is probably "partition your hard drive". I don't know if steps 3+ even exist. This is where you come in, you genius.

Best answer gets a hearty thank-you, plus a mention in the book I need this document to complete.
posted by Hogshead to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I *think* you can simply copy the contents of the floppies to a folder somewhere and use a utility such as Winrar that can open up MS's compressed file format.

Gosh, it's been so long since I thought about this... but I think I'm on the right track! ;)
posted by starscream at 4:51 PM on March 22, 2007

Yeah, I don't think you will need to partition your drive. You are looking at, what? Like a 100mb of storage? At most, I'd go out and get a $5 USB thumb drive and put the operating system on that.

Hopefully your floppies have aged well.
posted by quin at 4:58 PM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: Quin, I'm afraid that restoring the backup will attempt to overwrite any directories with the same name--like "Windows", for example. This would be bad. On the other hand I've never actually had to restore a backup before, so I may be talking out of a part of my anatomy more generally used for sitting.
posted by Hogshead at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2007

This sounds like something you could do well with a virtual machine. Both Microsoft Virtual PC and VMware player are free to download.
posted by TheCassiniDivision at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2007

Windows Backup on a Windows XP system will read older backups. The format has stayed the same over the years. You should be able to choose your destination folder with the XP backup software.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:20 PM on March 22, 2007

As starscream said, you should be able to just copy each floppy to a folder somewhere and use one of the many archiving utilities out there to uncompress the whole works, which you can then dig through to find your file.

The biggest concern I'd have would be with data integrity, floppies don't age well, and 15 years is a LONG time.

In the event that you have trouble reading from any of the discs, there are tools out there to get your data off corrupted floppies.
posted by jjb at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2007

ATTENTION: Before you do anything else, use an imaging program to save images of all your backup floppies. Hopefully, they're still good, but every time you read them, you increase the chance of one of them going bad.

Floppies are a very fragile storage medium, and the ones you have could already be bad after all this time. Restoring the backup could take several tries, with each floppy disk being read from start to finish every time.

I have had good luck with a shareware program called WinImage, but others will probably suggest a free (and possibly better) alternative.
posted by qvtqht at 6:58 PM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: Here's the update:

The Windows XP Backup utility and WinRAR will not recognise the backup files I have. The original Symantec-produced Win3.1 utility can be downloaded from the web, though it's highly temperamental under WinXP.

Disk 3 of the backup set was so badly corrupted, even under WinImage, that the whole exercise was futile anyway.

Anyone want to buy a generic 3.5" USB floppy drive?
posted by Hogshead at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2007

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