Windows Tip Sheet

Disaster Recovery, or Just Disaster?

Simple IIS backup techniques

This was a trying week for me. I had no less than four customers who had major disasters in their data centers and wound up having to restore several servers. In two cases, the servers were running IIS 6.0 and acting as intranet Web servers. The companies' administrators were good little boys and girls and had dutifully backed up the servers each night, so none of their Web content was lost. Unfortunately, they hadn't realized that the IIS configuration—the actual Web site definitions—weren't so easily backed up. One of them spent hours painstakingly re-creating a dozen Web sites by hand. Given IIS' complex new architecture of application pools and whatnot, I wouldn't be surprised if they're still finding configuration errors a few days from now. After all, that's a lot of information to re-create by hand.

So in memory of their hard work, I thought I'd offer some tips for fast and easy IIS 6 backups.

Easiest IIS 6 Backup
The easiest IIS 6 backup trick is to export your Web site configurations to an XML file. That way, you can recover any single Web site's configuration without affecting any other Web sites that are running on the server. This will not back up the site's content, but it will back up the configuration the site uses—its assigned IP address and port, authentication settings, application pool assignment, and so forth.

Making the backup couldn't be easier: In the IIS console, simply right-click a Web site and select "All Tasks," and then "Save configuration to a file…" from the context menu. Provide a file name and you're done. You can then grab that file with your normal backup scheme, along with the Web sites' Web pages, graphics, and other files. This trick works with FTP sites, too, so don't forget to back those up. And finally, you can use this trick to back up all of your application pool configurations to a single XML file. This nice, one-at-a-time backup is great to have around if you accidentally mess up a site's configuration and don't remember what it was supposed to be.

For more comprehensive backups that include everything IIS has to offer, right-click the server name in the IIS console. You'll see two main options on the context menu,"Backup/Restore Configuration" and "Save configuration to disk…". The first option creates a sort of internal backup that's stored on the system drive. In fact, if you check it out, you'll see a number of automagically created backups. IIS makes these whenever you make major configuration changes, so you've got a way to quickly roll back those changes if necessary (kind of like System Restore in Windows XP). You can manually create a new backup or restore a prior backup anytime you like. By the way, the IIS docs refer to the automatic backups as "history files."

The second option is to use the command-line Iisback tool. Interestingly, this isn't an executable at all, but a VBScript (Iisback.vbs) that runs under the CScript.exe command-line script host. Run Iisback /? to see the command-line syntax, which is pretty straightforward; Iisback /backup creates a complete backup. The command-line tool is an easy way to use Task Scheduler to automate periodic backups of the IIS metabase.

Micro Tip Sheet

Have a bunch of AD computer accounts to create, no time, and don't feel like creating a complex script? Use Excel. Just set up a spreadsheet with the data, export to a CSV file, and use AD's command-line import utility to import the users and create the accounts. Check out Help Online for details.

Tired of explaining to Windows Server 2003 why you're shutting down the server? That "reason" dialog is especially annoying in a lab, so check out Microsoft KnowledgeBase 293814 to turn the thing off.

More Resources
Advanced IIS 6 Training courses—

More IIS tips and tricks—

IIS performance optimization and administration resources—

A blog from one of IIS' Program Managers at Microsoft—

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is Curriculum Director for IT Pro Content for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at


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