Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Learning more than I ever wanted to know about HP Backup and Recovery (*.fbw)

To see the "bottom line" solution, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

A friend of mine had a major computer meltdown a month or so ago. She, like many other people, had not made "system restore" disks when she first bought her HP laptop (HP being too cheap to include them with the system). With multiple Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) issues...

....we decided that the best thing for her to do would be to restore the system back to factory condition. There WAS a "recovery" partition on the hard drive, so we figured we could get it back to "good as new" using that. But first, she ran a backup (using HP's supplied Backup and Recovery Tool) onto an external hard disk. That backup ran all night...and still seemed to stop in the middle...but it was all she had, at that point...she couldn't access her files anyway given that she couldn't get into Windows Vista.

So she ran the System Restore from the Recovery partition, and....more BSOD issues. (Now, we couldn't really understand why that would happen...wouldn't the Recovery partition contain a WORKING copy of Vista?!?!) Well, in any case, we finally decided the Vista install was toast, and that she should upgrade to Windows 7, which made sense for a whole lot of reasons. (For one thing, Windows 7 is, according to most commentators, vastly superior to--and faster than--Vista. For another...she'd have her CDs if she bought an upgrade.)

So, she upgraded to Win7, successfully...and has been running it, happily, since.

Of course, after she got her laptop working again, she was eager to get her files from the backup. There were two files in the backup (as I mentioned, I don't think it ever finished doing it's thing)...about 8 gigs of stuff (we're sure she had much more than that on her laptops 200 GB hard drive...but that's all she got). The files were backup.1.exe and backup.2.fbw. According to all the instructions we had read and could find, to restore the files, all you needed to do was...run backup.1.exe.

Well, no. Running the file caused C++ run-time errors.

Despite looking around the 'net for workarounds (and learning ALL about how to make sure to delete the "System Recovery Files" folder before trying to run the damn thing AGAIN)... being tempted to follow instructions to copy these files onto CD or DVD (um...not possible...too big) and even transferring the files to my Windows XP machine to see if we could run it there (nope...more run-time errors)...she pretty much gave up.

Well, as those who know me know...I...don't...give up. (A friend of mine calls me the "bulldozer" or, variously, the "snow plow" for this aspect of my personality.)

So last night I spent a few hours poking around trying to find another solution.  I searched for "hp backup repair" and "hp backup *.fbw" and "Softthinks backup tool." I followed each of these trails for a while.

You can see my persistence, in a way, in the list of sites I visited looking for a solution (from my Firefox "history"):

(Fortunately, I had a glass of wine to keep me company.) However, most of the things I tried were dead ends.  (It's amazing to me how many "fix-it" sites will show up in a search for something like "backup repair"...when all they're really hawking is some kind of all-in-one registry repair tool....based on the probably erroneous assumption that the problem with the backup restore process is something in the registry. Um...not in this case.)

(It's also pretty interesting how much anger and vituperation there is towards HP about this issue...you'd think they would want to put an easy solution to the problem on their web site....but such a thing I could not find.)

One of the things I tried, based on a whim, was to download from HP the entire 231 MB HP Backup and Recovery software...but after a nearly one hour download, the damn software wouldn't recognize the backup files...it was looking for a completely different file extension (not *.fbw)...clearly a different version of the software from what had been on my friend's machine (although from the same French company, Softthinks).

The search in Google for "hp backup .fbw" proved to be most useful.  Appearing at the top of the search was a VERY long thread on an IT discussion forum, Toward the bottom of the thread, I found some links to some recovery tools.

First, I tried something called the "HP Backup and Recovery Fixer," but it couldn't find the "catalog" of the backup (which is stored in the last backup file, it turns out...and since this backup didn't finish...there was no catalog, I guess). Strike one.

But, I was in luck! (I thought): in a FAQ associated with the Fixer, it says:

(Q) HPBackupFixer says it cannot find the catalog or the catalog is corrupt. What does this mean?

A) If the catalog cannot be found, it is very difficult to extract the files from the archive. Try using the Emergency Recovery Tools.

I followed that link, which went directly to a download, ertools.zip. Unfortunately, when I extracted the file for XP, and ran it, I got

(If you can't read that, it says "The file could not be patched. It could be because it's on a read only disc [nope], already patched [nope?] or because the searched sequence couldn't be found."  VERY helpful!! :-)) "Searched sequence"?  I have no idea what that was (although, thinking about it now, it must have been the "header" to the "index" in the backup files...something different from the "catalog," I believe. In any case: strike two.

Back to the IT forum page. http://forums13.itrc.hp.com/service/forums/questionanswer.do?admit=109447627+1285079352875+28353475&threadId=1116746. After scanning through it some more, I found a post from one Jose F. Ugarte, who wrote, in part,

"Guys, believe it or not, i got feedback from Softthinks!!!

Find below the instructions. (from a Softthinks web page)
First option didnt work for me, but the second actually did!
I have my personal files back!!!
Hope this helps you too!"

I had seen this post before (search the forum page for "Aug 29, 2008 14:47:35 GMT" to find it), but didn't see a link to the tool, and, when I went to the Softthinks page that he quotes (which I found by following a link on their "Support" page which reads " For Customers who experience troubles with HP Configurations." (!), there was no link there as well, so I'd given up on that.

But now, looking at Jose's post more closely, I saw a little paper clip icon in the upper right of the post:

Now, when I clicked on that link, I got a "download" dialog:

...which I dutifully downloaded and opened into Winzip:

..and extracted, then ran (saying "run" in response to the warning that the publisher could not be verified), "load"ed the backup.1.exe file, and got

(By the way, the instructions for this ARE at the Softthinks site (and in Jose's post on the forum)

...then I clicked "analyze," and (after clicking "OK" to warning that this might take several hours), about 20 minutes later, got

(have no idea what happened to those 30000+ files that "could not be found")...and after clicking "ok" got:

...and clicked "Emergency Extract," which I ran overnight, resulting in

including over 4000 files without any "type" or extension and the folders you see with plenty more files named "ExtractedFile-20-09-2010..." with extensions like .doc and .mp3 and .jpg, altogether about 12 gigs of stuff.  Again, MUCH less than what we hoped for...but it's something.

Now, my friend gets to go through these files-without-real-filenames and figure out what is what.  Lucky her!!!

Bottom line:  if you have an HP backup set that you can't recover because you are missing the final backup file (or another reason...not sure what will work beyond that), with backup.1.exe and one or more backup.n.fbw, use this Emergency Recovery Tool. (I've put it on my web site so you can download directly rather than going through the forum.)



Fritz said...

You have saved my life. I have been stalled for months with a fbw file full of stuff and unable to open it. This appears to be working like a charm. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

mimitoon said...

I about gave up trying to open my fbw files.After this hard lesson,I will never buy an HP computer again. Never have I encountered such rude computer illiterates as the so called HP techs.
Thank you,thank,thank you! Your fix worked like a charm

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I am happy to have been helpful!