tl;dr :trollface: use the dashboard from any workstation to browse the backups of another device

Well, I wasted about an hour trying to extract a file from my dad’s computer backup so hopefully this post will help you avoid wasting as much time as myself.

What I’ve gathered so far about Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and its backups:

  • backups are flat file databases (.dat not .vhd)
  • there exists no command line or PowerShell tool to extract files from those databases
  • WhsDbDataDump does not work on WS2012 backup databases
  • you can not browse the databases from the server dashboard (through RDP)
  • this isn’t Googled enough</li>

I’ve never done anything like this before so I was fumbling around the dashboard and command prompt trying to get to what I needed. I found the backups but I couldn’t extract anything from them. I even brought the files over to my Linux workstation to try some wizardry there to no avail.

I figured that if I wanted to browse backups from a computer that wasn’t mine that I would have to do so from the server. I tried through the dashboard logged in through RDP and found this error facing me.

Dashboard Error

Admittedly, I didn’t read the error. I skimmed it. I interpreted the message to mean that I would have to open the dashboard from the computer I was trying to restore the file from. I was wrong!

On my normal workstation I opened the devices pane, right clicked on my dad’s computer, and clicked Restore files or folders for the computer


This displayed a window where I could select and browse each backup from the target computer. I could then select a file or folder and restore it to the specified directory. Pretty straight forward actually.

Perhaps I overthought it. Oh well. At least I learned something today!