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0x81000037, 0x80070002 and how I finally convinced Windows Backup to do its job

0x81000037 When trying to backup my machine onto a USB drive, a few weeks ago I have been starting to get a very unhelpful 0x81000037 error. Of course, the first thing I did was to bing it but I didn’t like what I found. There is a “How to troubleshoot Windows Backup and Restore issues when a reparse point folder or its subfolder is added to a user library in Windows 7” KB article that unfortunately does not live up to its title. It does some hand waving around “reparse points” but does not even bother to explain what a reparse point is, let alone how to discover and remove them.

Other links I found were from distressed users hitting the problem and having no clue how to solve it. Responses from support have been equally unhelpful and full of jargon as the KB article. The poor users seem to all have resorted to more or less extreme solutions, ranging from using a third party backup system to reformatting the machine.

I did not want to do either of those so I spent a disproportionate amount of time troubleshooting this and trying to come up with a solution that worked for me. Hopefully this will help others.

But first things first. What the hell is a reparse point?

Reparse points are to folders what shortcuts are to files. Roughly speaking. It’s an alias for a folder, created so that you can access that folder coming from different places. Technically it allows a few more elaborate scenarios but that’s the idea. For example, if you open Windows Explorer and go to favorites, everything you see is reparse points:Favorites Reparse Points

If you open any of those folders, you are going to get transported to a completely different part of your hard drive: the real folder that the reparse point points to.

For example, if I open “Downloads”, I will end up in “C:\Users\bleroy\Downloads” which is not under anything resembling “Favorites” (note: the Windows Explorer favorites are different from IE favorites). Libraries is a similar catalog of reparse points. Really reparse points are everywhere under your user data folder.

So once we understand what reparse points are we need a way to find them before we can remove them. If we got this error, we know that there are reparse points under some of the folders that are in the current backup plan.

In order to know what is in your current backup plan, go to the backup and restore control panel (Control Panel\System and Security\Backup and Restore) and click “Change settings”. Click “next” until you reach the screen asking you what you want to back up. Write down all the top folders that are checked, then click cancel.

Now you’ll want to open a command line (hit the Windows key and type cmd and enter). Next, cd into each of those directories and type the following command:

dir /A:L /S *

This is something I found completely fortuitously while digging into the help topics of commands. MSDN was of zero help here and only gave me commands to manage reparse point if you know where they are, but nothing to actually find them.

The result should look something like this, with each reparse point appearing as a <JUNCTION>, a junction being one kind of reparse point (see comments section for more info):List All Reparse Points

Well, actually, that is the result on my box once I have cleaned up. Because in the end, cleaning up my drive was what enabled me to put backup back on track.

Here are a few things I did:

  • Remove all reparse points I found under folders I absolutely had to back up or at least remove them from the backup plan.
  • Remove from the backup plan folders that I didn’t really need backed up.
  • Clean up old files that I didn’t need any more.
  • Move and reorganize things around so that my file organization is more rational and makes it easier to actually find stuff.
  • Be careful not to remove reparse points I wasn’t sure would not be needed by the system or by applications I use.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.

After each step, I tried to backup again. In the course of doing that, I got another error, 0x80070002. The claim from support on this one is that it comes from user profiles lacking a user profile path. That was not the case for me and I managed to get rid of the error by doing more cleanup of my file system.

In the end, once my drive was thoroughly cleaned of about 40GB of junk, I was able to achieve a somewhat successful backup:Backup Victory

The only remaining error here was benign: I was still under my old backup plan that was pointing to some of the stuff I had deleted.

The list of files is easily obtained by going into options and then clicking on “view skipped files”:View Skipped Files

Going through the backup wizard again enabled me to get rid of those errors and I’m happy to say that my backup panel now looks like this:Backup Complete Victory

I sincerely hope this helps others get their backup working without them having to fumble for weeks like I did.

Comments

Blake said:

I'm afraid you've tangled up a bunch of definitions here.  

Reparse Points are a core NTFS feature, they are basically a type and a piece of opaque data that a filter driver can do whatever it wants with.   The OS provides a number of types, but third parties can add more.

A Junction is one type of reparse point, they were originally used to allow mounting volumes on a directory rather than drive letter.

A Symlink is another type of reparse point, and they can point to both files and directories.

Reparse points are also used by DFS and the Hierarchial Storage Manager.

# October 1, 2010 5:07 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Blake: thanks for the precision. This post tries to help non-technical users who were mystified by the very unhelpful KB articles and forum threads that seem to be the only references on the web for this problem. So sure I oversimplified and I'm glad you corrected me on junctions but the last thing I want is to confuse those readers even more than they were before they arrived here. That's why I'm trying to keep the concept count low while trying to not be too wrong.

# October 1, 2010 1:08 PM

Blake said:

I'm curious to know what exactly Windows Backup is choking on.  Do you know if it's directory junctions in particular or all reparse points?  

# October 1, 2010 10:32 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Blake: I can't be sure from just my own case but from what the KB article is saying that would be any reparse point.

# October 1, 2010 11:48 PM

Richard said:

OK, it just doesn't like me. Every time I try to submit a comment, it goes back to the home-page of your blog. WTF?

# October 4, 2010 3:46 PM

Richard said:

The problem is probably caused by the junctions that Microsoft added in Vista to avoid breaking old applications which used hard-coded paths to system folders.

[Useful explanation rejected by your blog software. :(]

The solution seems to be to turn off the "Hide protected Operating System files" option from the Folder Options dialog, de-select the junction points in your scan or backup job, and then turn the option back on.

# October 4, 2010 3:47 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Richard: your comments are getting through just fine. You can't see them right away because I'm moderating.

# October 4, 2010 4:02 PM

Elgetas said:

I have reached to other solution:

If the junction of "Application Data" who points tho her parent directory lose the a special permission of "Deny Reading" then you make a loop of ...\Application data\Application data\etc. an it cause a buffer overflow an the error. the solutions that worked for me was to restoring the permission in al of the Junctions of mi User Folder.

Make the following (rememner to use a Admin user):

Turn off the "Hide protected Operating System files"

open your user folder (C:\users\yourusername)

and do the following:

Right click on th folders with the little arrow.

Select Properties an open the security tab.

Hit Advanced Options and the Change Permissions.

Hit Add... an type Everyone and hit ok.

In apply to select "only this folder"

Select the box of Deny on "show Folder/read data"

and click ok

Click ok in the next windows and in the warning message an accept all of the property windows.

Do the same with all of the junctions with security tab in "C:\users\yourusername" and "C:\users\yourusername\App Data\Local".

After that try to launch the backup job.

Pd. Sorry for my bad english, and if the names are not the same as you may find is because i´m using a non english OS version.

If you have problems applying the permissions take ownership of the directory first.

# October 13, 2010 6:59 PM

Mary said:

Hi, im having the same problem so im following your step by step guide.

After i get to the command prompt, how exactly do i know what to remove?

# December 16, 2010 4:00 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Mary: well, it's your call really.

# December 16, 2010 4:07 PM

Mary said:

i dont really get it to be honest. where do i remove the errors from?

# December 16, 2010 4:15 PM

Mary said:

i really dont get this at all. what do i delete? where do i go to delete it

# December 16, 2010 4:27 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Mary: at the command prompt, you must cd to each of the directories in your backup plan and from each execute dir /A:L /S *. Then you must make a judgement call on what you need to keep and what you can afford to remove. You can do that from Windows Explorer. What I did was to try backup again after each step in order to repair what was needed but nothing more.

If you still can't figure it our with those steps, please contact Microsoft support.

# December 20, 2010 3:11 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Hugh: look, here is how this works. This is my blog, where I wrote a post to try to help people. Those people who arrive here and start bitching and telling me I'm irresponsible, I feel no urge to help further. Please go complain somewhere else.

# April 21, 2011 10:26 PM

Ranman said:

The truly sad part of all this is that Microsoft can't expect normal end users to figure this stuff out.  Microsoft Backup should just work.  If it can't backup a reparse point then at least skip it and continue.  It can at least be listed as skipped.  I believe the backup software should be able to tell what a reparse point is and what to do with it.

How does third party backup software handle reparse points?

# May 25, 2011 5:12 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Ranman: couldn't agree more. Apparently third party software is doing fine.

# May 25, 2011 5:18 PM

DerbyGirl said:

I just think this is all a bunch of b.s.  I didn't have ANY problems backing up my stuff until I did a Windows Update. After updating files they recommended as important, I can't run a backup. Isn't MS the cause of this problem in the first place?

I surely hope getting rid of some 'clutter' will help solve this problem. Thanks for passing on what worked for you. Wish me luck. :)

# July 6, 2011 2:18 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

This comment really is from taw1962:

I have tried all the solutions above and in other threads, I'm sure they all helped but I kept getting 0x81000037 error UNTIL I found this:

www.partition-tool.com/personal.htm

I solved the very same problem by installing a partition manager (Easeus's Free one) and enlarging the standard 100 MB hidden boot partition to 300 MB (any value under 500 MB will do). That was accomplished by shrinking the C partition by 200 MB, moving it up over the unallocated space created on the right (in a linear representation of partitions starting with the hidden one to the left). Then the unallocated space "moved" to the left so I could expand the hidden boot partition.

It appears that Shadow Copy cannot work properly if available space on any drive is less than 40%.

Maybe this worked because my downloads, music, pictures folders became too large for shadow copy to process in the 100mb partition? Whatever, the 300mb partition has cured it for now and if Backup fails again in future I can extend it some more.

Best wishes, Tim

# August 22, 2011 8:28 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Dan: "if you need to back up personal data"... Err, isn't that the only thing most people need to backup? And what the Users directory is for?

# August 30, 2011 2:26 PM

Dan said:

Do not let Windows choose what files to back up.

Your backup may still fail with some exclusions.  Try testing your backup without including the system image (the checkbox at the bottom of where you choose your files).  Also try testing the backup of other partitions.  If you only have a single partition, and you're on Windows 7, shame on you.  You should have at least a 160GB HDD in your PC, and thus an 80GB split for C:\ and D:\

Single partition Windows 7 users are probably screwed.  You could get two externals, and put your data to be backed up on one of them, then backup to the 2nd... Aha

# August 30, 2011 2:40 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Dan: "If you only have a single partition, and you're on Windows 7, shame on you." Whaaaaaat?

# August 30, 2011 2:47 PM

festusramsey said:

partitions can be used for a number of things. data backup/dual boot os, like linux so u dont have issues, like windows/a slimmed down version of windows for gaming/ page file

(although i use a sd for page file), and super fetch. just saying. i wish my dumass had partitioned last install. i want android on my lappy, although i believe it can b3 installed on a mass storage device.

anyway i am getting this error when trying to diagnose network issues.

i will be glad the day windows decides it cannot run every program on earth. repairs issues already in tact, and quit trying to please everyone. no 1 os can do that without hundreds of issues.

# January 19, 2012 11:17 PM