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I'm looking into creating an image of a SP 2010 development environment.

I would like to avoid operations like restoring the image of the virtual machine (the environment is on a virtual PC) and opt for something faster with a smaller size (there aren't that many things inside the application).

How do you efficiently perform an application backup? At what level should I do this (farm, web application, site collection, webs)?

I'm not looking into just backing up the content database because there are items installed in SharePoint's file structure (like features for example).

Are the Backup-* cmdlets useful at this? Is it enough to export everything as a solution (*.wsp)?

I need to restore the environment if I mess something up during development; a rollback if you want. How can I do that?

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For what reason other than a smaller size do you not want to copy the image? That'll be a far quicker process than trying to backup and restore, less error prone, and you can just turn off any service applications you don't want running. – James Love Oct 28 '11 at 16:14

Also, you mention in bold rolling back if you screw up the environment during development. Use snapshots like what you get in VMWare.

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The Backup-* PowerShell cmdlets are useful to an extent but will not cover everything: the only way to backup certain settings such as Alternate Access Mappings is to document them either manually or using a tool such as SPDocKit.

Furthermore, backing up a SharePoint farm isn't simply a case of taking a copy of SharePoint. There are other considerations such as the IIS metabase, third party components and any other changes that have been made out of band such as web.config changes.

As others have said I imagine a backup of the VM image will be the fastest and safest approach.

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