Vista/Win2k8 Event Log Changes #2: .evtx Format

In my previous post I already mentioned that Vista and Windows Server 2008 introduced many changes to the Windows Event Log, and the event log backup files with the familiar .evt extension are no exception. If you backup event logs in the .evt format and plan on moving to Vista and/or Windows 2008 then you should make yourself familiar with the basic changes and the “new” EVTX format.

The new event viewer on Vista and Win2k8 supports exporting an event log in either the EVTX, XML, TXT or CSV format. If you select the EVTX format then you will not be able to import/load this file on a Pre-Vista/Win2k8 machine, the old event viewer does not understand the new EVTX format.

So far so good, this is to be expected. Like I mentioned in my previous post, Vista and later also still provide the legacy event log APIs so that applications that were developed for Windows 2003 and earlier are still able to access and backup the event log. The next paragraphs get a bit confusing, so only read on if you are interested in more details ;-).

Windows 2003 and earlier provide two API calls to backup and/or clear the event log: ClearEventLog() and BackupEventLog(). If you use any of these functions to backup an event log on Vista and later, then you are still able to create a .evt file. I would expect that this file could be opened on any computer that understands the EVT format, however this is not the case. Even when you export an event log using the aforementioned legacy API calls, the resulting file can still only be opened with the new event viewer on Vista or later. I will refer to event log backup files that were created on Vista and later with the legacy API calls as the new EVT format from now on.

This becomes more clear when you compare the contents of the new EVT format with the EVTX format. While the two files are different for the exact same event log backup – the overall structure are quite similar. You can also rename a file with the new EVT format to the EVTX extension and the new event viewer will open this file correctly. The format of an EVT file on the other hand is very different to that of an EVTX file.

So the bottom line is that you can, in theory, create three types of event log backup files:

1. EVT Format
These files are created on Windows Server 2003 and earlier. Vista and later refer to these files as “Classic Event Log Files”, and you can open and read EVT files on any NT-based OS including Vista and later.

2. EVT Format (when created on Vista and later)
These files can only be created on Vista and later by using the legacy API calls ClearEventLog() and BackupEventLog(). It is important to point out that even though these files have the .evt extension, they unfortunately cannot be read on Windows Server 2003 or earlier and the format of this file is similar to the new EVTX format.

3. EVTX Format
These files can only be created and viewed on Vista and later.

Note on EventSentry: If you are backing up event logs with EventSentry v2.72, v2.80 or v2.81 on Vista or Windows 2008, then EventSentry will create EVT files (#2) that can only be viewed on Vista or later. We are switching to the native EVTX format for event log backups with the upcoming v2.90 release of EventSentry.

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