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In the spirit of Joel Spolsky's "Let’s stop talking about backups" article, is there any software that's good at restoring a Windows computer?

By "good", I mean it can handle a situation where a laptop is dropped, stolen, flooded, or otherwise completely unusable. I want to be able to take a backup image and restore it on another computer, which may be a completely different make and model, and have the new computer running without having to re-install every application and re-configure every setting.

Obviously, any new device drivers will need to be installed and configured, and Windows itself will need to be reactivated. But is there any software that will do this out of the box with a minimum of typing, scripting, and hoop-jumping?

From Daniel R Hicks:

If I open a new question it will just get closed as a dupe of this one, and TPTB don't like a question in an answer, so I must edit this one:

Norton Ghost gets some pretty lousy reviews on Amazon, and Acronis gets even worse ones. Is there ANY reasonably reliable system imaging/backup software for Windows (Vista and 7)?? What about ShadowProtect Desktop?

(At this point I'd settle for a drive image only tool -- no deltas -- so long as it has a reasonable chance of restoring to a replacement drive.)

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closed as not constructive by slhck Oct 2 '12 at 12:41

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Actually, now that I think about it, this software would be far more useful for hardware upgrades than for disaster recovery. I can't count the number of hours spent reinstalling and reconfiguring apps on new hardware. – Mike Hobbs Feb 22 '10 at 20:16
Odd that a thread can sit around for over two years, then suddenly be "not constructive". – Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '12 at 13:07
@DanielRHicks - Indicates to me it should have been closed 2 years ago. – Ramhound Oct 2 '12 at 13:12
@Ramhound - So, folks using SU have no valid interest in learning which backup packages are good and which ones aren't? – Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '12 at 17:20
@slhck -- I can assure you, from personal experience, that finding good backup software is a very real, major problem! – Daniel R Hicks Oct 3 '12 at 21:34
up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are some imaging software that can do this. Of the top of my mind comes Shadowprotect with its Bare metal recovery and Acronis Trueimage with Universal restore.

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Thanks for the lead on on Shadowprotect. The feature list on their website is exactly what I was looking for. I'll have to give their 30-day trial a whirl and report back. – Mike Hobbs Feb 22 '10 at 20:18
* grumble * In order to get a "full" evaluation copy of Shadowprotect that included the recovery CD, I had to fill out a sales form and wait for approval. Otherwise, the product worked as advertised. I took a backup of Windows 7 on an Acer laptop and was able to restore it on a Compaq desktop. The restore for Windows 7 isn't completely seamless yet, due to the janky way that Windows 7 boots from a separate recovery partition. I had to pop in my Windows 7 install CD and run a quick recovery operation, but after that, everything worked fine. – Mike Hobbs Feb 26 '10 at 6:57
If you look at the recent reviews for Acronis it sucks. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '12 at 12:05
@DanielRHicks - I can point to other reviews that say that Acronis is good. – Ramhound Oct 2 '12 at 13:13
@Ramhound -- The other reviews will be for versions from 2009 or before. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 3 '12 at 21:35

Clonezilla is a free tool which is really good. Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image are also available.

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I love clonezilla. I use it all the time for my linux installs. Unfortunately, Windows is far less forgiving about booting a disk image on hardware other than the one it was installed on. – Mike Hobbs Feb 22 '10 at 20:23

I don't know whether there's any good answer to your question. I suspect not.

One less-than-perfect option is to convert your physical machine to a virtual machine that can run under something like vmware or virtualbox. It's certainly not a simple backup. But benefit is that you then have a virtual machine that will run anywhere without having to reinstall apps. VMWare's convert app is here: If you've used the vmware converter you can convert to virtualbox with some additional steps:

Like I said, this isn't complete backup and restore solution. But it might be part of the puzzle for some people. Use your physical machine as you have been, use a converted vm as the backup of system and apps, and use a vanilla backup for documents and data files.

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Actually, I have given a lot of consideration to just running everything on xen or vmware, with live migrations and whatnot. Unfortunately, graphics card virtualization isn't at acceptable levels yet. – Mike Hobbs Feb 22 '10 at 20:26

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