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When hardware eventually goes bust, it would for my use cases nearly always be the best thing if I could just plug the old harddisk (or, if that one was broken, a new harddisk with the backup disk image of the old one) into a new PC and just have Windows boot and fix itself with the appropriate new drivers.

However, this scenary isn't supported my Windows:

Microsoft does not support restoring a system state backup from one computer to a second computer of a different make, model, or hardware configuration.

So I'd conclude at first that this isn't a good idea at all.

However, as others write:

apparently one can use the sysprep utility to prepare an existing installation to be moved to a new hardware.

This leaves me confused:

  • It ain't supported, but there appears to be a utility that facilitates exactly this?
  • Is it used by professionals in practise? Or is it a hack that only a home user would try?
  • Can I only use this on a running system or also when I only have a backup image of the OS installation?
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closed as not a real question by CharlieRB, Tog, 8088, Scott, BloodPhilia Mar 13 '13 at 19:02

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question. – Martin Mar 13 '13 at 10:50
I have closed to vote this question because I think it's overly broad and addresses multiple questions. Try to come up with and ask concrete questions. – BloodPhilia Mar 13 '13 at 19:03

Sysprep is used for the purposes of preparing an image of Windows to be deployed to multiple machines. For Vista/7+, they made it possible to install Windows on one type of model computer, and use sysprep to 'generalize' the workstation, so that when the installation is captured, and later redeployed, It will look for drivers for the hardware it's currently on. Technet page on Sysprep.

Sysprep is used widely, as it is the MS Recommended tool for preparing the OS for being cloned.

For your purposes (your original question), in the future I would do this:

1)Install Windows, install all updates, then all applications
2)Run Sysprep, then shutdown the computer and use clonezilla to make a copy of the OS.
3)Make regular backups of any and all user files.

This way, when you need to switch hardware, you can lay your OS image down on it, then restore user files as needed.

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You can use Symantec System Recovery to create an image and restore it even to different hardware. I have used it many times with great success. Very useful when many "challenging" applications are involved. There is a trial period. Symantec System Recovery

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