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Planning for disaster recovery of home and small business data. I understand all the ins and outs of creating disk images that can be restored on different hardware -- that you need to go beyond Windows Backup to do that (Acronis, Paragon, etc.). What I'm interested in knowing is this: If you don't have those sorts of disk images from the start, and you end up needing to recover to new hardware, are there any tools (free or for purchase) that will allow you to restore those hardware specific images to new hardware after the fact?

The scenario is this: You've done all your backups, etc. diligently and have everything accessible off-site. You lose everything (fire, etc.) and are left with a bunch of disk images that are for hardware you no longer have.

I understand you'd also have the user files backed up and could do new installs and set things up that way. I also understand that you can purchase or build new machines to match the old ones. What I'm interested in knowing is if there's any way, even if it costs a lot, to go directly back to those full images on new hardware without having planned for that when the images where created. So you have the disk images on one side and new hardware on the other. Is there anything that will bridge the gap?

Update: One bridge here seems to be VM software: Convert the physical disk image to a VM image. It should then run in the associated VM software and look exactly like what was backed up. Then, if your VM supports going from VM images to physical images you do a second conversion to get to the new hardware. The key is that last part -- finding a VM that supports a virtual-to-physical conversion and supports your configuration. VMware has some tech notes on such a conversion. So it is possible. You basically get your target machine drivers lined up and Sysprep the VM just as you would if you had the original hardware. Then take the image from the VM to the target hardware. Not sure I'd like to be trying that for the first time though.

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You may want to look into utilizing a different backup / imaging solution. Programs similar to Acronis and Ghost will copy all HAL and driver information and give you issues booting on a different machine.

If you're not looking to switch a lot of your images over to a virtual environment, I would recommend looking into using the Sysprep tool from Microsoft. This basically strips a lot of the information that would normally break an image when loading on another machine and prepares the image for deployment.

More information on Sysprep can be found here:

You can pair this tool with 'ImageX' also available from Microsoft, and it becomes a pretty powerful imaging tool. ImageX is free, but is all command line unless you use a GUI that was created for it.

More information on ImageX can be found here:

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Understood about the different approach. That's definitely part of the planning. What I really want/need to know right now is whether there's any way to bridge the gap if that planning has not been done but you still have a good, complete set of backups. This is, in part, because I may need to accomplish this sort of recovery (or attempt it) for others, where I have no control over how they originally created their backup images. – srs Sep 12 '13 at 14:54
Good info on ImageX, which I was not aware of. One thing I don't fully understand with Sysprep: Is that a one time thing? Or can I Sysprep a machine and have any disk images created from that point on be hardware independent? If so it would seem like Sysprep, the run Windows Backup would do the job starting from scratch. But it can't be that easy ... I'm assuming Sysprep is something you run once if you have the old hardware in front of you? – srs Sep 12 '13 at 15:44
The more I read into your question, this may not be the best solution for you. Basically Sysprep is meant to be run on a computer once so you can grab your 'Golden Image' for deployment. This isn't so much used for backing up, rather than having a baseline image to broadcast to many PC's. I think Windows 7 allows you to run Sysprep on a machine up to 3 times before locking the feature, so this wouldn't be very viable for incremental backups. – Callen L Sep 12 '13 at 17:46
That's what I figured with Sysprep. Good reading anyway. I was only partly aware of what you can do there. – srs Sep 12 '13 at 22:09

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