I am attempting to create a backup image of a system deployed on a machine now. Then I would like to deploy this image on a different computer. Despite driver incompatibilities is this possible/recommended?


There's a lot of subject matter on this topic. A lot more than can be covered in a single answer. I will neglect to link you to anything simply because of the sheer volume of information out there and the variety of ways this can be accomplished. (Use your Google-Fu.)

In a nutshell:

Using sysprep /generalize will mostly take care of the driver incompatibilities. You may want to inject the drivers later, or directly in to the image. You can do this by using Windows Deployment Services and a variety of other tools such as WAIK, MDT, and SIM.

I say mostly because of the Windows XP tag on your question. You'll need to pay attention to HAL when you prepare an image. If the HAL driver doesn't match you will have problems deploying the image.

It is definitely possible and recommended to create and deploy images. It's a great way to keep a consistent environment.

  • great I know about sysprep but have not used it. Here is a great time. Thank you!! – andrsnn May 17 '13 at 17:32

Yes, it is possible, and the only drawback that I can possibly think is about hardware compatibility, as you pointed out. But removing wrong drivers and installing correct ones shouldn't be too difficult.

Another consideration (maybe obvious, but obvious thing are the ones that are slipped most frequently) that you should make, is to be sure that the destination hard drives are big enough to hold the source cloned image; if you are unsure, you might want to reduce the source partition(s) to a minimal size, and enlarging them back once they will be deployed on the new machines.

My tool of choice for this kind of tasks is Clonezilla, you can get it on its own or bundled in a generic disk maintenance tool like Parted Magic.

Clonezilla can be used to clone entire hard drives or single partitions; cloning itself is a different process than a simple file based data backup.

When you perform a file based backup, basically you are copying files from a place to another (usually on another physical drive); you can think your hard drives as "boxes" where your files are "put inside" as "content" ; if you have a source 100 GB hard drive, which contains only 10 GB, and you perform a file backup, you are effectively duplicating just the "content", so the destination hard drive should be big enough to contain 10 GB of data, not 100 GB.
But when you clone an entire disk (or a partition) you are not just copying around files, the "content" as we said, but the entire "box". So in this case, the destination medium should be able to contain the full "box" size, in our example 100 GB.
Clonezilla itself is capable to proportionally resize cloned partitions to match the destionation drive size, but just if the destination is larger than the source. In other words, it can proportionally enlarge but not shrink them. That's why I suggested to manipulate your partitions before the actual cloning to keep them as smaller as possible, and re-enlarge them after the whole process to the desired size.

  • does it clone the entire drive? including unused space? does sysprep also package the entire drive with empty space? – andrsnn May 18 '13 at 1:21
  • Please see my improved answer – Sekhemty May 18 '13 at 11:19
  • the 'improved' answer does not mention other images like those from windows backup or sysprep. It also does not mention that clones can be stored in compressed formats, or that smart imaging software can select only the used sectors. – jiggunjer Jan 6 '16 at 7:57

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