Everybody who has ever made a backup image of Windows operating system knows that it’s a piece of cake to restore that image back to the same computer. Now, let’s get things a bit more complicated – is it possible to backup one computer and restore that backup image to a different computer, with the different hardware configuration, and eventually working normally without inevitable BSODs?
Yup, that is possible, and that is called Universal Restore – an ability to restore the backup to a different computer (with certain limitations, that will be mentioned below).
When I wrote this article, I tested two software products EaseUS and Acronis. Unfortunately, Universal Restore feature in EaseUS Todo Backup Advanced Server didn’t manage to cope with GPT partitions and RAID configurations on some test computers…
But the good ol’ Acronis seems to be the best solution for this kind of operation, and I think that Acronis is the most advanced software product for backup and restore, in general. In my test, there were no obstacles for Acronis.
OK, let’s say a few words about the logic of universal backup and restore:
– create a backup image of the computer A,
– create driver backup of the computer B,
– restore A‘s backup to computer B and also integrate drivers from B.
– In the end, as a result – fully functional operating system on B, with its drivers but with a “soul” of A.
The first thing to do is, as mentioned above, getting a backup image of that computer you want to migrate. Note that standard package isn’t included Universal Restore. So you need to contact Acronis to acquire Universal Restore license and enter it in the appropriate text field:
After you install Acronis, run it and create Full Image of your computer (A) from the running Windows (not from the live CD):
 Driver backup from the second computer
That second computer is computer “B”, and we need to obtain its drivers. Without appropriate drivers we’d encounter BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death).
Note: it makes sense to do this step if A’s operating system has the same architecture as B’s operating system (x86 or x64). For example, we wouldn’t get far if we integrate 64-bit driver in the 32-bit operating system; so, in such case, download compatible official drivers from the manufacturer’s website, and integrate them.
Having that in mind, in this article I’ll assume that B has a compatible and consistent operating system; you can backup drivers with software like Double Driver, Free Driver Backup or DriverBackup! (or similar).
Good practice is doing one additional step – getting thorough report of your computer configuration, where I recommend HWinfo.
I also copied folder C:\Windows\System32\drivers , just in case (if driver backup software fails to backup certain drivers).
If you have RAID configuration, consider downloading RAID driver from the official homepage of your computer manufacturer (or see that info from the HWInfo report); downloaded driver needs to be prepared for integration. Integration means extracting the contents of an EXE file (using tools such as PeaZip or other) to obtain necessary INF and SYS files. In my case, they are stored in the folder Payload, which may be seen in the picture below:
We’ll make a bootable DVD in order to perform system restoration. Run Acronis software and select menu Tools –> Create Bootable Media.
Bootable DVD is based on Linux, by default; if you wish it to be based on Windows PE, you have to put a little more effort:
– download AIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit) or ADK (Windows Assessment and Deployment kit), which takes additional space (1 GB, up to 3 GB),
– obtain WinPE files on your own.
Moreover, 32-bit and 64-bit version of the DVD can be created, where latter has UEFI support, and finally – these are output options:
I created ISO file and formed multiboot disc with other Live software tools (Bitdefender Rescue Disk, and other)
I don’t need UEFI, so I created 32-bit variant:
(sorry for this and ongoing low quality images, I took ’em with my phone camera)
After a few minutes, software boots, and it’s ready for recovery:
The first step is creating a regular backup, and the second is applying a Universal Restore.
Regular backup procedure is more or less the same for all backup software. However, pay attention to restore MBR:
When recovery process finishes, a BSOD will greet you warmly; there is an error:
… because we haven’t applied Universal Restore yet.
Boot your recovery disc and select Universal Restore; the following window is opened:
The most important thing here is section “Automatic driver search“, because it can read just one folder. Move all your drivers from its folders in one huge folder and select that folder (otherwise your software won’t be recognized).
If you have a RAID configuration, in section “Mass storage drivers to install anyway” select folder with prepared RAID drivers:
After this step, HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) should be patched, drivers set as well as driver for RAID, so the operating system can boot without errors.
If you like this article, or if it helped you, please, leave a reply.
Acronis Universal Restore