Using a Windows System Image backup to transfer a configuration between computers

One of my colleagues left our organisation a couple of weeks ago and his notebook PC was up for grabs (kind of like vultures looking for prey, my manager and I were trying to grab the best bits of his relinquished IT assets…). To be honest, the PC is only marginally better than the one I had already but it did have a slightly faster processor (Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile P8400 vs. T7500), a larger hard disk, and was in better physical condition (I’ll try not to drop this one!). I did need to transfer my configuration to the “new” machine quickly though (i.e. between the start and the end of our team meeting today!) so that my “old” machine could be reallocated to someone in need of a more modern PC.

I could have messed around with user state migration onto a fresh build; however I’m flying out to TechEd Europe at the weekend and I wanted to be sure that I had all my applications working so I tried a different approach. The two computers are similar, but not identical (both Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebooks – one is an S7210 and the other is an S7220) so I decided to try creating a Windows System Image and restoring it onto a different machine, then letting Plug and Play sort out the hardware. It’s a bit messy (with new network adapters etc.) but the theory was sound.

Plug and Play driver detection on Windows 7Not only was the theory sound, but it worked. After booting the “new” machine from the Windows 7 Repair Disc that I was prompted to create at the end of the backup, I restored my system, complete with all applications and data. Plug and Play did indeed identify all of my hardware, combined with Microsoft Update for a missing display driver (that would have worked too if I had been online at the time). Windows even managed to reactivate itself as the product key was still valid so my system is reporting itself as genuine (note that Windows licences remain with individual computers; however in this case both machines were licensed for Windows 7 using a volume license product key).

It’s important to note that this effectively cloned the machine (yes, I could have used any number of disk imaging products for this, but I was using the out-of-the-box tools) and so I was careful not to have both machines on the network at the same time. Indeed the last step (before passing the “old” machine on to my manager) was to securely erase my data partition, which I did using the cipher command, before booting into the Windows Recovery Environment one more time to run up diskpart and remove all of the disk partitions.

The only remaining hurdle is moving the (so far empty) BitLocker Drive Encryption Partition from its current location in the middle of my hard disk (which was the end of the smaller disk in my old machine) but that should be possible as I haven’t actually encrypted the drive on this PC.

Not bad for a few hours work, especially as there was no downtime involved (I was able to use the “old” machine to deliver my presentation whilst the “new” one was being prepared).

5 thoughts on “Using a Windows System Image backup to transfer a configuration between computers


  1. I was suitably impressed when I moved a hard disk from a similar 7110 to a 7220 – Windows 7 just ‘found’ all the hardware (even whilst still an RC) and made it work. It’s certainly a leap forward from the old ways of doing things.

    As for moving the Bitlocker partition, having had some fun with this recently – my first suggestion would be to simply delete it, then run the drive preparation tool – it should do everything that’s needed automatically, from everything I’ve read.

    Have fun!


  2. Thats a Baremetal restore which is a magnificant out-of-the-box-tool for win7 w2k8 & w2k8R2. I’ve even imaged a VM and restored to a physical box which worked flawlessly using Windows Backup. Agreat product leaving little need for Acronis and such. Hell its a decent strategy for backup’s! File level and ACL restore is possible also. Maybe could be an even better product with dedup function and compression.


  3. Thats really usefull information. One of the things that stops me upgrading OS is all of the apps I’ve loaded. I doubt I could even find the original cd or downloads for most of them, so it would take me DAYS to upgrade – which is why I haven’t yet!

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