Restoring an image to different hardware

I have had the opportunity to try restoring a machine image on completely different hardware recently and I thought this could be very useful to many of you out there. Here is the situation: My client has a few servers and one of those is a Windows Small Business Server that was running on a pretty old machine. They wanted to move everything from that machine to a brand new server that they purchased.

Because they are running a Windows Server 2003 for small business edition, that machine has all the domain/active directory information. The biggest problem with migrating this type of installation is that two small business servers cannot co-exist in the same domain. Of course, there are many ways to do this:

  • Use Microsoft’s method and install a second server, then migrate everything manually. This method is limited to 7 days because after that, unless the new server is promoted and the old one demoted, somethings will stop working. You may end up with a new domain name in this case as well.
  • Use‘s packages for migration. This is probably the best way to go according to the community, but I have not tried it yet. It seems to be the method to provide the best migration experience to the users with no down-time.
  • Use some kind of imaging software that will allow you to recover to different hardware. This is a great option if you can manage the down-time for the imaging portion because everything is maintained as it was: same machineID, same domain name, same configuration, everything.

acronis.gifIn my case, I chose to go with the imaging because of time restrictions for the migration and because of the fact that they needed to maintain everything in it’s place for some legacy applications. I used Acronis True Image Enterprise Server 9.1 with Universal Restore to migrate their server. I was very happily surprised that the process was so smooth, even with the VERY different hardware I had to move to/from. Different CPU, different brand motherboards, chipsets, video cards, Raid controllers, everything!

You take the source image as you normally would with any other system. Then, when comes time to restore, you must have the Acronis Universal Restore option installed(or licensed on a bootable CD) and begin the process just like any other restore. But once Acronis sees that you are restoring to different hardware, it will simply ask you for the path to the necessary drivers for that new hardware.

In my case the restore went according to plan and the only snag was a Blue Screen on the first boot, and that one was due to different sizes in memory and swap files. This is definitely an option to consider when you need to move an operating system from one machine to the other, if you want to save some time.

10 Thoughts on “Restoring an image to different hardware

  1. jhughes on May 20, 2009 at 11:24 am said:

    So details please on how/where you got the drivers and how you solved the blue screen issues. Also who did you call for support, Acronis? Microsoft?

  2. To get the drivers, I had simply built the new machine using the same OS that needed to be migrated. In my case, I built the machine with a Windows Server 2003, got all the drivers from the internet (it was an HP Server, so I got them from Once everything was running ok and the drivers were installed properly, I used a tool called Double Driver – – to backup all the drivers. I moved the drivers to a second partition that I had created previously.

    When the restore began and Acronis started asking for drivers, I pointed it to the double driver folders on the second partition and all my drivers were found. I had to do this a few times to get them all.

    The blue screen issue only happened on the first boot. the server automatically rebooted and everything was fine after that.

    I didn’t call anyone for support, but I would probably try calling Acronis first, because Microsoft will most likely just tell you to install from scratch.

  3. Hi

    Sounds like a very good solution. I’ve not personally used Acronis before. Is it very simple to use like Norton Ghost or similar? I would like to use a similar solution for my home pc at home. Downside is most desktops from shops come with an operating system pre-installed. I suspect I will need to buy a tower that has no operating system on it and then restore my old desktop data to the new one. You mention something about all the drivers – could I simply put all my drivers on to a CD and then during the restore when Acronis asks for drivers simply insert the CD and point to it to tell Acronis that is where they are? Importantly how much is Acronis to buy? If all goes well at home I may think about using Acronis for my work network too for disaster recovery etc.

    Thank you very much for any help and information.

  4. Yes, Acronis True Image is a very easy tool to use.. Just like Ghost and the like, you can boot from a recovery CD and to the work and there is also the possibilty of installing it in Windows for “on-the-fly” imaging. That could be a better solution for your DR project.

    Yes, you could burn all your drivers to a CD and then point Acronis to that source, no problem.

    Acronis has very different pricing depending on the version you choose. I recommend you go to their website at and find the product that fits your needs the best. Depending on your OS and the type of work you want to do, some versions may not be applicable. In your case, I suspect that Acronis True Image Echo Workstation would be a good fit, for 83$ and the Universal Restore Module for 36$. You should download a trial version to see if everything is as you expect!

  5. “The biggest problem with migrating this type of installation is that two small business servers cannot co-exist in the same domain.”
    How much is it true?

  6. Truely, i used microsoft backup and restore to do backups and restoring. Useful
    Only two aspects are bothered
    1. x support disk cloning
    2. restoring process is slow and slow (It made me crazy once)
    I would approve Paseal’s words, because there is an useful utility, named as universal restore, there. I like its product, but always beyond my budget. i’m just a server 2008 sbs user, on need to buy such an expensive software.
    So i tried to find another one, todo backup; finally, it helped well, and it did restore my server 2008 sbs to all other computers.
    BTW, detailed steps they told me in case of mistakes
    i really hope todo backup can do this better

  7. hi all,

    i found a backup software which is as good as Acronis.
    and it’s freeware.

    if someone need it, u can google easeus todo backup.

  8. Bailifei on September 6, 2011 at 1:41 am said:

    good article, very useful.
    i also found a software that can restore system to different hardware.
    check this article.

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  10. Johnd781 on June 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm said:

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