Restore Your Backups to a Totally Different Computer
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Original article on Let's Talk Computers website

Restore Your Backups to a Totally Different Computer

Complete Transcript of Stephen Lawton — Acronis Interview — Universal Restore Host — Alan Ashendorfon Let's Talk Computers March 17 2007

Alan: Most of the time when you're talking about backing up and restoring a computer system, you're talking about backing up and restoring it to the same computer system. But, what if that computer system is no longer available? Now, what? Our guest, today is Stephen Lawton, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing with Acronis. And welcome back to Let's Talk Computers, Stephen.

Stephen: I'm always glad to be, my friend.

Alan: Usually when your hard drive failed or you upgraded your operating system and it didn't take right, you are restoring back to the same computer.

Stephen: It's very easy to restore an image back to the same machine. The challenge, of course is what happens when that machine is no longer in existence?

Alan: What usually happens is that I'll go out and I'll buy the same computer. I'll make sure that it has the same brand name and even the same model number, if it's available. But, that doesn't even work at all, does it?

Stephen: It really doesn't. The companies like Dell, for example, will buy components in bulk. You can buy multiple machines from Dell with the same model number at the same time and have very different system components and configurations.

Alan: I've seen a lot of people that will build their own computers; they're very savvy about how the computer works, but they think that as long as they get the same brand of motherboard that has the same basic type of chip set it's going to replace it okay. Does it?

Stephen: No, it doesn't. Windows does not like moving from one physical machine to another. Microsoft has built in security devices into Windows to make sure that pirated software is not moved from one set of hardware to another. When you try to restore an image to another machine, even if you think it's the same machine, there'll be different ID numbers on the hardware. Windows simply will throw up a "Blue Screen" and refuse to install.

Alan: There are times that I've run into, just by changing the order of what cards go into what slot will cause a Blue Screen, won't it?

Stephen: It could, indeed. It's very, very frustrating.

Alan: To a Home User, if your machine goes down or a computer goes down, in most cases they've already backed up their data and they're up and running a couple of days later; it's not going to be the "end of the world". But, for a company that has multiple machines that went down because of either fire or flood or relocation or for what ever reason — not knowing that they can get their computers up and running could put them out of business, couldn't it?

Stephen: Think about the folks that have to deal with Katrina — all of these servers, all of these work stations that had to be relocated, in some cases, across the country in order for them to stay in business — they had to take their image, their backup that they had made, say in New Orleans, restore that to a server that might be sitting in Denver. They might not even know what the system configuration is. I know who the vendor is or what their configuration is at all, and yet they soon have to restore that image and be up and running.

Alan: You back up your computer system all the time. Of course, you back up the operating system, the boot drive and you make sure that you have a good copy. Then, something goes wrong and your computer system is completely unavailable, whether it's fire, flood, or the computer system just died. What do you do?

Stephen: The key here is that when you make your image, you make an image that's transportable. What I mean, is you make an image that can be moved to a different machine. The way that you do that with Acronis Software, at least, is with a component that we call Acronis Universal Restore. The Acronis Universal Restore module for Acronis True Image allows you to actually take that image and make it transportable to any other hardware set.

Alan: You have to have the Acronis Universal Restore installed before you actually make the backup?

Stephen: Actually, you do not. And that's one of the key differences between the way Acronis does Acronis Universal Restore and the way some of our competitors attempt to do that.

Let's say that you have an image of the server that you made last year. And that server is no longer in operation. Your accountant comes in and tells you that you need to get certain data off of that image for tax purposes — we're coming up on April 15. What do you do?

Well, you can take that image and you can restore that image to any other piece of hardware that you have, so long as you are running the Corporate Version of Acronis True Image, whether it's Workstation or Server with the Acronis Universal Restore module.

Alan: I buy my brand new computer. Do I have to care about what kind of motherboard or what kind of chip set or what operating system is on there, now?

Stephen: You don't have to worry about that at all. As a matter of fact, the only caveat is that some manufacturers such as HP and Dell — when they have an OEM version of Microsoft Windows. The Home Versions, (the low-end version of Windows) — they will sometimes hardware-lock that software to that vendor's machine. But, if you're running XP Pro, if you're running XP Media Center, there are no such limitations.

You will run into these same limitations, incidentally with the low-end Vista versions of the operating system. They will be hardware-locked to a certain vendor's computers.

Alan: So, you would suggest right off the bat, not buying the Home Edition of the Microsoft Vista, but go up to the Premium Edition at the least?

Stephen: That's correct. Well, if you do buy a system that has one pre-installed see if your manufacturer will put the Premium Edition on. You might have to pay a little bit extra, but it's well worth it in the long run.

Alan: I've got a backup image that we've made with Acronis True Image 9 or Acronis True Image 10 and now we've gotten our brand new computer and now we've got XP Professional on the new machine. What do we do?

Stephen: The installation is actually quite simple. Let's say that you are using Acronis Boot Disk to install the image; maybe this is a bare drive and it has no operating system or it does have one. But, you boot from the boot disk. You make sure that you have Acronis Universal Restore on the boot disk. It'll boot a very small piece of Windows code. It'll then reboot the machine and start to restore the image. When it re-boots the machine, this is almost as if it were a brand new, clean install of Windows.

The software comes across hardware that it does not recognize, it will look for the drivers — first in a repository that Acronis provides and if it doesn't find it in that repository, it will ask you to put in a CD or point to where on the network the operating system can find the driver for that video card, that network card, whatever it is.

And then you simply put in the driver, install the driver — you continue on with the installation. It's just like a clean-install.

Alan: So, when you get finished, you literally have a completely clean install of your new Windows XP Operating System with the drivers that are needed for your motherboard?

Stephen: You already have literally hundreds of drivers on your machine that you're not using. They simply come in Windows. They're just not simply installed. In this case, you'll have the same situation; you'll have drivers, but they won't be installed, so you don't have to worry about them.

Alan: Microsoft has it set up that some drivers are what they call "boot drivers" and they are marked so in the Registry. So, if I'm restoring my backup, it's restoring the Registry and the registry already has those marked as boot or automatic drivers.

Stephen: They will not interrupt the running of the system. It will still install cleanly and those drivers just will not impact at the operation of the system.

Alan: And once I get finished, I'll have a completely, like a brand new computer that has just the drivers operable for what I need. But, what about all the programs, all my settings that were on my other machine? What is going to happen to them?

Stephen: Those come over as well. Remember, you are restoring an image. All of your configuration files are still there. So, let's say you have a 120-gigabyte hard disk in your laptop. In your old configuration you had it configured as two 60-gigabyte partitions. When you're done you will have two 60-gigabyte partitions and you will have all of your applications on the correct drive. Everything will be set up just as it was before. The only difference is you'll be running different hardware.

Alan: But, what if the hard drive, itself, is different? The hard drive that you are restoring to is far bigger than the hard drive that you started with?

Stephen: The Software will automatically partition the drive and give each partition the same relative amount of space. Let's say that you had an 80-Gig drive and you had two 40-gig partitions. Now, you will have a 120-gig drive — you'll have two 60-gig partitions. So, it will just move it up or down. Even if you were to go to a smaller drive, assuming that there is free space on that drive to shrink the drive the down, it will give you an operable drive.

Alan: It sounds like it would be great for companies that do training. When you have somebody on a computer and once they leave that computer, you have no idea what known state that computer is. It would be nice just to be able to wipe it and restore it.

Stephen: Actually, we have quite a few schools that use our Software for that very application. Manpower in Canada, one of the largest human resources companies, uses our Software in its training sessions. They'll have new recruits come in; they spend two weeks in training. When they leave, Manpower will go through, wipe all the machines and restore an original-based image. And they do that class, after class.

Alan: In large corporations, where they're constantly turning over computer systems because they lease the computer system, a computer system's lifetime is probably less than six months'. Your data and your programs are going to far outlast that, aren't they?

Stephen: Oh, absolutely. If you have data on your machines at a corporation that in some cases you're required to keep seven years and in some cases you're required to keep it indefinitely, (depending on the type of the data that it is). So, you need to make sure that the data that's on those machines can be moved to different hardware.

Remember, hardware is hardware. It has a life expectancy; it has a period of time that you can expect it to last — hard drives that last several years, but sometimes they go out on you in several weeks. I had a laptop that had to be replaced last year. It was about two years old. That's just the way the world works with technology.

Alan: Well, hardware is hardware. It is not a case of if it's going to fail; it's a case of when it will fail.

Stephen: And it will fail! Just remember Murphy's Law. It will fail at the worst possible time.

Alan: And the more moving parts that you have in it or the more heat that you generate in the box, the more likelihood that it will fail. And you really don't have any idea when it's going to fail.

Stephen: That's absolutely true.

Alan: When you're making your backup, you can use Acronis True Image 9, Acronis True Image 10, you can use your Home Edition, but when you want to use Acronis Universal Restore, you must have the Workstation Edition, shouldn't you?

Stephen: If you're running XP or Vista, for that matter, you will need to run Acronis True Image Workstation, with the optional Acronis Universal Restore module. If you're on a server, then you'll need either a Server edition for a standalone server or Enterprise Server if you have multiple machines.

Alan: If you have a backup with Acronis True Image Home edition, you don't have to do anything to that backup. All I have to do is upgrade to the Workstation edition or the Server edition — put the Acronis Universal Restore onto it and I'm in good shape?

Stephen: That's right.

Alan: Well, why are we looking at for Acronis Universal Restore? Because this sounds like it's "pricey"?

Stephen: Actually, it's not as pricey as you might think. The suggested list price of Acronis True Image Workstation, without Acronis Universal Restore, (the base-price) is just $79.99. The price of Acronis Universal Restore (list price) is $29.99. So, you're looking at roughly $110, total for Corporate Workstation, with Acronis Universal Restore.

Alan: What you're really looking for is "peace of mind" and this is a very reasonable cost for peace of mind.

Stephen: We think so. The idea of having to restore your systems from scratch is a daunting, daunting task. It could be a real challenge. Assuming, of course that you can restore it and assuming that you have all your original software and licenses. For $110, to know that you can take that image and put it on any hardware at any time just makes life a lot easier.

Alan: If someone wants to find more information about Acronis Universal Restore, where would they go?

Stephen: They can visit us at And that page will give them not only a description of the products, but also pricing for the corporate user.

Alan: Well, Stephen, as always, it's been our pleasure to have you as our guest here on Let's Talk Computers, talking about how we can get backups to restore on computers that are completely different. And we look forward to having you back on, real soon.

Stephen: Thanks so much. It's always a pleasure to come and visit with you.