We’ve got several really good fundamental and common questions about backup.
Let’s look at each.
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Making an image backup of multiple partitions
How you deal with multiple partitions at backup time depends on the backup software that you are using. Fortunately most, like Macrium Reflect, allow you to backup multiple partitions into a single backup image file.
That doesn’t mean that you have to backup all of the partitions into a single file. You still can, of course, choose to backup one partition and place that into a single backup image file.
Macrium, as an example, uses .mrimg files as their backup storage format. These files contain images of all of the partitions that you select at the time that you backup. But ultimately, it’s your choice of whether you want that image to include one or more of the partitions on your machine.
When you restore a backed up image, you don’t boot from the actual backup image itself. What you do once again depends on the specific backup software that you are using, but most have you create rescue media. This is the backup program itself placed on some kind of media, like a CD or DVD, that you can then use to boot.
For instance, Macrium Reflect has you create rescue media before you need it. It’s simply a CD that you then keep in a safe place. When you want to restore a backup image to your machine, you boot from that CD, which fires up a copy of Macrium Reflect that you’ll use to restore.
If you’re actually restoring a full system image there’s nothing to reinstall. Remember, a full system image includes everything that’s on your machine – Windows, your applications, your data… everything. That’s why I like basing backup strategies on using them.
Cloning your hard disk and then replacing your machine
This is where things get tricky. First of all, realize that backups aren’t really intended to give you the ability to swap out your entire machine. Backups are about saving the data on your existing machine from hardware failure and other forms of data loss.
When you create a backup, you’re backing up all of Windows and the drivers as configured for the specific hardware that’s on the original machine. When you replace the entire machine, all of the hardware is different … yet your backed-up image of Windows has all of the drivers and settings for the old hardware.
When switching to a new machine for the best results I strongly recommend reinstalling Windows and all your software.
The backup image is still incredibly valuable for saving your data and whatever else you didn’t realize to backup. But a backup image is typically not a way to restore your world to a new machine.
Now, with that being said there are additional steps that some backup programs provide, and some utilities that might make a migration and restoration to completely new hardware possible. It’s possible that, yes, maybe you can shoehorn this scenario into working, and yes it may be a little easier with Windows 7 and Windows 8.
But again, for the best, most stable results, it’s still not something that I recommend.