Posey's Tips & Tricks

Restoring a Backup to Dissimilar Hardware: 3 Things To Watch Out For

Getting a new desktop looking and feeling like the old one used to take a long time, but modern backup applications have greatly streamlined the process. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid potential issues.

I've been hard at work the past couple of weeks replacing some aging desktops in my office with new machines.

In the past, I always dreaded desktop refreshes. It isn't that the process is difficult, super labor-intensive or anything like that. Instead, it's the fact that it can take forever to get a new desktop looking and feeling like the old one. I'm not just talking about recreating wallpapers and icon arrangements, but also reinstalling all of those applications residing on the old desktop.

In recent years, however, this process has become far easier. Most modern backup applications have the ability to restore a backup to dissimilar hardware. In all fairness, some backup vendors have long-claimed this ability, but up until a few years ago, I never had great luck getting it to work. However, the backup application I'm using now has been working flawlessly.

Even though I have been able to back up my desktops and restore those backups to brand-new machines, the process is never entirely seamless. There are a few things that are easy to overlook. These are a few of the things you should keep in mind before using a backup application as a migration tool when you get a new PC.

1. Drivers
The first consideration is probably the most obvious: Your old PC does not include the hardware drivers your new machine requires. As such, it's a good idea to have those drivers on hand before you begin the migration. I would even go so far as to recommend keeping those drivers on removable media in case your new machine is unable to access the Internet when the restoration completes.

In my case, something interesting happened with regard to the drivers. One of my new machines has an ASUS system board. When I booted that machine for the first time after restoring my backup, the machine actually launched an ASUS utility that helped me download the drivers I needed. What's interesting about this was that I had not installed this utility, nor did it exist on my old machine. I don't know if Windows recognized the motherboard and automatically downloaded the utility, or if some other mechanism was at work. Either way, the automatic installation of the utility was super convenient.

2. Deactivated Windows
Another thing you need to think about before using a backup application as a migration tool is that doing so will inevitably cause Windows to become deactivated.

There is a process you can work through to get Windows to use the product key associated with your old PC, but in my experience, this process does not always work. My advice is to have a Windows product key on hand in case you need it.

3. Windows Store Apps
One more thing I want to mention about the migration process is that you can potentially run into problems with applications that have been downloaded from the Windows Store. This doesn't always happen and it's easy to fix when it does, but I wanted to tell you about it because it caught me off-guard the first time it happened.

As I'm sure you know, you need a Microsoft account to download applications from the Windows store. The devices you use are also tied to this Microsoft account. Last night, I tried to open one of my Windows Store applications and received a message indicating the maximum number of devices had been reached. Apparently, only 10 devices can be associated with a Microsoft account, and my new desktop was No. 11.

I was able to fix the problem by logging into my Microsoft account and removing a couple of PCs I had already retired. Once I did that, the Windows Store applications began working immediately.

Aside from these few issues, the process of restoring a Windows 10 backup to dissimilar hardware has been far easier than I would have expected. My new PCs look and feel exactly like the devices they replaced.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 19-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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