Cloning Your Hard Drive: Implementing SysPrep with Macrium Reflect
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There are times when you need to clone your computer and deploy it on a machine with a substantially different hardware configuration. Macrium Reflect, which we covered in recent articles to show you how to clone your hard drive, offers a simple solution. It's called SysPrep. Keep reading for the details.
For example, say your original computer (the one you are using right now) uses Windows 7 or XP with its own video card, sound card, LAN card, and other devices attached to your motherboard -- and then you plan to clone this computer to deploy your operating system (Windows 7 or Windows XP) on a computer with a hardware configuration that is different from your original computer.
This means that the destination computer's hardware may be different from your original computer (e.g. different video card, different LAN card, different sound card or no PCI cards at all).
You would use SysPrep to deploy such projects. SysPrep can make your clone work on any destination computer as long as they have compatible HAL, and the same ACPI support.
If you do not know what HAL and ACPI support are, do not worry; you will learn that in detail later. There are lot of uses for SysPrep. One practical application is that you installed your operating system on your original computer and wish to migrate to a more powerful computer, or even a laptop, without the need to reinstall Windows XP and everything else. This means that your clone image backup can be restored to wider sets of PC-compatible hardware, which is good.
When NOT to use SysPrep
You do not need to use SysPrep in all disk cloning scenarios. Below I've listed certain situations in which you do not need to use SysPrep in your disk cloning implementation.
If the source and destination computers have the same hardware configuration, EXCEPT they may have different hard disks, you do not need to use SysPrep. For example, suppose your original computer hard disk is damaged and you have cloned your hard drives in advance. When you replace your hard disks, you can safely restore the image and the OS, which will bring your computer back to life.
You do not need to use SysPrep in this case, because only the hard drives have changed from your original hardware configuration, while the motherboards, chipsets, processors and other devices are exactly the same.
In this way, your OS has not been replicated to another computer, and also does not require SysPrep.
But, if you are deploying your OS across a lot of computers with exactly the same configuration, you can use SysPrep for faster deployment instead of installing, on each of those computers, Windows 7/XP, the programs, updates, and activating and registering Windows. SysPrep will use SysPrep.inf to automate everything (details below).
If you are planning to use your reference/original computer again, and want it to behave the way it should (just like the way it behaved before), SysPrep alters everything, including the security settings and hard drive names in your reference computer after a restart (after the SysPrep process).
If you wish to use your reference computer again, and you want everything to be normal (as before), consider cloning it in advance WITHOUT SysPrep first, so that you can restore the original behavior of your operating system after performing any SysPrep procedures.
The SysPrep Implementation Process with Macrium Reflect
It would be nice to show a flowchart of the implementation process, so that you can easily grasp the steps of the implementation from a quick glance.
First, you need to do some computer maintenance; this is very important. The following are the tasks you need to do:
1. Delete all unimportant files.
2. Uninstall unimportant programs.
3. Scan the computer for viruses/malware.
4. Install important programs not yet installed on the reference computer that you would like to use on the target computer.
5. Check disk (chkdsk command).
6. Defragment hard disk.
The next thing you need to do is prepare sysprep files/create sysprep.inf, and then, once the files are ready, you can execute sysprep on the reference computer.
Finally, you can now clone your reference computer using Macrium Reflect, for which the image can be safely restored on a target computer using a different hardware configuration.
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