Best Backup Software for Restoring to Dissimilar Hardware

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    In this guide I will be looking at some of the best backup software applications which support the restoring of disk image-based backups onto dissimilar hardware. This is a process which can make the migration of an existing functional system across to new PC hardware as quick and effective as is possible.

    One of the key issues which many people face when buying a new or otherwise different PC is the need to then migrate all documents, system settings, installed applications plus the operating system itself from the existing device across to the new one. In many cases this might involve transferring data manually using external hard drives, flash drives or cloud storage alongside the need to manually re-install and re-configure the operating system plus all existing software from scratch.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - data transfer graphic

    In light of this often time consuming and complex manual process, several backup software developers have in recent years started to offer solutions for recovering disk image-based backups across to new or dissimilar hardware automatically (which is sometimes referred to as “universal restore”). In essence, restoring to dissimilar hardware means that a disk image-based backup of an existing device can subsequently be recovered onto new hardware with the differences in the new device (different drivers, larger disks etc.) all automatically taken care of during the migration process by the backup software itself.

    In short, what this means is that any backup software which supports recovery to dissimilar hardware (or universal restore) can make for a quick, safe and effective way of migrating form an existing PC over to a new one with all user data, settings and installed applications remaining in-place as they were before.

    Top 5 backup software supporting dissimilar restore

    Below is a quick look at the top 5 best backup software titles which can be used to recover disk image backups to dissimilar hardware as are mentioned in this guide. Scroll down further for the full and detailed list of backup software titles.

    Provider Solution Pricing Website
    1 acronis review logo Cyber Protect Home Office From $49.99 / year
    2 easeus best backup software logo ToDo Backup Home From $39.95
    3 o&o software logo DiskImage 19 From $49.95
    4 macrium software review logo Reflect 8 Home From $49.99 / year
    5 aomei backup logo Backupper (Professional) From $39.95

    In the remainder of this guide, I will be looking at some of the main benefits of using such software to restore to dissimilar hardware in more detail. I will then be moving on to list some of the best backup software titles which currently feature this very useful technology as a core part of their offering – let’s go.

    Understanding the Process of Restoring to Dissimilar Hardware

    In this section I will be going into more detail about how restoring to dissimilar hardware works in practice and what components are involved and required to make effective use of such technology. This involves looking at the differences between file level and disk image-based backups, how disk cloning works, how Windows drivers and new hardware play their part and finally, how all of these components can be managed to make migrating an existing system across to new hardware possible.

    File vs Image Level Backups

    One of the first key components to understanding how restoring to dissimilar hardware works begins with understanding how disk image backups themselves work (and crucially how they are different from file-level backups as well).

    When making a file level backup of a system we are only backing up the actual files and folders which reside on the device being backed-up. Such backups are usually confined to just important parts of the device such as the current user’s “Documents” folder (within Windows) which will almost always be the default place for saving any documents whilst using said device.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - win documents folder

    As can be seen above (in many cases), when making a file level backup on a Windows device, we can simply backup the current user’s “Documents” folder to provide a reasonably good level of data protection overall (and this will usually suffice unless you have specific reasons not to back this folder up or have knowingly saved files in other locations).

    When we move on and start looking at disk image backups, we start to see a very different backup technology coming into play. This is a technology which will, instead of imply selecting individual files, instead make a mirror copy of the physical system disk (or disks) and compress and compile this copy into a single file which is then safely stored else ware. By default, due to this approach of imaging (copying) the entire disk itself, this method will automatically also capture all user data, any installed applications plus the device’s operating system as a part of the backup.

    Modern disk imaging technology is also becoming highly advanced and can actually accommodate for excluding certain files and file types from a disk image backup as well as incremental disk image-based backups in order to help keep backup sizes more manageable. Additionally, as is the main subject of this guide, modern disk imaging backup technology can now also adjust system settings within the disk image itself to allow said image to be recoverable on dissimilar hardware when it is applicable to do so.

    NB – For a more detailed explanation on the differences between file level and disk image level backup techniques, check out my detailed guide on system image vs file level backups!

    Disk Cloning Capabilities

    A closely related technology to that of disk imaging backup software is disk cloning software, often used for moving (migrating) an entire active system (with all data, applications and settings included) over to a new, often larger hard disk or a faster SSD drive.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - cloning sata disks

    What makes disk cloning software slightly different to disk imaging-based backup software is that with disk cloning software the migration process usually happens directly between two different disks at the same time (i.e., in real time) with no data being saved else ware. Some disk cloning software will take a hybrid approach and allow a disk to be imaged, said image saved to a file and then recovered from this file onto a replacement disk at a later date, but even when this is the case this file almost always remains an exact copy of the original disk with no considerations for different hardware considered.

    Where disk cloning software often becomes less useful is when trying to migrate an existing device over to a completely new system with different hardware in place. In many cases the disk cloning software will be configured to simply make an exact clone of the original disk meaning the new hardware won’t be taken into account as a part of the recovery process and could potentially lead to problems occurring when recovering such a disk image without the proper adjustments being made.

    NB – Some developers take a hybrid approach and combine disk cloning and disk image backup techniques into a single piece of software (i.e., saving the disk image to a file and then recovering or cloning from this file, when required, at a later date). In many cases, such software titles can provide very good value given that they essentially perform both functions!

    When making use of specialist disk image-based backup software (which has the ability to optimise for recovering onto dissimilar hardware) we can also often bypass this common limitation of only working with a single PC which is still found within many disk cloning software titles (i.e., we can, otherwise, usually only recover to the device upon which the disk image backup has been taken to begin with).

    New Hardware & Drivers

    As I have already discussed so far, when simply cloning an existing system disk to a new disk for use within the same system, simple disk cloning software will be sufficient given that all of the other hardware within the system will remain the same. When migrating an active system over to a new piece of dissimilar hardware (e.g., when getting a new PC) we have to think about the fact that the new device will most likely have different hardware in operation.

    In such cases that we are migrating an existing system across to new hardware, one of the safest and most reliable ways of ensuring the migration process works correctly is via the use of specialist disk imaging backup software which includes special provisions for recovering to dissimilar hardware. Such software will commonly do this by taking into account any new hardware and either removing any old drivers specific to the existing device (so as to make use of Windows generic drivers on the new device in the first instance) or by simply adding-in the correct drivers for the new hardware to the image to ensure the existing system works after migration is complete.

    NB – It might be possible with newer versions of Windows to simply clone a disk and insert it straight into the new device (i.e., Windows can handle driver issues very well by itself and might be able to keep the system running after such a migration). This is, however, probably not the safest or most reliable method for performing such a system migration and extreme caution should be taken when not using specialist software such as the titles mentioned further down in this guide!

    Bringing Everything Together

    At this point it is hopefully clear that specialist disk imaging-based backup software (with provisions for restoring to dissimilar hardware) is often the safest and most reliable way of migrating an existing PC system over to a new piece of dissimilar hardware. Even though other methods and techniques do exist, it is definitely worth looking at disk imaging backup software with such functionality included to potentially save a lot of wasted time further down the line and help in mitigating any other unusual problems which might arise when using other, less official methods.

    Next, in the final section of this guide, I will be listing several disk imaging backup software titles, as have been reviewed here on BestBackupReviews.com, which feature the ability to optimise any disk image backups made for being restored onto dissimilar hardware in some capacity.

    Best Backup Software for Restoring to Dissimilar Hardware

    Finally, in this section of my guide I will be looking at several of the best disk image-based backup solutions (as reviewed here on BestBackupReviews.com) which feature the ability to restore disk image-based backups onto dissimilar hardware.

    As always, be sure to check the details of each backup solution listed below very carefully if you are planning to make any purchases and, if possible, always try to take advantage of any free trials to make sure any chosen solution works for your own requirements before making any purchases.

    1. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office

    Previously known as Acronis True Image, Cyber Protect Home Office is a leading backup solution featuring some of the best tools both for making disk image-based backups and recovering from these same backups over to new or dissimilar hardware.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - acronis universal restore

    When attempting to recover to dissimilar hardware, Cyber Protect Home Office features a specialist universal restore media building tool which will, amongst other features, prepare special recovery media which can insert suitable device drivers and further optimise the image recovery process to make it is suitable for any new hardware.

    With the Acronis universal restore functionality set aside, Cyber Protect Home Office is also a very powerful backup solution in its own right featuring the ability to make both disk image and file level backups, make use of shared network drives for storage as well as the ability to make use of both locally attached external disks or the Acronis cloud for saving any backed-up data safely. Cyber Protect Home Office is also a highly secure piece of backup software featuring strong data encryption technology (with up to AES 256-bit encryption), use of the Acronis Secure Zone storage protection technology plus the option to make use of the highly rated antivirus software which is integrated into the application itself.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - acronis antivirus

    With these core backup and security features set aside, we also see many other useful functions found within Cyber Protect Home Office. Such additional features include built-in file sharing and file synchronisation functionality, file archiving functionality, support for backing-up Microsoft Office 365 accounts plus smartphone apps for directly backing up both iOS and Android devices.

    Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is priced from $49.99 per year for the Essentials version which features the full Universal Recovery suite of tools (although it does exclude any use of the Acronis Cloud storage which is available on higher level plans starting at $54.99 per year). New users can get a full 30-day free trial of Cyber Protect Home Office via the official Acronis website.

    acronis review logo

    2) EaseUS ToDo Backup Home

    ToDo Backup Home is a leading multi-purpose backup application from software experts EaseUS. This is a tool which features multiple backup and recovery options including, as is relevant to this guide, the ability to restore disk imaging-based backups over onto new or dissimilar hardware with ease.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - easeus recovery media builder

    Transferring an existing system across to new hardware via EaseUS ToDo Backup beings with an existing disk image backup being taken on the original device and the recovery media being created from within the application itself (for booting the new PC into ready for the recovery process). With both of the aforementioned pieces in place, the “System Transfer” tool (found under the “Tools” menu in the EaseUS recovery environment) can then be used to recover the dissimilar hardware using the existing system’s disk image backup (Although do note that documentation from EaseUS suggests that checking and adding or updating any important device drivers on the new device should still be considered).

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - easeus secure zone

    With the System Transfer tool set aside, ToDo Backup is also a very powerful multipurpose backup application capable of creating both file level and full system image backups to one of a number of storage targets including network shares (NAS devices), external hard drives, third-party party cloud providers (including Google Drive and Dropbox) as well as to the EaseUS Cloud itself. Other useful features include the provision of a good automatic scheduling engine, support for strong AES 256-bit file encryption, use of the EaseUS Security Zone storage technology and a specialist Microsoft Outlook backup tool amongst many other useful features.

    EaseUS ToDo Backup Home is priced from just $39.95 per Year (or $59.95 per Year with 1TB of cloud storage included from EaseUS themselves). A perpetual edition with free lifetime upgrades is also available form just $79.95 per device as is a free edition with a good default set of features. EaseUS also offer a full 30-day free trial of ToDo Backup for anyone wanting to test the software out for themselves.

    3) O&O DiskImage 19

    DiskImage 19 is the latest in specialist disk imaging-based backup technology from specialist developers O&O Software. This is a very powerful piece of backup software which features, amongst many other useful functions, the M.I.R restore technology which can assist in restoring existing systems across to new or otherwise dissimilar hardware with ease.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - diskimage recovery media builder

    As is commonly the case with such restore operations to new or dissimilar hardware, the Machine Independent Restore functionality (M.I.R) which is found within DiskImage 19 relies upon a full system image-based backup of the source device first been taken and the new system then being booted in to the DiskImage recovery environment. Once in the recovery environment and performing a restore of a full system image-based backup, a special option (found under the “Additional options” menu during the restoration process) labelled “Adapt to different hardware” must be selected to accommodate the different hardware which is now being used.

    With the M.I.R recovery functionality set aside, DiskImage 19 remains a solid disk imaging-based backup solution in its own right with many options available for taking full system backups manually or on an automated schedule. DiskImage 19 includes the ability to apply strong AES 256-bit encryption, options for saving images in VHD or VHDX formats (and mounting said VHD or VHDX files within Windows) whilst also offering potentially unlimited historic file versioning in the process.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - diskimage cloning tools

    Other useful features including the one-click disk imaging technology and support for migrating (cloning) existing systems to SSD drives (with optimisations automatically made for such new drives) also exists within DiskImage 19 as does the option to also make regular full and incremental file-level backups as well.

    O&O DiskImage 19 is priced at a one-off cost of $49.95 per PC or just $69.95 for a 5-device licence pack. A full 30-day free trial of the software is also available via the official O&O Software website.

    4) Macrium Reflect 8 Home

    Macrium is one of the most popular names in disk imaging technology thanks to its excellent Reflect line of PC backup software which supports many advanced disk imaging-based backup and disk-to-disk cloning features.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - macrium recovery media builder

    One of the most important functions found within Macrium Reflect and the key technology which sees it included on this list is that of Macrium ReDeploy, a solution which allows for automatically optimising and restoring disk image-based backups onto new or dissimilar hardware. As with many other image-based software solutions which support restoring to dissimilar hardware, Reflect ReDeploy requires a full system image backup first be taken of the source PC and then that the ReDeploy technology is activated when booting into the new device using the Macrium WinPE based recovery media.

    Once booted into the Macrium recovery environment on the new device, the ReDeploy system will assist in seeking and adding any new or required drivers for the new hardware as might be applicable before completing the migration and recovery process in due course.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - macrium image guardian

    Moving on past this ability to recover to new or dissimilar hardware and Macrium Reflect also features many other useful technologies for helping to keep a PC and its data safe. Such features include file-level and full disk image-based backups, good automatic scheduling support, strong AES 256-bit encryption, the ability to mount disk image files as virtual drives within Windows plus good support for directly cloning disks (including to and from SSDs) amongst many other useful additions.

    Macrium Reflect 8 Home is available either on a subscription basis from just $49.99 per year, per PC (or across 4 devices for $79.98 per year) as well as on a perpetual licence from a one-off $79.99 per PC (or a one-off $239.97 across 4 devices). A 30-day free trial of Macrium Reflect 8 Home is also available via the official Macrium website.

    5) AOMEI Backupper

    AOMEI Backupper is a well-designed and easy to use piece of backup software featuring support for full making system image-based backups alongside use of the AOMEI Universal Restore technology which can be used for migrating any image-based backups across to new or dissimilar hardware.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - aomei cloning tools

    When making use of the AOMEI recovery environment in order to recover from a full system image backup, the AOMEI Universal Restore option can be switched on via the buttons found towards the bottom of the screen. Once activated, AOMEI Backupper will assist in automatically preparing and optimising the existing disk image-based backup of the source computer as it is migrated across to the new or dissimilar hardware.

    NB – The Universal Restore component is only available in the (premium) AOMEI Backupper Professional edition or higher (business versions). AOMEI do produce a free to use edition of Backupper which remains a great way to test out this software, but does not support universal restores as of now.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - aomei system imaging

    With the Universal Restore functionality set aside, AOMEI Backupper remains a solid multipurpose backup tool which is very easy to use and configure and features support for both file-based and disk image-based backups been made. Additional support is also included for directly cloning between physical disks (including SSD optimisation support), utilising automatic folder synchronisation between multiple devices plus provisions for protecting backups via strong AES 192-bit encryption amongst many other useful additions.

    AOMEI Backupper Standard is 100% free for personal use, although beware that this free version does not feature the Universal Restore components previously mentioned. AOMEI Backupper Professional (which does contain the Universal Restore component) can be obtained via the official AOMEI website and is priced at just $39.95 per PC, per year (or $49.95 with 1TB of cloud storage included) alongside a perpetual edition which can be purchased for a one-off payment of just $69.95 per PC (or $89.95 across 5 PCs) with free lifetime updates included.

    6) Paragon Backup & Recovery

    Backup & Recovery is a popular disk imaging-based backup application which supports recovery to dissimilar hardware and is now available as a part of the Paragon Hard Disk Manager suite.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - paragon recovery media builder

    Paragon Backup & Recovery, in much the same way as the other entries on this list, supports the migration of disk image-based backups from an existing system across to new or dissimilar via the use of their specialist recovery media. Once booted into this special Paragon recovery environment, the P2P Adjust OS wizard can then be activated and used to assist in the preparing and optimising of the disk image backup from the source system for use on the new hardware (which includes accommodating any new device drivers as applicable).

    With the P2P OS Adjust tool set aside, Backup & Recovery is also a very strong multipurpose PC backup solution in its own right and features the ability to make both disk image-level and file-level backups with options for applying strong encryption and making use of automatic scheduling as might be required as well.

    best backup software for restoring to dissimilar hardware - paragon recovery operations

    Being a part of the larger Paragon Hard Disk Manager suite means that Backup & Recovery also features alongside many other useful tools including specialist disk cloning tools (with support for automatically optimising SSD drives), secure disk wiping and data destruction tools, advanced formatting and partition management tools plus support for Windows VHD and VHDX file formats amongst many other available additions.

    Paragon Backup & Recovery is available in a free community edition with limited functionality included or as a full version via the fully featured Paragon Hard Disk Manager suite of tools which is priced at $79.95. More information on both editions of this tool can be found can be found via the official Paragon Software website.

    Best Backup Software for Dissimilar Hardware Recovery Summary

    Whilst the prospect of migrating an existing system across to newer and faster PC hardware is often a very positive one, the work involved in re-configuring a new device for your own individual preferences (including moving across any important documents and re-installing all necessary software) can often be a very time consuming and tedious experience. It is for this reason that specialist backup software which supports the migrating of an existing system between two different pieces of hardware can be very useful and can help to save a lot of time and stress during such a migration process.

    With this problem in mind, making use of specialist disk imaging-based backup software with universal restore support (as is listed just above) can often prove one of the fastest, safest and most reliable methods for migrating across to a new or otherwise dissimilar device. Continuing to use such software after such a move to keep a new device backed-up at regular intervals is also highly recommended and another ongoing benefit which can come from investing in such software.

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