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I'm just curious if there is a way to basically 'copy' a computer, all of the system settings, files, temporary files, programs EVERYTHING about a computer on a external hard drive so you can quickly reload it to another computer if it fails.
to give context, we use tons of computers to run our HMI's when one computer fails, we try to fix it, then if we cant repair we rebuild a new computer all together. Starting with reinstalling the programs, setting up all the windows settings, etc.. it takes a bit to do and not a big deal really, BUT was wondering if we could just bypass this all together by having something like an external hard drive that we could just plug into and install everything we need including the system settings.
so i guess my question is, is an external hard drive capable of this ^?
 

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google ghost or clone a hard drive.

As long as the hardware is around the same vintage it should be able to make a bootable swapable drive.
 

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Dope-less Hope Fiend
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There several backup/restore software programs. Here is an example:

Example of backup software

Usually you can choose a device, or web storage location, where the copy is saved.
 

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What you are looking for is called an "Image". The image is basically a snapshot of the hard drive when it is fully installed but without data on it. Backups are for the data that is accumulated, the image is for the recreation of the drive(s). Companies use images to create machines so all their employees have the same "set-up" when they get a new or rebuilt machine.

Cheers
John
 

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You can clone your drive with software. You can also Image your drive using software. I'm not a computer expert but I think you might run into all kinds of driver and hardware issues if you simply moved a drive from one computer to the next unless all the hardware at least somewhat matched up. ?
I know you can kind of do it with Linux but not windows or Mac based systems ?
I have moved drives on older windows systems like the Sony Viao and the OS would not even work because it was licensed to just the one computer it was installed on.
 

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You can clone your drive with software. You can also Image your drive using software. I'm not a computer expert but I think you might run into all kinds of driver and hardware issues if you simply moved a drive from one computer to the next unless all the hardware at least somewhat matched up. ?
I know you can kind of do it with Linux but not windows or Mac based systems ?
You know enough to know there would be issues if the hardware is different. Indeed there would be.

If you make sure all the hardware is the same cloning is a good way to go.

Maybe you could talk corporate into upgrading to newer hmi’s that don’t require a pc. Seems kinda cumbersome to need a PC for each one.


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Discussion Starter #8
we are operating on windows 7, and we use the same hardware on all the computers, budget is always the problem when you propose an upgrade that doesnt directly increase their costs...so as a quality of life for the guys in our shop im looking for a simple solution. From my understanding, the computers are identical to each other, same hard drives, motherboards, power supply, etc...'cloning' shouldnt be an issue?
 

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We use to leave a copy of the windows install disk and drivers on a separate partition of the drive and do a install from there. That way if the hardware is close windows plug and play would load the drivers required for the different hardware with out much of a fight.
Then along came IT with all there security measures and it was back to square one where they supplied the PC pre-loaded and we then installed our software.
 

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we are operating on windows 7, and we use the same hardware on all the computers, budget is always the problem when you propose an upgrade that doesnt directly increase their costs...so as a quality of life for the guys in our shop im looking for a simple solution. From my understanding, the computers are identical to each other, same hard drives, motherboards, power supply, etc...'cloning' shouldnt be an issue?
Remember for a while Microsoft was offering free updates from Windows7 to Windows 10? Well, I know a guy who knows a guy who is still updating Windows7 machines to Windows 10 without purchasing a license and they activate successfully. Believe it or not the same hardware performs at least as well with Windows 10, usually better, and backward compatibility with software has been great. If you can do a RAM upgrade and upgrade to a solid state drive before you do the update (cheap and easy these days) it's a big win, really like a new PC.

As for cloning - you have to be careful with digital licenses for Windows, you have to use the system preparation utility, you have to go through the out-of-box procedure, you have to either have identical hardware or straighten out the drivers after you image, you have to re-activate office, you have to apply updates that have come through since the image was created, etc. etc. ...

On the other hand these days in most cases, with a fresh PC with a solid state drive and decent performance, booting up, going through the out-of-box procedure, and installing software is pretty quick and straightforward. So cloning doesn't save as much time as it once did, IMO you have to have a lot of similar / identical machines for it to pay.
 
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we are operating on windows 7, and we use the same hardware on all the computers, budget is always the problem when you propose an upgrade that doesnt directly increase their costs...so as a quality of life for the guys in our shop im looking for a simple solution. From my understanding, the computers are identical to each other, same hard drives, motherboards, power supply, etc...'cloning' shouldnt be an issue?
With windows you have to stay on the same machine. You can't clone box A and run that drive on box B without having another Windows license. But you can clone Box A and keep that handy in case you ever experience disc failure on Box A. As long as mobo/cpu remain married, you're good to go.

If you were running an OS which required no license (Linux) you could clone Box A and run it on Box B, etc.

SSD's are a great value today. Newegg had some nice ones $55 recently. Maybe they still do. Buy Samsung and you get real nice cloning software too.

We recently replaced all the HDD's in our shop with SSD's. The HDD's are still mounted but disconnected in each box. If we get a drive failure, we can plug in the HDD and run off that, or (and) clone a new SSD.

Everything runs better on a SSD.
 

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Just to add a bit to this, if you "image" your drive(s), they are not matched to any specific computer but to a particular set of hardware requirements. Imaging is good if you have essentially the hardware and software on every machine. This includes drives, memory chips, drivers, ports and a suite of software. You have a single image that will work on a group of machines. This is generally used when there is an enterprise application and individual licensing is not required. This essentially "resets" your machine back to "zero" as it is done after an initial install on a fresh machine and then is used on any number of other machines. This is a compressed file that is used over and over.

Cloning - is a uncompressed copy of the machine at any point in time. Each machine needs to be done separately and each "clone" will only work on that machine. If you have individual licensing, if you change out some components the licensing will not work. The EULA generator records a variety of hardware items such as the motherboard, disk drives, memory chips, processor chip, etc and compares them with the last scan. If too much has changed, your licensing will not work, and you have to get a new key sent to you. Obviously you can make some changes, such as a drive upgrade or memory upgrade; you just can't do it all at once because the generator will think it is a different machine. This is an uncompressed file and can only be used on one machine.

Pros and cons to both approaches.

Cheers
John
 

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You know enough to know there would be issues if the hardware is different. Indeed there would be.

If you make sure all the hardware is the same cloning is a good way to go.

Maybe you could talk corporate into upgrading to newer hmi’s that don’t require a pc. Seems kinda cumbersome to need a PC for each one.


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I guess if you were just using similar hardware and only running basic software like office you would not have much trouble moving drives from one system to another.
Licensing is just a cost and not really a show stopper. I was thinking more about graphics, video, and audio applications like Pro Tools or Photo Shop. Those programs all have to be installed separately and each one might have all types of plug ins that have to be installed separately. Often times you have to verify that you are licensed to use them. Then you could spend hours or days just contacting companies for approval to port over their software to another system. Just something to consider, but for basic computing it's no big deal to clone a drive and would be a smart move.
 

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Whatever actual method you pick just make sure it is well documented on how the restore process is performed. Not just a 1/2 page thrown together piece of paper but something that a reasonably computer literate person can follow.

IT/computer people tend to move around a lot and if a computer does fail it’s a safe bet that whoever set up this backup & restore method will not be around. Think of two chef’s trying to agree on how to make a pizza.
 

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I worked in IT for a few years. Most of the replies above are correct, there is no reason that you can’t save a hard drive image and simply copy it when you need to restore.

This has actually gotten much easier in recent years. Most of the worries about drivers and licensing are just not really issues any more. Windows 10 will more than likely sort it out, even if hardware changes fairly significantly.

I’ve used Easus for several years. It’s very low cost and quite capable.
 

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To add to this someone suggested that Mac OS does not allow for this but this us really simple usually in fact on Macs.

CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper software have never let me down when I needed to copy or Image a Mac OS drive.


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Just watch your Control Software licenses. AB, Ionics and Bristol did not like either way, we had to still do a licenses move with all. Tried image and clone.
Cowboy
 

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I guess if you were just using similar hardware and only running basic software like office you would not have much trouble moving drives from one system to another.
Licensing is just a cost and not really a show stopper. I was thinking more about graphics, video, and audio applications like Pro Tools or Photo Shop. Those programs all have to be installed separately and each one might have all types of plug ins that have to be installed separately. Often times you have to verify that you are licensed to use them. Then you could spend hours or days just contacting companies for approval to port over their software to another system. Just something to consider, but for basic computing it's no big deal to clone a drive and would be a smart move.
If by similar you mean EXACT then yes I agree. It’s sometimes not even good enough to have the exact same hardware if it’s a different revision.


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I'm just curious if there is a way to basically 'copy' a computer, all of the system settings, files, temporary files, programs EVERYTHING about a computer on a external hard drive so you can quickly reload it to another computer if it fails.
to give context, we use tons of computers to run our HMI's when one computer fails, we try to fix it, then if we cant repair we rebuild a new computer all together. Starting with reinstalling the programs, setting up all the windows settings, etc.. it takes a bit to do and not a big deal really, BUT was wondering if we could just bypass this all together by having something like an external hard drive that we could just plug into and install everything we need including the system settings.
so i guess my question is, is an external hard drive capable of this ^?
Yes....but

The issue is in a part of Windows as an example called the HAL, hardware abstraction layer. When you do a fresh install Windows starts in “preboot” mode. It determines the hardware configuration and sets everything up for only that PC. Linux does it too but it doesn’t actually remove the unused software. Windows also uses the hard drive volume id as a serial number for licensing. This can be changed.

Software imaging or backup software exists. Acronis is a popular one. It is aware of and fixes all these problems. There are advantages to setting up a fresh system but Acronis fixes hardware differences like hard drive sizes and volume IDs. I’d needed it cab reset the HAL. Better yet just load Linux and ban Windows to a VM...

You can also run your system in a light weight “simulation” of a computer. Virtualbox is one. The operating system may or may not even be aware. This is called virtualization. I have over a dozen copies of Windows with different versions stored on backup as well as on my work laptop. I can run old obsolete software, reboot windows in seconds, make backups (called a snapshot) in seconds while it runs. Then if I say do an upgrade and it doesn’t work I can just reboot on the backup again in seconds. IT departments can store “master” copies of say the “standard” office setup. On servers with the click of a mouse in under a minute I can move all the virtual servers from one physical server to another one for maintenance.

I can also spin up multiple systems limited only by memory and CPU cores, simultaneously.

Anyone doing PLC programming probably knows that getting PLC software to work together, even from the same vendor, is a nightmare. And often it’s years behind in terms of say supporting different Windows versions. With virtualization I just keep each software package in its own virtual machine with all the files stored on the host system (it looks like a network drive). That way I never have to deal with all that compatibility stuff.

This would seem slow. But there is hardware assist in Intel and AMD processors and we replace the video and hard drive software with special “virtual aware” versions. I can even copy and paste from one system to another seamlessly. We did performance testing back 15 years ago when I first tried this. The performance loss was under 1%.

The software is free. Look at Virtualbox. Acronis will convert PCs for you. If you like your computer you can keep it. And by the way it’s time to switch to a high performance and secure system like Ubuntu Linux. Then you can run your buggy virus loving operating system in safety.
 
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