Windows 7: Restoring an Image to Dissimilar Hardware

I had to reinstall Windows 7 on a desktop machine.  I had an image of the Windows installation, made in Acronis True Image 2011.  This post describes my effort to restore that image after I had changed the motherboard and hard drive.

I did have the Acronis Plus package that was supposed to enable me to restore an image to dissimilar hardware, but I had never managed to figure out what drivers were needed in order to make that work.  It seemed that Windows had improved anyway, in the sense that it might let me restore a working setup without that Acronis innovation.

The restore itself was easy enough.  I started by connecting the target hard drive to another computer, using an easily accessed external USB drive.  I divided that drive into several partitions, detailed in another post.  One such partition was called PROGRAMS.  This was 150GB, though it could have been smaller.  This was where Windows and other installed programs were located.  Another partition was called BACKROOM.  I copied the Acronis image into that partition.  A third partition on that drive was INSTALL.  This was where I saved the installation files for various programs, in case I had to install them again someday, along with my customized Start Menu that included the actual executable files for various portable programs.  Since I almost always installed programs into default locations on the C (PROGRAMS) drive, the links stored and sorted in that start menu were already where I wanted them to be; I didn’t have to re-sort them.  And since the links were in the same place on both of my desktop computers, I could share that Start Menu between computers, so that sorting Start Menu items on one computer automatically achieved sorting on the other as well.  I didn’t have to restore an image of the INSTALL partition; I just had to copy its files over, at this point, from the other computer.

Once the partitions were set up, I put the target hard drive into the nonworking computer with the new motherboard.  I booted Acronis from a YUMI multiboot drive and restored the image.  Then I booted the computer.  All systems go:  the system booted; Windows ran.  I was seeing a monitor without the appropriate display drivers.  Everything was huge; things didn’t fit too well on the screen.  I needed to start installing drivers, for the display and otherwise.

Some of the needed fixes happened automatically.  I saw comment balloons from the taskbar, notifying me that various device driver software had installed successfully.  It turned out that Windows was silently installing updates that would finish installing upon reboot.  Another automatic fix:  I had a startup batch file that automatically ran the Windows System File Checker (sfc /scannow) when the system started.  I didn’t know if that Checker actually fixed anything, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  (Note that the startup batch file did not run right away; first I had to go into Disk Management (Start > Run > diskmgmt.msc) and change the drive letter of the INSTALL partition to drive W, which was where I had told Windows that my Start Menu would be located.  I also had to set the BACKROOM partition to drive X, since that was the drive I had previously designated as a paging file location.

Other needed fixes did not happen automatically.  For one thing, I had to go into a command window (Start > Run > cmd) and type CHKDSK /F.  It promised to do the requested check upon reboot.  Also, I had set Glary Registry Cleaner to run at startup, so as to fix errors in the registry.  (I had found GRC to be much less aggressive and risky than CCleaner; I hoped but was not sure whether the newer Glary Registry Repair was similar.)

As I soon found, it was helpful to have System Restore (Start > Run > rstrui.exe) up and running.  This saved me from having to redo some repair steps when it turned out that other steps were counterproductive.  For instance, problems arose from my attempt to install drivers and utilities provided on the CD included with the new motherboard.  Those seemed to fix display problems, but in exchange they gave me crapware and BSODs (blue screens of death) upon reboot.  The second time around, I decided to hold off on the motherboard driver installation, preferring to work through the Windows updates first and then see what else I might need.  That was a mistake, because on reboot I got a completely illegible screen.  It seemed that I should have installed at least the display drivers before rebooting.  Oddly, though, that problem did not recur upon a subsequent reboot.  Possibly Windows Update fixed it.  But I still didn’t have a good display situation, so I did ultimately have to install drivers (though not the utilities) found on that CD.  That still left the audio not functioning right, so eventually I went to the ASRock website and downloaded and installed the latest drivers.

Another problem on the previous go-round:  I had noticed that some Control Panel items were not functioning.  Despite extensive searching, I had not found a fix for this.  That problem recurred on the second try.  There were endless suggestions of the usual variety — check for viruses, test your RAM, test your hard drive — but I did not feel that these generic suggestions were any more relevant in this case than they were in many other cases.  I was looking for a specific explanation of why one Control Panel item (e.g., Mouse; Date and Time) would function, while others (e.g., Programs and Features; Windows Update) would not.  Attempts to run them from the command line did not make a difference.  This problem recurred after running System Restore.  It seemed that the only reliably effective solution reported by users was to reinstall Windows.  Somehow, though, this problem went away after I installed drivers and rebooted.  That had not fixed the problem on the previous go-round.  I was not sure why it was different this time.

After one reboot, I noticed that System File Checker (sfc /scannow) aborted.  It was running from a batch file, not from a command I had manually entered, so I did not see the error message, other than to catch the slightest glimpse of what was, I believe, some mention of “aborting” or some such word.  I wondered whether it could have been triggered by the fact that I had made a System Restore backup while it was running, five minutes earlier in its process.  I re-ran the scan, this time from the command line.  For some reason, it ran much more quickly this time.  Later, I suspected this was because there were fewer files to fix — which suggested that, if SFC ran slowly, I had better run it from the command line, not from a batch file, so as to see what was going on.  Anyway, SFC did not abort.  It finished, but with an error message:

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.

Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log.  For example C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log

To clarify that, “windir” was short for the Windows directory, typically C:\Windows.  I went there and opened CBS.log in Notepad.  There was an incredible number of entries, and they were hard to read with my still-imperfect screen resolution.

Ideally, I would have dealt with the apparent problems in CBS.log by rebooting, at this point, with the Windows installation DVD (above).  Perhaps that DVD’s process of detecting system errors would clear up some of this stuff from the CBS.log.  But Windows had meanwhile been downloading updates, and I knew they would install automatically upon reboot.  I decided to preempt that by proceeding with Windows Update now.  It had been waiting in the background.  Since the updates had already been downloaded, Windows Update went directly into its installation phase.  Then I rebooted.  The updates had evidently been the solution to the screen resolution problem.  So now that I was not at risk of interrupting a half-finished update process, I could reboot again and run the Windows installation DVD and use its Repair option.  It searched for Windows installations and reported what it had reported previously:

System Recovery Options

Windows found problems with your computer’s startup options.

Do you want to apply repairs and restart your computer?

I went with that.  I knew it was unlikely to find more repairs on a second try, so I did not restart the Windows DVD.  Instead, I let Windows reboot normally.  There were more updates.  The system evidently didn’t need to reboot, but I rebooted anyway just to be sure.  Then I ran sfc /scannow again.  It gave me the same errors as before.  So apparently the updates and the Windows DVD process had not solved everything.  I took another look at CBS.log.  I wasn’t sure which corrupt files it had been unable to fix, or what to do about them.  A search led to a Microsoft webpage telling me to type this command:

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\logs\cbs\cbs.log  >sfcdetails.txt

That produced a file called sfcdetails.txt in the folder where I had typed the command.  I viewed it with Notepad.  The “[SR]” part told the FINDSTR command to produce lines containing those characters.  The Microsoft webpage explained that [SR] indicated a line written to the log by the System File Checker (SFC.exe).  Within those, the Microsoft webpage said, I might see entries referring to a “Verify and Repair transaction” or “corrupted file.”  It seemed that the ones I was looking for were those that said “Cannot repair.”  There were only four entries like that, and they all referred to the same file:  MsSp7en.acl.  I played around quite a while, trying to deal with that.  Renaming that file, replacing it with a copy from the other computer — these steps made no difference.  CBS.log still contained error messages referring solely to that file.  The concept appeared to be that there would be errors as long as (a) the copy of MsSp7en.acl here or in the “store” (apparently C:\Windows\winsxs) was corrupted or missing and (b) a file elsewhere (or possibly a line in the registry) continued to refer to it.  Again I renamed MsSp7en.acl to have an .old extension, and then, this time, I ran Glary Registry Cleaner again, in hopes of possibly eliminating the reference.  Unfortunately, the error in CBS.log persisted.  A search did not turn up any immediate way of fixing the store.  It looked like I was going to have to live with that problem.

So — aside from a few other minor fixes not recorded here — those were the problems that I ran into when restoring an Acronis image to dissimilar hardware.  Despite the hassles, it was vastly less time-consuming than it would have been to reinstall and reconfigure everything.  Unfortunately, it was not a great installation.  The system ran for weeks, but it ran with occasional problems and daily slowdowns where it would pause for at least several seconds.  I had already been having problems with Firefox; now those were worse.  Ultimately, it seemed, I would have to reinstall Windows 7 after all, if I hoped to have a smoothly running system.

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