Q. Can I restore my saved Windows 7 disk image to my new Windows 8 PC?

Q. Can I restore my saved Windows 7 disk image to my new Windows 8 PC?

Q. I've religiously created a disk image every month so I can restore my hard drive if necessary. Soon, I'm going to buy a new computer that will have Windows 8 installed. Can I restore my saved Win7 image to the new computer? Or do I have to reinstall all my programs, because it’s Windows 8?

A. No! Don’t restore a Win7 image to a Win8 PC.

First, I’ll tell you why that won’t correctly move your user files and software to Win8. Then, I’ll tell you several ways that will work.

Here’s the problem with using a disk image between dissimilar systems: A classic (Win7-style) system image contains everything that was in the original setup — user files, installed programs, the operating system itself, the system-specific drivers, etc. Restoring a Win7 image to the new PC will completely overwrite the Win8 installation. Your new, bought-and-paid-for Win8 setup will be gone. Your old Win7 setup will be force-fitted onto the new PC.

That’s not what you want! 

As if wiping out your Windows 8 set-up weren't enough, the restored Win7 likely won’t work well. The restored image will contain only the drivers from the previous PC, and none of the drivers that came with the new hardware.

Here’s a better approach: When you get your new PC, use Microsoft’s free Windows Easy Transfer, or an external disk, or a network to move your files from the old PC to the new. (See the next item for details.)

But I think the best method to set up software on a new PC — especially when you’re moving between different systems and different Windows versions — is to bite the bullet and manually reinstall the software.

A clean, from-the-ground-up install of your software ensures that everything gets set up properly. You’ll have none of the baggage from the old operating system and setup that might come along for the ride and needlessly complicate — or otherwise mess up — the new system.

In any case, when you’re done setting up your new PC, make new, Win8-specific backups and images.

(Originally published on Windows Secrets on Thursday, July 9, 2015.)

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Editor's note: On Wednesdays, Windows Supersite will be featuring an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

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