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I'm helping a friend with a dead hard drive on a Windows XP machine. He has full backups with Norton Systemworks' Save & Restore. Our hope is to restore a backup to a new hard drive without having to reinstall Windows on the new disk. Is that possible? What's going wrong?

We've been through about 10 round-trips of the Norton system restore disc process. We've done what looks like a full restore: a spot check shows lots of files are on the new disk, including a populated \Windows\System folder, user files, etc. But when we go to boot from the hard drive it never starts loading Windows, just displays a text mode screen with a line of ANSI garbage on it starting "U___h". The ANSI smiley faces are a bit ironic, but not helping us. I've never seen a Windows box fail to boot in this way.

My guess is Norton Save & Restore has not restored some essential part of the bootstrap to the new disk. I can't figure out whether the restore even should be able to do that. There's no DOS fdisk tool on the recovery disk. There is a special program for activating a boot partition, another (terrible) program for editing the partition table, and a third program for writing "the first track". Sadly, we have no separate copy of the first track from the old dead disk to copy from.

Is there some way to do a complete restore from Norton Save & Recover? I'd like to avoid booting and recovering from Windows install media because I have no confidence that reinstalling Windows on top of (or underneath) the Norton recovered disk would result in a system that works like it did before the drive crash.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't have the System Restore software here, so I can't look at it, and my memory is a bit fuzzy, but there are two places in the restoration where you have to check boxes in order to make the disk bootable. One is something like "restore the Master Boot Record" and the other is something like "Make the disk bootable". I believe that they are on separate screens and at least one is hidden behind an advanced option, so if you just click through the minimum number of screens you won't even see it. Sorry I'm not being more specific, if I were at work I could boot the thing up and give you better instructions but it is Saturday and thankfully I am not there today.

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Thanks for the Saturday help! The main thing I learned from this is that it should be possible to restore a bootable system. That'd good news. There is an extra hidden options screen with several "Advanced options" including Set drive active (for booting OS), Restore original disk signature, Restore MBR. Only two of those three are set by default, no MBR. I'll try another restore with MBR and report back. – Nelson Aug 22 '09 at 17:18
My system has now booted from a restored backup. I think that "restore MBR" was the solution. The option is somewhat hidden; the default path for choosing a backup doesn't show the screen. I got there by clicking "Change" and/or choosing a backup image to restore manually. There's a dialog in the wizard titled "Recovery Options" that has the "Advanced Options" pane that includes the MBR option. – Nelson Aug 22 '09 at 20:33

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