I have a Windows Server 2008 R2 Machine with 1 physical hard drive.

I have an exact copy of the hardware of it, which I intend to use a a redundant backup in case my server fails (hardware or software).

I'd like to routinely "clone" my production server's hard drive, so that when it fails, I'll just swap it with the latest clone.

Is this even possible? If it is, what would be the simplest way to do this?

  • 2
    Put a second HD in the server... It is by far the most likely component to fail.
    – Chris S
    Mar 17, 2012 at 2:39
  • a RAID 1 would be nice in the first place, since I have identical parts of the components (mobo, psu, lots of ram, cpu, etc. and lots of hadr drives also) and can just swap on the fly. but it ran for a year with only 1 hard drive so here i am
    – A.B. User
    Mar 17, 2012 at 2:50
  • Just add a second drive and enable mirroring from within Windows.
    – Massimo
    Sep 23, 2013 at 18:59

10 Answers 10


A better solution would be to use Windows Server Backup.

  1. It's native to Windows Server 2008 R2

  2. It supports full computer backups which can be used to perform bare metal restores, even to different hardware

  3. It natively uses VSS

  4. It can be used to restore individual files as well as restoring the entire computer

  • Or run disk2vhd the resultant file can be native booted or if in a pinch booted within hyper-v.
    – tony roth
    Mar 16, 2012 at 14:17
  • I just ran Windows Server Backup. I installed a 2nd hard drive and put the full backup there (bare metal, vss..), scheduled it to run daily 11:30PM. In the event that my C:/ gets FUBAR'd, can I just throw it away and swap in the backup drive physically?
    – A.B. User
    Mar 19, 2012 at 8:10
  • No, it's not a clone, it's a backup. You would restore the server from the backup, either to the original drive, a new drive, or a new server.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 19, 2012 at 10:36
  • Ok thanks. I did some reading. What I need to do when my c:\ gets fubar'd and want to use the backup: 1. Throw away broken hdd. 2. Put in a new hdd 3. Boot using my Win 2k8 r2 dvd 4. Choose Repair Computer 4. Select the backup
    – A.B. User
    Mar 19, 2012 at 10:55

Cloning the hard drive offline on a schedule is not something that I'm comfortable with. With the hard drives offline it is very vulnerable to an untoward change that could render the server unbootable or data damaged. This is true no matter how careful a person is. That is not to say that that sort of thing happens a lot, but taking a live server offline and rendering the operating system's checks and balances of permissions and process ownership completely dead can lead to some scary possibilities.

I recommend two possibilities:

Option One

Use a product that is intended to clone one server to another server while the source server is alive and running. This is not a backup and recovery product, but a high availability product. For example, Marathon everRun or Vision Solution's DoubleTake product.

There's no hacky "take it offline once in a while, back it up and hope we can restore the server if something bad happens - oh and I hope the data is fresh enough to keep us from getting fired" happening here. You can be up and running on the recovery server within seconds using data that is itself potentially only seconds old (or not old at all, depending on how you set it up).

Option Two

Use backup tools that are intended to perform image-based backups of live systems, particularly products that use CDP. The image will likely be block based and have point in time recovery options. You can then recover to different hardware, and it often doesn't even have to be the exact same hardware. JoeQwerty's solution is good enough for many shops - Windows Backup has come a long way.

Whatever you do, I advise you to not take the server down to make the backups. That's flirting with disaster, inefficient and way to much manual labor for a SysAdmin. There are three rules to effective systems administration:

  1. Automate
  2. Automate
  3. Automate

Anything else is just busywork.

  • If that's all tl;dr then read just the last paragraph. Mar 17, 2012 at 3:58

Clonezilla which is opensource ;)

  • I searched Clonezilla. Let me see, 1. Download and create Clonezilla Live CD 2. Mount the target hard drive to the host computer 3. Boot host computer to Live CD 4. Clone host hard drive to target hard drive (device-device i assume?). Should be this simple right?
    – A.B. User
    Mar 16, 2012 at 9:46
  • Or you can clone via network IIRC (ssh or CIFS).
    – jirib
    Mar 16, 2012 at 10:23
  • 1
    ...and also doesn't have great third-party RAID card support because it's Debian based.
    – Wesley
    Mar 17, 2012 at 2:19

Symantec System Recovery is made for this sort of thing. It can make backups while the server is running, and restore to a virtual machine or bare metal, even if the bare metal hardware isn't 100% the same.

I haven't used it in about 3.5 years, but at the time it worked very well


What is wrong with mirroring the drive in Disk Management? It is free and you don't need to even restore. Yes, it doesn't help if you delete a file and want it back but that is another issue. For that, you need backup.


I've used Paragon Drive Backup for years. I use two SSD's -main and recovery. I setup a scheduled disk copy of main to recovery that runs daily. It creates a clone disk that can be placed in any identical hardware an boots no problem. I put my drives in DataPort cartriges. I can turn off main and reboot off of recovery. I test this periodically. I also run 5 days of round robin disk image backups to two hard drives in the server. So I've always got a spare disk and two copies of backups going back 5 days. That's kept me in business for 15 + years.

Paragon can restore to a different machine, but I've folloed the easier root of having spare identical hardware.


I would highly recommend using DISM.

That's what I did for a successful P2V migration of an existing Windows Server 2008 R2 setup to the Hyper-V client partition running within Windows 8.1:

  1. Removed all proprietary storage drivers from physical Windows Server 2008 R2 setup using devmgmt.msc snap-in.

  2. Removed the Hyper-V role from the physical Windows Server 2008 R2 setup using Server Manager.

  3. Removed the VMware Workstation application from the physical Windows Server 2008 R2 setup using appwiz.cpl applet.

  4. Sysprepped the physical Windows Server 2008 R2 setup for hardware independent deployment using: c:> sysprep /oobe /generalize /shutdown

  5. Attached the physical hard drive containing sysprepped partition to my dual bay hard drive dock.

  6. Downloaded the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows® 8.1.

  7. Created an empty VHDX virtual hard drive using Hyper-V Manager and attached it to Windows 8.1 by double-clicking the empty hard drive in Windows Explorer within the booted Windows 8.1.

  8. Created a WIM image of the boot partition with Windows Server 2008 R2 setup using DISM:

    C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\Assessment and Deployment Kit\Deployment Tools\amd64\DISM>dism /capture-image /imagefile:d:\image.wim /capturedir:s:\ /n ame:"Windows Server 2008 R2" /compress:fast /bootable /checkintegrity /verify

  9. Deployed the created WIM image to the attached VHDX drive (drive letter T:\ in my case):

    C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\Assessment and Deployment Kit\Deployment Tools\amd64\DISM>dism /apply-image /imagefile:d:\install.wim /applydir:t:\ /index:1 /checkintegrity /verify

Important: Although there's only a single one partition in the created WIM image, you still HAVE TO specify index 1 when applying this image to a target drive. If you however attach this WIM image, you'll see there is no folder named 1 in this image.

  1. Detached the VHDX virtual hard drive from Windows 8.1 using diskmgmt.msc snap-in and attached it to the newly created virtual machine.

I use ShadowProtect. It works unbelievably well, and is perfect if you ever have to restore to alternate hardware. We currently use it to take daily incremental images of an SBS server.


Storagecraft Shadowprotect

You can set it up to replicate on a continual basis to either identical hardware, or different. You could replicate to a vm on the secondary machine for example. It just works.


Try Server Virtualization. Its the best way to get HA, Fastly Clone servers and backup as well.

Server Virtualizacion solution can help you with this.

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