By Teresa / Last update December 13, 2021

What is bare metal recovery in Windows Server Backup

Bare metal recovery (BMR) is a feature of Windows Server Backup that allows you to restore your operating system (OS) or the entire disk to another machine with dissimilar hardware from “bare metal” state. It does not require any previously installed software or system on the destination machine, so you can also migrate OS to virtual machine or vice versa via BMR.

Bare Metal Backup

Case: restore Windows Server bare metal backup to dissimilar hardware 

Hello, I am planning to perform a bare metal backup for my Active Directory infrastructure. In case my entire AD DC are compromised I need to overcome from the situation. Using bare metal backup I heard that from MS article we can restore the backup to dissimilar Hardware. Wondering how could I complete the restore. Thanks!

Bare metal backup is a common data protection way on Windows Server, and also the prerequisite for bare metal recovery. You can try it to protect Active Directory infrastructure or other workloads. And yes, this kind of backup could be restored to dissimilar hardware. Let's get to know how it works.

Preparations for bare metal recovery

Windows Server Backup (WSB) was first introduced in Windows Server 2008. To use Windows Server Backup to restore bare metal, you need to:

1. Create a bare metal backup of Windows Server 2008 (R2), 2012 (R2), 2016 or 2019. When creating the Windows Server bare metal backup with WSB, you need to select the item “Bare metal recovery”.

2. To perform bare metal recovery, you need a Windows Server recovery disk or installation disc of corresponding OS to access Windows Recovery Environment. For example, if you want to restore Windows Server 2012, the recovery disk must be made in Windows Server 2012. Note if the target machine has no system, you need to use Windows installation disk because system repair disc or recovery drive won’t work on non-system computers.

3. Make sure the destination hard drive to receive the bare metal recovery has enough disk space. If you want to restore to a new machine, the new hard drive needs to be in the same size or larger than the source disk that was backed up regardless of the size of the data.

4. The target computer should have the same boot mode (Legacy/UEFI) as the source computer. Otherwise, you will likely receive errors during restoration. You can boot into BIOS to ensure the boot mode is the same, or manually reconfigure it. If you change the boot mode, remember to convert disk into the corresponding partition style.

How to perform Windows Server bare metal recovery step by step

With the things prepared, you can follow the steps below to restore your Windows Server to another machine. This method applies to Windows Server 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2019 including R2. Some details on entering the recovery environment may be different.

Step 1. Insert the Windows Server installation disc on your new server (here is server 2008) and boot from it. Select the language and keyboard, and then click “Next”.

Install Windows

Step 2. In the next screen, click “Repair your computer” instead of “Install now”. Then, select the operating system that you want to repair and click “Next”.

Repair Your Computer

Step 3. All the recovery options will be listed here. If you prefer to use the command line, you can select “Command Prompt” to perform Wbadmin bare metal recovery. Otherwise, select “Windows Complete PC Restore” to perform Windows Server Backup restore.

PC Restore

Note: If the Windows Server bare metal backup is created on 2012 or later version, the recovery tool in the Windows recovery environment will be "System Image Recovery" rather than "Windows Complete PC Restore". Just select it and then choose bare matal backup to be restored.

Step 4. In the next screen, select the BMR backup image to be restored and click “Next”. If the image is saved on an external hard drive, you should connect the drive to your new server.

Choose Backup

Step 5. After specifying the backup version, click “Finish” to start the bare metal restore. This might take a while depending on how much data to be restored.


When the process is complete, you should be able to boot your old OS on the new server machine. However, it may fail when the destination disk is smaller than the source disk in capacity. Also, it is a little bit complicated for common users. A user who has less server knowledge may make mistakes during the process.

In this case, one user-friendly and professional Windows Server backup and restore software can be a better choice: AOMEI Backupper Server edition. It is able to restore Windows Server backup to different hardware in simple clicks, also provides bootable media creation to boot target computer.

More importantly, it has almost no restrictions to server operating system, that is to say, it works on all Server OS including Windows Server 2022, 2019, 2016, 2012, 2008, 2003, etc.

Best Windows Server bare metal backup and recovery software

When you use Windows Server Backup to perform bare metal recovery, it can hardly be achieved to restore system to a smaller disk. And there is a possibility that your new server has different firmware, which can cause errors like system image restore fails because of UEFI/BIOS.

But with AOMEI Backupper Server, things may be different. It supports bare metal restore to smaller disk with the intelligent-sector technology, and it enables you to restore system from MBR to GPT or vice versa directly.

In addition, it allows you to create a recovery disk on any server computer and use it on the rest of Windows computer for disaster recovery. Download and have a try.

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How-to: Perform Windows Server bare metal recovery to different hardware

Here take bare metal recovery Windows Server 2008 as an example to show you the entire process, please see below and follow the step by step guide. Note this software also applies to bare metal recovery Windows Server 2012/2016/2019/2022 etc.

Step 1. Create a system image backup on your Windows Server using AOMEI Backupper Server. Or, you can create a disk image for a full server backup.

Windows Server system backup

Step 2. Create the bootable media with AOMEI Backupper Server to boot the target machine.

Create Windows Server bootable media

Step 3. Connect the bootable media to your new server and boot from it. If you have saved the backup image on an external drive, connect the drive to your new server as well.

Step 4. After loading the main interface of AOMEI Backupper, click "Restore" and “Select Image File” to locate the backup image you created before.

Select Image File

Step 5. In the “Image Information” page, select “Restore this system backup” and then tick “Restore system to other location” in the bottom.

Restore to Other Location

Step 6. Specify the destination location to receive the server bare metal backup, and then click "Next” to continue.

Select Destination

Step 7. Preview the operation. The "Universal Restore" option should be checked by default when it detects the new computer has different hardware. Click "Start Restore" to start Windows Server backup bare metal recovery.

Preview Restore

• If your target disk is an SSD disk, tick "SSD Alignment" to further accelerate the reading and writing speed of it.
• If you want to move system to a server with the same hardware, you could clone system with "System Clone" or clone hard drive with "Disk Clone", which is much easier. After cloning, you can directly install the drive on new server and boot from it without the restoring step. 

In a short while, the process will be completed, then you start your new server and enjoy it. It is quite simple and less prone to errors, making it suitable for all level of computer users.

If you'd like to perform bare metal recovery on a large scale, you could consider AOMEI Backupper Technician Plus, which can help you deploy system to multiple computers in a company simultaneously, and offers unlimited billable technical services. In addition, you can copy installation directory for portable version creation.

One-click creation of server bootable bare metal recovery partition

There is another way to achieve the purpose of protecting Windows Server. To be specific, you create a bootable recovery partition on your new server (or current running server). When the system crashes due to unexpected errors, you can boot into the recovery partition and run a system restore in order to making workloads or business back to normal as soon as possible.

AOMEI OneKey Recovery supports creating bootable recovery partition as well as system images of current state on Windows Server 2022, 2019, 2016, 2012 (R2), etc. in 1-click. And it allows you to enable boot option of this software or set quick recovery key "F11" or "A" to access this software and restore from disaster quickly. You may want to download it and have a try. In addition, it still has a user-friendly interface that makes the steps easily understood.

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Here is brief guide on how to use AOMEI OneKey Recovery to recover a system image state. Make sure you've created a recovery partition before. You may refer to the steps on how to make a bootable recovery partition for creation if necessary.

Step 1. Load AOMEI OneKey Recovery from Windows PE. Choose one method to do this:

  • Press F11 or A at startup to launch AOMEI OneKey Recovery.
  • Directly choose “AOMEI OneKey Recovery” in the Windows boot menu to launch it.

Step 2. When AOMEI OneKey Recovery is loaded, you'll be asked, "Do you need to restore your system?" Click "Yes" to continue.

WinPE Restore

Step 3. Click OneKey System Recovery and then select "Restore system by using the image file in AOMEI OneKey Recovery Partition". 

Restore system

Tip: If you create recovery partition on new hard drive, please choose "Restore system by selecting a system image file" for bare metal restore.

Step 4. Confirm the destination partition(s) to receive the bare metal server backup image and click "Start Restore" to perform bare metal recovery in server 2008.

Confirm Restore

Step 5. Wait for the recovery process to complete and click "Finish". Exit AOMEI OneKey Recovery and your server should start normally.


That's all for how to perform Windows Server Backup bare metal recovery on Server OS. You could use built-in tool -- Windows Server Backup, or the third-party server backup and restore software -- AOMEI Backupper Server.  The latter is easier for all level users, and it also allows you to restore Windows Server to virtual machine.

Another way to of data protection is also introduced, namely Windows Server bootable recovery partition, which allows you to restore the system state with one click. If you create the partition on a new server, it has the same effect as server factory reset.