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No Jumping SIDs with "Refresh Your PC"

I learned an interesting if somewhat painful and time-consuming lesson this weekend — namely, the Windows 8.x “Refresh your PC” mechanism will not permit you to restore a backup from Win8.x one install on a computer to another Win8.x install on the same computer. I have to believe that’s because each time you install (or re-install) Windows, it gets a unique Security Identifier (SID) that tags the OS installation. I had hoped otherwise, because I had to reinstall Windows 8.1 on a miniITX PC when switching it from a conventional WD Scorpio Blue drive to a faster Samsung 840 EVO SSD drive this weekend. I started by cloning the WD drive onto the Samsung SSD, but the machine refused to boot no matter what shenanigans I tried in the motherboard’s BIOS, nor would a UEFI boot UFD repair the SSD’s apparently invalid boot-up disk layout.


The default refresh rolls you back to factory or clean install defaults, but a custom refresh lets you return to a last known good working OS state — in most cases, anyway…

“Aha!” I thought, “I’ll do a base-level Win8 install, then use last night’s RecImg data to overwrite the new install with my complete and up-to-date refresh data instead.” At first, I was encouraged to see the refresh operation proceed to 100% completion and then reboot my PC. But as soon as the reboot turned control over to Windows 8, it informed me that the refresh was invalid, after which it rolled back all of the changes automatically. “Rats!” I observed, and then went about the process of rebuilding the PC on the new SSD from scratch, which took me about four hours all told (I’m 90% of the way back to where I started, with a handful of drivers still to troubleshoot, and a somewhat greater number of tried-and-true utilities to install, including WinDirStat, CCleaner, Norton Internet Security, CPU-Z, SIW, Chrome, FileZilla, and Revo Uninstaller).

If anyone can shed more light on how I could’ve better managed the HD to SSD transition, I’d be happy to learn from that information. I’m thinking perhaps I should’ve used my copy of  Paragon’s Migrate OS to SSD (doh!) when the initial drive clone operation through Acronis True Image Home 2014 failed to produce a bootable SSD. That I can still (and probably should) try. [Note added 11/5/2013: my current version of Migrate OS to SSD returns an “Unknown windows version” error message when I try to run it. I can’t make the program provide version information and it’s not included in the Properties for its .exe file either, which shows a 7/18/2012 creation date, well before the GA release of Windows 8. I also see on the Paragon website that a new 3.0 version is out, and it’s labeled “Windows 8 Compatible,” so I’ve requested them to send me a review copy. I’ll report back later, as soon as I’ve obtained the program and completed my testing.]

Other ideas or approaches to making the move on Win8 would be greatly appreciated: I’ve never encountered these kinds of issues on prior Windows versions, going back to Vista (the first version of Windows I ran on an SSD). Heretofore, drive cloning has worked just fine to produce a bootable drive when moving from HD to SSD. But that does not appear to be the case on Win8, so I’m guessing it uses a different drive layout for HD and SSD drives.

Other than the extra time it took to restore the affected system to proper operation, it’s not really that big of a deal. But it is important to recognize that you can’t use “Refresh your PC” except when all aspects of the source and target Windows installation (specifically, the OS SID) remain the same. That is one important aspect in which it differs from a more standard backup/restore scenario. This may actually be one case (different source and target OS SIDs) where restoring a conventional file-by-file backup works, but an image backup does not.

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