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Bare Metal Backup and Recovery: Definition and Types

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Updated 5th October 2022, Rob Morrison

Bare metal backup and recovery can be an extremely important element of your backup and recovery strategy.  There are a lot of different solutions available, each with their own individual advantages. 

What is Bare Metal Backup?

Bare metal backup is a process of backing up your entire system’s data, and it’s not just user data and settings – the entire system, including drivers, programs, information structure, even the OS itself.

There are quite a lot of advantages of such a method – that’s why currently more traditional file backup solutions are being slowly replaced with newer types of solutions, like bare metal backup.

Bare Metal Recovery (or Bare Metal Restore)

The other half of this solution type is bare metal restore (it’s called bare metal recovery, too). This one implies the process of recovering all of the backed up data to completely new “bare” hardware, with all the settings, drivers and other things like OS completely intact.

Some of the biggest advantages of this solution type are: speed, easiness, safety, etc. 

For example, bare metal recovery can be comparitively fast – since there’s no requirement to restore a particular piece of data, and the process is actually restoring everything; from drivers and registry, to desktop icon layout, with no need to install all  the drivers and programs from scratch. 


Some easiness results from that, too – there’s no need to spend your time setting up a new computer with all of the software you’ll need, you can instead just use bare metal recovery and restore everything within one simple operation. 

One more advantage of this solution is the overall safety – if your system is infected with something (virus, ransomware, etc), using bare metal restore would allow you to get rid of everything that could’ve caused that infection to begin with, including infected files, backdoors and other potential threats to your system.

The Process of Performing Bare Metal Restore

Normally, the process of restoring a system using a bare metal recovery method implies that you have either a bootable USB flash drive (with said backup already stored there) or just an ISO image file in general. This part is required for the “bare” system to recognize the image and start the process in general.

  1. You plug in a drive with your system image that’s ready for a bare metal restore into your “bare” computer.
  2. First screen would prompt you to choose an installation language, a time/currency format and an input method.
  3. Now the next screen differentiates from the usual system installation. Instead of clicking a big “install now” button, you’ll need to find a clickable line that says “repair your computer”.
  4. Next window would be a choice between fixing an existing system or restoring a backup of an entirely different one. The second option is what you need.
  5. The following screen would prompt you to choose between the automatically selected latest available system image or some other one you’ll be able to choose manually. The “recommended” option is the obvious choice.
  6. At this stage you’ll see some information about your future system you’re restoring, like date, time, info about the system volumes that’ll be restored and the computer name. Clicking “finish” would start the process, and, after the process is done and the system has rebooted itself – you’re ready to go.

Disadvantages of Bare Metal Recovery

The biggest caveat of this backup and restore solution is the need to have an exact same hardware configuration on the system that the backup is taken from and the “bare metal” system that’ll be recovered from said backup.

When it comes to system hardware in the context of bare metal recovery, there are two main groups of hardware parts: boot-critical devices and other devices.

Some parts of the system can be different when performing a bare metal restore, like a sound card, a capture card or a graphic card, since they are not part of the boot process and the system can load itself without them (even if with some problems). This “group” implies that, if necessary, you can install drivers for such devices after a bare metal restore process is done and the system is up and running.

Boot-critical devices are an entirely different thing. Hardware parts like CPU, HDD controller or motherboard need to be the same for both systems in order for the drivers to match and for the system itself to boot properly. Inability to match those parts would not allow the system to boot.

About the author
Rob Morrison
Rob Morrison is the marketing director at Bacula Systems. He started his IT marketing career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, performing strongly in various marketing management roles for almost 10 years. In the next 10 years Rob also held various marketing management positions in JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho ensuring market share growth for these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Honours Digital Media and Communications degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.