What Is a Bare-Metal Restore?

Mary McMahon

A bare-metal restore reinstalls an operating system, relevant applications and components, and data. It can be used with a corrupted or damaged computer after it is stripped and rebuilt, or it can be used to restore a system to an entirely new unit. This method of data recovery can be rapid and highly efficient, in addition to very reliable. As with other data recovery systems, it needs to be paired with an effective backup plan.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

In this type of restoration, the user has a system disc that includes a copy of the operating system, applications, and settings. It is an image of the operating system as configured for a given computer. Data stored on the system can be saved as well. To conduct a bare-metal restore, this disc can be used to boot a computer, install the operating system, and activate the settings. The user can start using the new system immediately.

One advantage to this is speed. When a computer fails, the user may need to reinstall the operating system, update drivers and applications, and configure it before porting data over to start using it again. This can be time consuming, which is a serious issue with systems that are critically needed. In a bare-metal restore, the restored data is accessible very quickly on a stable system, as long as the most recent backup was based on a stable disc image.

It is important to be aware that any system settings and other configurations will not be saved after a bare-metal restore, unless the user partitions the system to put the restored operating system only on part of the hard drive. This may be desirable, as when an operating system is so corrupted that it cannot boot, but may be a consideration if data or settings need to be accessible. In cases where sensitive information remains, a technician may be able to remove it before performing a bare-metal restore, depending on the nature of the problem.

Regular backups are also critical to support a bare-metal restore. There are a number of utilities to perform this automatically for users, and can be set at schedules of varying intervals. When deciding how often to back up, people may want to think about how much data they are willing to lose. A week’s worth of information might be acceptable for one user, while another might want to back up every night to reduce the risk of losing important data.

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