Blue Screen When Booting Restored Image: Solved (AHCI 0x0000007b error)
This problem has been solved, but I'm documenting it here as the solution may be useful to others.
I have three identical ThinkPad T61 laptops. They were ordered at the same time to the same specifications, and have identical memory and other hardware. All run Windows 7 x64. They are used for various special projects, and the plan was that upon completion a laptop would be wiped and reimaged.
Yet I could not use ABR10 to image one of the machines, restore the image to another, and get it to boot; the boot would fail almost immediately with a 0x0000007b error and a blue screen. A great many things were tried on advice from Acronis support, but nothing worked.
Finally, with Acronis support having no more ideas, I decided to open the BIOS configuration on each machine, side by side, and going through the settings to make sure that they were exactly identical. In short order, I discovered that one of the machines (the one I had been using to create the image) was set to use ACHI mode (Advanced Host Controller Interface) and not Compatibility mode like the other two. This proved to be the key to solving the problem.
This BIOS config CANNOT BE CHANGED AFTER THE OPERATING SYSTEM IS INSTALLED.
Per Intel Solution ID CS-015988, last modified 24-Mar-2011:
WARNING: Enabling AHCI or RAID after installing the operating system is not recommended or supported when a Serial ATA hard drive is the boot drive. Enabling AHCI or RAID after installing the operating system might cause an immediate blue screen with an 0x0000007b error code, followed by a reboot. If you use AHCI or RAID, enable them before installing the operating system.
How this setting got changed is a mystery; possibly that's how it arrived from the factory. But the lesson here is that if you're having a difficult problem with an Acronis image, check your BIOS! Once I had set the problem laptop to Compatibility mode, the Acronis image restored and booted exactly as it should.
I wonder why Acronis restore was not checking for an incompatible AHCI setting and reporting the problem at the beginning of the restore process. While this is not an Acronis problem per se, it is a potential condition that Acronis restore ought to be detecting. Had ABR10 done so here, it would have saved many hours.