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Test Acronis Disk Image

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Is it possible to test an image backup without going through the entire process of installing a new harddirve?

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Yes, you can convert the image to a VHD(X) file and launch this in a Virtual Machine such as Hyper-V, or restore the backup to a virtual disk using VMware or VirtualBox..

Alternatively, you can check the contents of the image by exploring it in Explorer but this will only tell you so much about the integrity of the contents, not whether it would result in a bootable system after being restored..