Copying data from old hard drive into new computer

I used to know the best way to do this…

Long story short, the old family computer (store bought HP) died last week. I used too build computers for people, so I decided to do it again for the replacement. So far, so good. However, there is a lot of stuff on the old hard drive that I want to keep.

To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with the old hard drive, but I did get a new, larger one for the new computer. I will be installing Windows 7 on it.

The old hard drive was a Windows Vista set up.

The question is, what is the best way to build the new computer with the new hard drive having Windows 7, then attaching the old hard drive to copy what I want to the new one, then reformatting the old one for more storage in the new computer? Do I have them both installed before turning on the computer for the first time, or do I do the Windows 7 install on the new drive, then shut down and attach the old drive and copy, or something else?

Don’t have both drives installed when you set up Windows 7. If you’ve confused which is the master and which is the slave, it’s possible to install Windows 7 over the existing Vista installation. Instead, set up the new system, get Windows 7 installed and updated and then shut down the system to add the old drive.

install on the new drive and get working. then add the old drive on a nonbootable situation.

+1. The only thing I would add is that the old drive is virtually certain to have an IDE interface. Most new motherboards only have SATA connectors - no IDE. There are exceptions so check the manual for the new one and see if it has an IDE header.

If not, you can still use this technique, but you will need to get an IDE-SATA converter. This is a small device, about the width of 2 sticks of gum laid side by side. It plugs into the IDE connector on the back of the old drive.

However, there are 2 kinds. One kind is unidirectional. I assume these are just for CD/DVD readers. The other kind is bidirectional. Make sure you get the latter. Here’s one for under $20 w/ shipping.

Since you say the old hard drive is working fine, buy an appropriate (IDE or SATA) external exclosure for that hard drive, with a USB connection. Cost should be about $20-$40.

Then set up your new computer, install the OS, etc. Once that is working, plug in the USB connection to your old hard drive, and copy over the files you want.

Then wipe that old hard drive, and use it as an external backup device. Very little investment to have an improved backup situation!

I also vote for an external disk enclosure. It’s much easier to pop in a USB cable than it is to worry about SATA cables, plus mucking about in the BIOS.


No - put it in a drawer and leave it there. Just in case the new PC goes pop.

for a one time (or few time use) you don’t need an enclosure. get the IDE-SATA adapter for USB, place the drive on a flat sturdy surface on a sheet of paper.

if the old PC came with Vista, it’s probably too new to have an IDE hard drive. it probably has SATA.

Out of curiosity, what’s the paper for? Static?

I’ve used this method, minus the paper. I’ve even forgotten the computer was running and did an accidental hotplug. I think it locked up but it didn’t cause any long term problems.

to provide electrical insulation, the bottom of the drive is an open circuit board, paper eliminates the chance of shorting things out.


The OP’s old computer ran Vista. I don’t think many computers were shipping with IDE connectors in the Vista era. Hell, my old Dell Dimension with XP, which shipped in 2004, had SATA connectors.

He didn’t say how old it is and motherboards had SATA connectors pretty early on. But that doesn’t mean that a system builder would have used them. It depends on the cost. I’ve been using SATA drives for the past 5 years, but I don’t remember when they began to dominate.

Anyway, he’s building the system himself so I’m sure he’s capable of identifying connectors and headers. I doubt that I’ve mislead him even if I made the wrong assumption about the age of the system.

For $20, it’s worth it to keep a generic USB to Anything adapter around. Mine handle USB to SATA/PATA/IDE and handles both standard HDD’s and the 2.5" form factor drives no problem. That and a $7 universal power supply are great to have around just for moving things from old HDD’s (or trying to recover data from them) without the hassle of opening up the case.

Enclosures aren’t expensive, and if you’re going to keep the old drive around as a backup or a spare drive, an enclosure will protect the circuit board and keep dust out of the drive.
My last enclosure came from accomdata & cost around $18. I think I got it off amazon.