Moving hard drive between computers

I’m going to be upgrading my computer, and what I would really like to do is to simply move the hard drive from computer A to computer B, so that I can retain all my files, settings, software installs, etc.

I know XP will have issues with the new hardware configuration as far as licensing/activation, as well as finding and installing drivers for the new hardware, etc.

Is there an easy way to move my entire life between the two computers without having to reinstall XP and all of my software? I’ve done it the hard way in the past, and it really is a pain.

I am not sure there is a truly easy way to do what you want exactly. Xp may or not work at all if you just move the drive becasuse it is set up around your existing hardware. I have transplated drives to work in new computers but it is always messy and leaves residual things. The standard advice is to install your old drive as a slave to the new one, install XP and the applications and then go grab your data, e-mail, and any other settings you can find and transplant. This typically takes a while but you are guarenteed not to actually lose anything.

Another possibility that is not guaranteed to work but has been successful for me a few times, is to install the old hard drive in the new machine as normal, then insert your XP install CD and begin a repair install. This forces XP to re-scan all hardware and installed files and re-install itself while retaining all of your original software and settings.

This may or may not work, and is much less likely to if the motheboard is significantly different on the new machine (especially if it uses a different BIOS) but it’s worth a shot.

All depends on how old the PC you’re replacing is. If the older PC is less than say three years chances are you will have very few problems getting XP to boot with the drive in the new PC. Windows XP is generally very good at finding drivers for recognized hardware with little input from the user, although a major hardware change will force you to re-activate Windows which isn’t a problem as long as it’s a legal copy.

Of course a good idea would be to use something like Ghost to image the smaller, older harddrive onto the larger, newer one first and use that so as not to waste a new drive. I’ve done this a few times before with few problems.

Also you should take into account that any problems you had with the old PC that were software related are going to follow you to the new one, and the performance isn’t going to be as good as it would be with a fresh build of XP on a new PC.

Any reason you can’t simply use the Windows “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard”?

I recommend putting the old HD in the new system, but not as the primary drive. Install Windows in your new system and then connect the old drive as a backup. If you find that there are any files you missed, they’re sitting there waiting for you. After 6 months or a year and you’re sure you got everything, wipe it clean and use it for backup or extra storage.

Off the top of my head, I can see no big reason why the disk shouldn’t just work in the new PC. If moving from a new computer to an old one, windows may request functionality from the motherboard that is not present. Moving from old to new will almost always work flawlessly, as old features are rarely jetisoned for the sake of backward compatibility. Once the thing boots, windows will do a great job of swapping out the drivers. Note, reinstalling windows over the moved partition (as someone said), is mostly unecessary. Only maybe if you’re moving to a different CPU architecture (such as dual core), or if your old computer didn’t have ACPI (but i doubt it’s THAT old).

Anyway, simply put: try it the easy way. If it doesn’t work, no harm done. Mount it as a secondary disk and copy files manually. However, personally I would taken this opportunity to have a clean start. (And no, a PC filled to the gills with OEM garbage is not a clean start in my book.)

Also, keep in mind the rules of connecting up a Parallel ATA disk to have it be bootable. It has to have set the master jumper, probably should be on the master terminal of the cable (or it has to, if you set the jumper to cable select), and shouldn’t conflict with other devices on the cable (which may by default be set to master as well). Also make sure your BIOS is directed to boot from it.

If you don’t see anything windows-related when you boot, you’ve set up the drive wrong. If you see a Windows scroll but then get a BSOD, the drivers are incompatible and you have to rerun the installer (without formatting). In the installer, maybe the Automated Recovery will fix things (and it doesn’t erase settings). Rerunning the full setup will definately work, but it sometimes erases windows’ settings (and applications’ registry entries).

Removing video card specific drivers, sound card and hardware specific drivers from hardware devices can help. Switch the video card driver to a vga driver before transfer.