Questions about backing up my hard drive and upgrading to Win 7

My aging self-built desktop computer is running XP. I am replacing the CPU and the motherboard, and I intend to upgrade to Win 7.

I have two internal hard drives, a C: (system boot) and an H: that I’ve used only for backing stuff up.

The computer is now giving me a hell of a time trying to back up the C: in preparation for this upgrade. Various backup utilities have just crashed the computer at one point or another. Simply dragging my “Documents And Settings” folder from the C: to the H: fails midway through because of an elusive “Perflib-perfdata**.dat” file that is in use.

Here’s my question: Can I just install Win 7 on my H:, and not bother with trying to back up the C: at this point? There’s nothing on my H: that needs to be saved, since it’s just been a backup anyway. Could I install Win 7 on the H:, make that the boot disk, and then just migrate any files over from the C: as needed?

Should I disconnect the C: from the system while installing Win 7 on the H:? Or will that cause Windows to redesignate the H: as the C:, and would that cause problems when I then plugged the old C: back in? Is this just a matter of switching the master/slave dipswitches?

Alternatively, if you have any better suggestions for backing up my C:, I’m all ears. I’m even willing to give money to Peter Norton if that’s what it takes.


Disconnect the C: drive and install Win 7 to the other drive. Win 7 will call that drive C:. Once Win 7 is installed and updated you can connect the old XP drive and transfer files from it. Once both drives are connected you will want to make sure in the Bios that the first drive to try and load from is the Win 7 drive or XP will be starting up once they both are connected again as both drives will be bootable.

What Harmonious Discord said, or you could just go ahead and install Windows 7 to H:, but be aware that your drive letters under Windows 7 will probably change around. There’s a good chance that your Windows 7 system disk (originally H: ) will now be called C:, and the original C: will have some other letter. You will not be able to (safely) change the letter assigned to your Windows 7 system disk afterwards.

Nah, come to think of it, boot sectors and stuff will be cleaner if you just follow Harmonious Discord’s advice.

Harmonious Discord’s advice to disconnect the existing Drive C: is best, but you might need to move the cable or change the jumpers so that the current H: drive (which is now a slave) will be recognized as the master.

I strongly disagree with the earlier comments. Windows 7 comes with all you’ll need: Windows Easy Transfer. Use it with an external USB HDD by preference, otherwise H:.

I also strongly suggest that you take the opportunity and purchase a new HDD on which to install Windows 7. Once you’re happy with W7, you can then erase XP and use it as a spare HDD.

The basic procedure should be as follows:

Use WET to save your data.
Set C: and H: aside and change the motherboard and install the new HDD.
Install W7 and your apps.
Use one of these USB to IDE/SATA kits to mount H: if necessary.
Use WET to restore your data.

This way, if it doesn’t work you can get working again with a minimum of fuss - just swap everything back.

The XP drive will be fully functional and bootable as I said how to do this. My advice is for the fact he has 2 drives and is not purchasing a third.

Thanks for everyone’s advice.

I can actually try it both ways, because I also have a laptop (running Win 7). I can treat that like a third hard drive and use WET over our home network to make a backup on the laptop just in case, then install Win 7 on the H:, and that way I’ll have a couple of options in case of any difficulty.

The least amount of hassle is probably going to be just buying a new hard drive and installing Windows fresh on that. You can get a 500 gb hard drive for 40 bucks on newegg. If you have space on your motherboard, you can just mount the current C: as a slave and copy your data off of it.