Transferring hard drive to different computer

Oldie = Dell Optiplex, nothing fancy, onboard graphics. “Newie” = a custom job with Intel MOBO and ATI All-in-Wonder graphics board.

Help me out here. Just plugging it in didn’t work - it goes into some kind of loop at boot - BIOS screen, another screen, BIOS screen, … Maybe stick in the XP CD?

If there is a reasonable walk-through, please share.

What 'cha doing?

Is the OS on the old drive and you’re just “putting the brain into a new body?”
If so, I dunno what to tell ya. I know on the older systems it mattered which ribbon you plugged into the drive.

Is the role of the hard drive changing from Main (with the OS) to secondary or vice versa?
If so, then you may need to adjust the jumper on the back of the hard drive to reflect its role as Master or Slave.

I would like to point out that this is usually a bad idea. Your installed OS has the ‘knowledge’ of your previous hardware, and it could be simply refusing to boot into windows.

You should stick in a windows cd and re-install it… but, that won’t work because when windows gets to the registration bit it will know it is sat inside an entirely different computer, and tell you that you cannot validate this copy.


Yet more evidence that I don’t belong in this century. :frowning:

I’d recommend keeping the old drive, but converting it to data backup/archiving (since it’s already got all your data on it). Buy a new drive and install your OS on that.

You’re really better off reinstalling. But you can move a hard drive with Windows XP to another computer and make it boot. Can’t promise that everything will be totally smooth though.

Back up your hard drive first. Otherwise if this procedure doesn’t work and you’re left with an unbootable drive, you’re in trouble.

The main thing that will keep your hard drive from working in another computer is all the hardware differences. Have any and all driver CDs for your hardware handy. If you have nothing but a system restore CD, this might not work for you.

To continue with the risky venture what you need to do is go to your Device Manager and delete all the drivers you can. Video driver, audio drivers, motherboard resources, everything. It’s a bit tricky because some things want to reboot the computer, keep saying no as much as you can.

Then Shut Down and put the hard drive in the new computer. With any luck it will not bluescreen or reboot during the boot and it will get into Windows and start detecting hardware. At this stage it will reboot after installing drivers several times and you’re probably going to need to supply drivers for certain hardware. Hopefully you have them, or can download drivers from another computer.

Good luck. I’ve done this several times with little or no ill effects. The only weird thing about my current PC is that USB devices are a bit quirky sometimes, but maybe that’s just XP.

What you can do is take your old Mac and either back it up with TimeMachine or get a FireWire cable and connect it between your new Mac and your old one. As soon as you turn on your new Mac to set it up, it’ll ask you if you want to transfer your old data from your old Mac right to your new Mac and will transfer settings, data, and programs. It’s really quite simple.


You have a PC…

Never mind.
Actually, Windows does have an Easy Transfer program in Vista and Windows 7 that will transfer data from an old Windows machine to a new one. It doesn’t transfer programs. So, you have to manually reinstall those from your original CDs. You have those right? And the licenses too. Right?

If that doesn’t work, you can try a third party program like Mobile Desktop or Intellimover. I don’t think either of those transfer programs from one PC to another.

The new box has a drive with XP Pro and some software on it, but I had hoped to just plug my old drive in so as not to lose data, usernames, passwords, saved email, etc.

Good idea on the backup, control-z. Not sure how I’d restore, though.

I think my next shot will be to install the ATI stuff on the old drive and then attempt a transplant.

If that still looks like a fail then maybe I’ll set up a temporary network and spend hours transferring and manually copying stuff.

Add it as a slave, use the drive that came with the new machine for the OS and keep your data on the old drive, remove the old OS from it for maximum data storage capacity.

Even better, drag your data from the old to the new drive, reformat the old drive and drag the data back again.

What you need is Sysprep - a Microsoft tool that strips the hardware config from an XP install and then runs the XP Hardware detection/setup on next boot.
This guide looks pretty good - you will need to put your old drive back into your Optiplex, set up and run the Sysprep, then put it back into the new system. If you have space, I would image the drive before and after the sysprep, and copy the XP setup disk and drivers on to your old drive for ready access if it does boot up. You will need to relicense XP, and may come unstuck if the OEM detection does not match. YMMV.

I have done plenty of system transplants and cloned XP builds, and not had too many problems, but it does not always work. Sysprep can help, but not always. Good Luck.


You mac fanboys just cannot resist with your helpful little comments can you? Actually, because he is using a PC, the OP has the opportunity to run whatever hardware he chooses, rather than being stuck with what apple want you to have.

[computer shop owner hat on]

Seconded that this is not something your average joe can easily achieve with a walkthrough. I have some specialized software that can do this about 90% of the time but its not cost effective for a one user one shot try. As others have mentioned it can be done, but IME its rarely a happy rock stable machine without such software.

Sortof, you are doing this because your old motherboard died right? Needed to repair your only computer…right?

Upgrading is not allowed, repairing is :D.

You can do an install of windows without formatting the drive however since you are writing new registries most of your software will not work.

Here’s a link around doing what I think you are proposing, although I don’t recommend doing it that way:

The easiest choice is to keep the entire old drive, unchanged, as a second drive in the new computer. Your data will be intact and accessible, and you can copy and paste as you like all the actual stuff onto your new drive. There are also simple programs to import things such as favorties. e.g. Down the road when you are satisfied everything is ported over you can put the old drive in storage and substitute a brand new second hard drive for back-up, etc of your new hard drive.

I am assuming the new computer has its own XP drive configured for that computer’s hardware…?

Most new computers have at least one place for an extra disk drive.
Check the cabling, since you may need an adapter for the connection if the old drive is old enough…ide to sata, e.g.
Mount the old drive as a second one in the new computer. Depending on how old it is, you may need to use the jumpers on it to configure it as a slave. To find out how to do that, go to the manufacturer web site. It’s easy. But even if you do nothing, the chances are good it will automatically be configured as a slave (there’s a newer more PC term but I don’t remember it just now).

Fire up the new computer using its new drive as the boot drive. You may need a minor tweak or two to find the old hard drive; lots of help on the web for this.

None of this is any easier in the Mac world, if that makes you feel better. The core issue is how much data you want to transfer over, and the various choices are what make it complicated (keep only the old drive; keep only the data; keep the whole drive as a temporary back up; keep the old OS…etc etc)

Windows Easy Transfer is the same utility in the Windows world; this is not really what the OP is asking, though. Looks like he wants the old hard drive to be THE hard drive in the new computer, and that’s not a good idea.