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Moving a hard drive to another computer...

Posted on 1998-12-13
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-27
I have got a new computer for my kids for Christmas. I would like to move the hard drive from their older machine (I had recently upgraded the hard drive)into the new machine. The purpose of wanting to do this should be obvious...I could save myself (and them) tons of work reloading and configuiring their software and settings. My question is simple...IS IT POSSIBLE TO DO THIS WITH A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF EFFORT? IF SO, WHAT WILL I HAVE TO DO AND WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS CAN I EXPECT TO RUN INTO? I am a above average computer literate person. We will be taking the drive from a Packard Bell unit and moving it to a more standard type computer. The operating system on the drive is Win98. The new machine will have all new and much different hardware. Plus the bios and chipset will be different. PLEASE ADVISE.
Please do not lock this question unless you are sure your answer will satisfy all my questions and concerns. I will see that the best answer receives the points.
Question by:chinman
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Expert Comment

ID: 1130926
I have done exactly what you are intending to do. It can be a little exasperating, but with patience you should have only minimal problems. The main thing is to have all of your hardware drivers available. Be prepared for Windows to come up, find a change, load the new driver and restart several times. In my situation it discovered all of the changes in motherboard resources and made the changes automatically. The problems came with the video card and monitor settings. However, after restarting in safe mode, it was easy to load the appropriate drivers.


Expert Comment

ID: 1130927
I'm sorry to have locked the question. Should have made a comment. My apologies.

Author Comment

ID: 1130928
I would like more opinions on this before I can decide if this is indeed what I want to try to do.
I have failed the answer to re-open the question. I had asked that the question not be locked.
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Expert Comment

ID: 1130929
Because the hardware is different from your old PC, you can't just transfer the drive, you have to reinstall all drivers and rebuild Windows along with vmm32.vxd and other system files.  You want to keep your istalled program base and registry.

I suggest this procedure.

1. Install the hard drive in your new computer as a master on the first IDE controller.
2. Start the intallation program for Windows 98 which should have come with your new computer.  Run the install until it makes a "Startup disk" then kill the install.  (Here if you have a startup disk from the other computer you could try it instead. If after the boot you can access your CD-ROM you don't need to make a new startup disk)..
3. Start the computer from the Startup disk.  Go to the c:\windows directory and rename c:\windows\system and c:\windows\inf (if it exists).
4. Change directories to the CD-ROM and begin the installation process for windows 98.  This should redetect all hardware.  Keep all the disks from your new PC handy since there may be drivers required from them.
5. After the install is complete, you can delete the renamed directories from step 3.

Expert Comment

ID: 1130930
It would help if we knew the brand of the new computer.  There may be known issues with it.  If you know what boards are used this might help too.  The kind of issues I am referring to would likely affect getting a modem to work or some other device to set up.  It is not likely to make the install fail competely.

Expert Comment

ID: 1130931
FYI, I like Rosefire's answer.

Author Comment

ID: 1130932
This "new" computer is one I assembled from seperate components. It is a standard desktop case. Contains the following: Motherboard - 8500TVG with AMI bios. Not sure of the chipset. 32 megs of DRAM. A 233Mhz CYRIX MMX CPU. A western Digital hard drive (which I am removing). A Diamond Monster Fusion video card with 16 megs. A sound blaster 16 sound card. A Silicom brand 56K modem. I think that is it.


Expert Comment

ID: 1130933
You can always move the hard drive.  The problem is getting the new computer to see the files on the hard drive once it has been moved.  If you don't need the files, just move the drive, detect the hard drive, FDISK and FORMAT it and you're ready to install software.

However, if you need the files, you have about an 80% chance of success.  Older computers use different ways of talking to hard drives than the newest machines.  There are different PIO formats and you'll have to experiment to see if your new machine will recognize the PIO of the old machine.  You can sometimes force this through the advanced CMOS settings in the BIOS.  Make sure that you stop at the C:\ prompt and don't go to the GUI.

Once the new machine sees the files on the old drive, if you want to have Win9x work on the new computer, boot to Safe Mode.  Now go into Control Panel/System/Device Manager and delete EVERY device shown until you have a blank screen.  Now have the computer auto-detect and re'boot as necessary.  

Expert Comment

ID: 1130934

  Just format and reinstall all the software and OS on the new harddrive.  It is not everyday you get a new harddrive, so i think the extra time to install the software shouldn't be much of a consideration.

  If you are dead set on using the old harddrives' configuration, i would recommend getting a program like DriveCopy to do the job.  

Expert Comment

ID: 1130935
To add to the last comment....The problems with the way older systems communicate with the hard drive is the biggest obstacle.  In newer systems you might get nothing but alot of askew code with the system alarm blaring like crazy.  If this is the case a Format is advised!  This is a problem with the newer BIOS not being compatiable.  They do make software that will allow you to tranfer harddrives, but sorry, I dont have any names off the top of my head.  Before you do try to swap the drive, MAKE SURE you have a boot up disk of your old system.  Auto detecting the Hard Drive is the first step.  After it is detected and setup in the BIOS reboot and see if it works.  If not, put in the boot disk and see if that works.  You might need to type sys c: to transfer the systems files.  Hope this helped!

Expert Comment

ID: 1130936
I have a packard bell 166 and it's hard drive is now in my p-pro 200.  It was a basic 2 Gig EIDE drive, nothing special.  You said you were computer literate, I assume this means you know that the drive you want to move is compatible.  I should have asked about this anyway.  If it is not compatable, you wil find out pretty quickly and you can return it to the old machine if you wish.

Here  are a few more thoughts.  Don't let the following worry you.  The procedure I posted earlier should work fine.  This information is more FYI and not more instructions.

1. Renaming the c:\window\system is done to assure that the windows installation doesn't inherit system files there from the previous computer.  It probably isn't necessary but It won't hurt.

2. Renaming the c:\windows\inf assures that any device driver information files that may have been changed in the old setup get replaced in the new installation.  This too is probably not necessary but it is cheap insurance.  You definitly do not want the new system to use packard bell inf files.

3. The Windows 98 reinstall automatically rebuilds all the device driver information so manually deleting the devices from the device manager tab isn't necessary. It would do no harm on the other hand.  If you have a modem or some other device that windows 98 doesn't recognize and automatically install drivers for, you will need to install the drivers for that device after windows setup is finished.

4. Windows 98 reinstallation will not drectly affect your program settings. The desktop will remain customized.   Certain important files like vmm32.vxd should be rebilt on the new system so reinstalling windows 98 is a must.  The reinstall will not replace the registry with a fresh copy.

5.   if you wish to reinstall the same windows components as on the old PC, go to add/remove programs and choose the windows setup  tab.  Note which components are installed.  If you don't install a component and decide you want it back, you can always install it  from this menu later.

6. If anything goes wrong during the Windows 98 reinstallr, remove all non-essential boards from the PC and try again.  You can then add the boards back one at a time after the install to figure out which one was causing the problems.  

7. If that machine you want to put the hard drive on is up and running now, you might take note of the IRQ assignments using Start > programs > accessories > system tools > system information.  If you already did a windows 98 installation on the new PC whatever problems you ran into during that install will probably repeat.  On the other hand, if that install went well, this one should too.

Expert Comment

ID: 1130937
This is not that complicated of an answer guys.

Copy all WIN98 install CAB files to the HD

You attach the old drive to the new PC>

Go into the BIOS and auto detect the HD

Boot up the new PC with the OLD drive attached and when you see
starting win98 hti the F8 key.  Now you boot up in SAFE mode.

When you boot in safe mode go into the DEVICE manager and delete
everything you can in there.


when you reboot it will find a bunch of stuff.

After the reboot/boot process you can double check the hardware
and do a search for new Harware in control panel.

that should take card of the conversion with the exception of minor stuff which you might have to manually install with your diskettes for the hardware to be found.
Start the boot up...When you see

Expert Comment

ID: 1130938
The virtual device driver system file vmm32.vxd is built during the install process based on the system being installed into.  I have had trouble with this file before and I do not think it is wise to omit the reinstallation of windows 98  when transferring the drive to new hardware.  It might work, but the first time your system hangs, gives a blue screen, or a program crashes you will find yourself thinking about the reinstall anyway.  Why not do it right the first time.

Accepted Solution

rosefire earned 400 total points
ID: 1130939
Well I am sure the answer I submitted  "will satisfy all your questions and concerns" and there has been enough time to get additional input which seem to be getting thin at this point.  Hope it is OK chinman, but I am submitting an answer now.  Nobody has argued with the procedure I suggested, though there were a couple of people proposing ways to cut corners, but I don't think you want to do that.

Hope this all goes well.


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