Boot off of Windows 95 installation copied from different drive?

Posted on 1999-01-24
Last Modified: 2013-12-16
I just bought a new hard drive and need to copy Windows (and everything else) from my old hard drive (D:) to the new (C:).

I tried just copying the whole Windows folder from D: to C:. I think the result of that was Windows showed the "loading Windows" clouds screen, but immediately after showed the "It's now safe to shut down your computer" screen. I tried it in safe mode with the same results. I think before it showed the shut down screen, it quickly flashed a message on a black screen, but it was too fast for me to be sure of what it said (even rebooting like 5 times). It was something like "Unable to load ...". The file name I'm not sure of, but it looked similar to GDI.___.

I tried freshly installing Windows 95 to a blank hard drive (C:). That worked, of course, but I lost all my settings and my Start Menu; many of my programs failed to run (I'd have to re-install them); some of my hardware (like my network card) wasn't correctly setup. In general, it would be a major pain to get everything exactly how I had it before.

I tried copying my Windows folder from D: to C:, and then installing Windows into C:\Windows, but that didn't work.I tried freshly installing Windows and then copying my Windows folder from D: to C:, replacing everything, but that didn't work. I don't remember exactly which results were for what, but here's one thing that happened: When Windows booted up, it asked for my login name. I pressed enter to login, and the next thing that happened was Explorer crashed. That meant no programs at all were running. I pressed Ctrl+Alt+Del to get the Close Program dialog box, and no programs were listed. My only choice was to choose Shut Down from there.

Is there any way to copy a Windows installation from 1 drive to an other and then have it boot off the copied installation? Would that require mirror software? I know that programs install all over the hard drive and not just in their program folders, but if I copied the _entire_ hard drive, shouldn't it work just like it did before? I just don't want to have to re-install _everything_ because that would take countless hours.
Question by:TylerRick
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Accepted Solution

j_powers earned 100 total points
ID: 1761777
Unfortunately, just copying over the files is not going to do it. The best thing to do is get a program like 'Drive Copy', or 'Disk Image'. That will move over all the files, and fix the Master boot record, which tells the computer what and where the Operating system is.

You will have to do some slight changes once the copy is done, since the new drive is probobly different than the old.

If you want to avoid purchasing a program, then try this:

Format the new drive with less than 4 partitions.

Make sure all attributes are off so all files can be copied over.

Copy over files.

Shut down computer.

remove old drive

Restart computer using a repair disk.

Type in FDISK /MBR

That will recreate a new Master Boot record.


Let me know what happens

Expert Comment

ID: 1761778
If your old drive is still intact, here's how to do it:

Connect the old drive as master and the new one as a slave to it or place it on the secondary port as master.

Start Windows Explorer, format a startup floppy with system files and copy FDISK to it.  Next, format the new hard drive with system files.

Click View-> Options-> Show all files (including hidden & system files)

Click on the "+" next to the drive C: icon to expand the folders in the left pane of Explorer. (if they aren't already expanded.)

Click Edit-> Select all.  Hold the control key and click the Windows folder in the right pane to de-select it.  While still holding Ctrl key, drag everthing to the new drive's icon in the left pane and drop it.

Next, click the Windows Folder under drive C:.  Click Edit-> Select all-> hold Ctrl key and in the right pane, de-select the win386.swp file.  Drag it all to the new drive's icon on the left.

Shut down and connect new drive as Master on the primary port.
(you can leave the old drive disconnected if desired)

Configure CMOS setup for the new drive.

Boot with the startup floppy, run FDISK and make the primary Dos partition active.

Reboot and you're just like you were before, using the new drive!

Let me know if you have questions or you're unclear about anything before you begin.


Author Comment

ID: 1761779
You said just copying all the files isn't enough? But then you said all I have to do is copy all the files and make a new Master Boot record on C: (FDISK /MBR), and it should work, right? (I haven't tried it yet because of not enough time.) Could you tell me what a Master Boot record is and why it's necessary to boot Windows?

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Author Comment

ID: 1761780

I've already tried much of what you suggested. Both drives are intact and running. My new is primary master, C:, and my old is primary slave, D: (plus partitions up to I: I think since I can only have 2GB partitions, but I shouldn't have to worry about them now). I already have a startup disk with FDISK. I've already formatted my new drive (though I don't think I did it with system files). It is set up in CMOS.

The problem is, you said to copy the files in Windows Explorer, but I can't since Windows won't boot up right now. I can only copy from DOS right now until I get Windows set up. Can I copy the files, except in DOS, and have it still work?

>Reboot and you're just like you were before, using the new drive!
That's exactly what I'd like, just like it was before. I wish it was as easy as just copying Windows over...

Expert Comment

ID: 1761781
If Windows isn't running now, why would you want to copy the mess onto a new drive?

Yes, you can use the XCOPY32 command to copy the files from Dos, but again, if the files you're copying are corrupt, they won't run any better.

You should get Windows running properly first or do a fresh install on the new drive.

Let me know if you want help with it.


Expert Comment

ID: 1761782
Here's what you do...

Set up the old drive as Primary Master so you can boot off of it, with the new one slaved to it.  
Boot up windows (if you can).  
there is a program called DisWizard from Seagate ( which is free for download; it contains a program called FileCopy which will copy all your files from your old drive to the new one (it runs in a dos window under Windows - you need to copy under windows to preserve long filenames).  
Then, boot to Dos and type sys d:, which will make your new drive bootable.  
Then remove the old drive, and set the new one as Primary Master.
Boot off of it.  It should work.


Expert Comment

ID: 1761783

The method I gave you works. (I use it routinely) It requires no downloading or use of any other software except Windows, which you already own.

You should follow the steps completely, and in order. (Not "most of it")
To see the method printed makes it seem more complicated than it actually is in practice.

Do you want to fix your current installation of Windows?


Author Comment

ID: 1761784
Thank you all for your help.

Expert Comment

ID: 1761785
I didn't say that copying the files was not going to work, I said that you may find more headaches trying to move over the info instead of reinstalling.

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