Swapping a Hard Drive out to another PC

Posted on 2003-02-26
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I have a large computer that is connected to one of my scientific instruments.  I need more desk space so I decided to get a 2nd PC which has a smaller form factor.  Instead of imaging the old HD and dropping the image onto the new HD, can't I just physically swap out the old HD and install into the new system?  What precautions should I take?
Question by:rodr0316
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Accepted Solution

sppalser earned 300 total points
ID: 8025881
Depends on your OS and how "compatible" your new system is to the old.  You might get lucky and everything will just come up and work.  On the other hand you may find that some or all of your currently installed drivers just won't work on the new system.  Have seen some systems where you just transfer the drive boot the first time and follow the prompts as the the system detects new hardware and makes the necessary driver changes and your off to the races.  Then at the other end of the spectrum I have seen where that first boot attempt on the new hardware caused changes that were catastrophic and rendered the disk unbootable in ANY system.  So for the precautions, make sure you are fully backed up before doing anything and make sure you have a recovery plan in place for when things go bad.  In the long run it may be quicker and less stressful to grab another hard disk (since hard drives are relatively cheap) and do a fresh install on the new hardware then add in your programs and restore or port your data sets.  Two reasons for this:  One, you would still have your old system to fall back to in case something happens to your new one.  Two, gives you an opportunity to do housekeeping on your system; as we all know that over time there are little tidbits of stuff left lying all over the place from adding and removing programs that just never get cleaned up.

Good Luck.


Expert Comment

ID: 8025882
no, i just tried that and the mainboard controllers were different and got a whole bunch of errors.

Expert Comment

ID: 8025928
There are a lot of variables involved in swapping a hard drive to a new system.

Is the old hard disk of a type used/recognised by the new system? i.e. IDE or SCSI

Will the File format be recognised? i.e. FAT16/32 or NTFS etc

Whatever happens you are better off only trying to drag information off the old drive (not applications as they often require registry entries that are formed by the installation routine).

If what you want to do is just do a swap and use the OS and applications off your old machine, it IS possible on Win9x to uninstall all the devices in device manager and let the OS redetect all the devices, but it is messy and time consuming and you will need all the device drivers to hand.
You are far better to have a clean installation and re-install all your programs and to just drag any docs/info from the old drive that you need.

NFR key for Veeam Agent for Linux

Veeam is happy to provide a free NFR license for one year.  It allows for the non‑production use and valid for five workstations and two servers. Veeam Agent for Linux is a simple backup tool for your Linux installations, both on‑premises and in the public cloud.


Expert Comment

ID: 8025946
So if i understand you, you'd like to install the old HD as master in the second machine and make its HD as slave. You should know one or two things:

1. If your old HD is very old (120Mb or less) it might be dangerous to put a brand new HD in the same pc (you can destroy both of them)
2. If the HD is more than 400Mb, it might be slower than the new one. Thus if you need both, they might be on different cable:

IDE1 ====== OLD HD ====== empty connector
IDE2 ====== NEW HD ====== CDROM (or whatever)

If you put both HD on the same cable, the slower HD will be the maximal transfer speed for both HD.

3. You cannot have two active partitions on the same system: if both HD have a system (Window$ xx.xx for example), you might be able to boot one times, but the second times it won't. Or one will boot and the other won't...

4. Why don't you try to put both pc on a single network? You'll be able to access new HD from the old PC...

That's all i think for the moment.

Expert Comment

ID: 8026002
personally i would put the "old" harddrive in as the slave to the master and then transfer over info from the "old" drive to the new one...
that way you have a fresh install on a new hard drive
you avoid "problems"
so my reccomended is as sspalser said
buy a new harddrive
www.pricewatch.com lists a 60 gb eide harddrive at around 71us$ so the dive is relatively inexpensive

put the new one in as primary master
put the old one in as primary slave and the transfer the important data over to the new system...

LVL 23

Expert Comment

ID: 8026035
Also keep in mind that this is connected to a scientific instrument.  What is it's purpose?  Is it acquiring data?  Is this through the serial or parallel port?  These also have to be considered.
Also keep in mind that you would appear to be playing with your only copy of the data and OS.  You can put it on the new machine and then it will end up inaccessible to the old machine.
My recommendation is to work with an image which is Ghosted to a CD from the original machine.  That way it will stay intact.  You can then restore that image to the new machine and perform the following steps (if you have Win98 as the OS).
1 - Copy the contents of your CD's Win98 directory to a directory on the hard drive (such as C:\CABS)
2 - Ghost an image to CD
3 - Put the Ghost boot disk in the new computer and write the image to that hard drive
4 - Boot it in safe mode (F8 while booting)
5 - Start-Run-REGEDIT and remove the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ENUM registry key
6 - Reboot and the computer will redetect all hardware.  Since you have the CAB files in the C:\CABS directory you can point all of the standard Windows driver requests to that directory.

If you don't want to go that route performing 1, 4, 5, and 6 may get what you want without Ghosting the image over, but it will not be as safe for hte data.

Author Comment

ID: 8026092

I like your idea about keeping the old system as backup.  Something I had not considered.  The redundancy will probably eliminate any downtime in the future.  So I'll go ahead and buy myself that 2nd HD and do a clean install and take it from there.

You get the points.  Thanks.

Expert Comment

ID: 8026093
There is a way to do it - but it depends on your operating system(s.

If you could give a list of your operating system, old and new hardware (thorough list), maybe our xperts will be able to help decide what setups they would consider, and how to do it so you can decide what the best course of action would be for your needs.

Things to consider:

You might be able to configure a "dual boot" system through the bios - to boot from IDE0 or IDE1 (through the suggestions of throx and covanent).

You might want to transer all data and programs from one o/s to the other but bear in mind that you may come across compatability problems - depending on your setup.

Old operating systems don't always work well on new machines.


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NFR key for Veeam Agent for Linux

Veeam is happy to provide a free NFR license for one year.  It allows for the non‑production use and valid for five workstations and two servers. Veeam Agent for Linux is a simple backup tool for your Linux installations, both on‑premises and in the public cloud.

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