Windows Is Warning My Hard Drive Is About To Fail. What Now?

When I boot one of my machines, Windows gives me a warning the drive is about to fail. What is the best way to move everything on that drive to a new drive and then replace the defective drive with the new one so it boots and everything runs?

Will I run into reactivation problems? What other problems should I expect? What size should the new drive be? How does Windows know the first one is about to fail?

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1) leave the system running.
2) if you do not have a backup of the data get an external USB drive and back everything up to that.
3) now shut down and install the new hard drive and copy the data over to it.

Ghost is one of the more popular programs for copying a drive.
What os are you running?
When do you get this message is it at the cmos screen?
Cloning a hard drive in the same machine (same motherboard, etc) should not affect your windows activation.  (and for god' sake, clone that drive as SOON as you can).

Windows "knows" the hard drive is failing, because hard drives contain the smarts to report device issues to the operating system.   This is actually quite rare-  far too often a hard drive simple up and chucks one day and you're toast.   Consider yourself lucky you're finding out about impending failure ahead of time.....

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zephyr_hex (Megan)DeveloperCommented:
be careful using imaging software like Ghost.  if your drive is about to fail due to bad sectors, Ghost will copy over the corruption and potentially mess up your new drive

i suggest running a hard drive diag to find out what is wrong.
DFT (drive fitness test) is a good, free utility.  when you boot up on DFT, take the default option on the first two screens.  run the Advanced test on your primary hard drive.  if the screen comes back green, windows is wrong and the drive is fine.  if the screen comes back red, it will include a "disposition code".  an explanation of the disposition codes is found in the DFT user guide/manual.
the DFT program and the user guide can be found at the link above

as far as saving your data, do not use imaging software like Ghost if there are bad sectors on your hard drive.  you can copy data over to an external hard drive, but you will not be able to save programs.  on the new drive, you will have to re-install the OS and programs, and then copy your data over.  if the drive does not have bad sectors, use an imaging software like Ghost -- it will copy an exact snapshot of your current drive to your new drive... and you won't have to reinstall anything.

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Ghost is a very easy to use software which can clone the disk to another and everything will stay just the way it is (- the drive failing error code anyway)
Try Acronis True Image for Workstation/Server  if you don't want to go for Ghost.

  Create an exact image of your entire hard disk
  Restore the entire disk contents including the OS and data— no reinstallations!
  Backup and restore individual files and folders  
  Include in backup only the files you want to keep
  Clone your hard drive to a new one

Acronis True Image also allow an image to be mounted like another drive for fast retriever or backup
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