booting up and using programs in hard drive taken from a failed notebook

Posted on 2006-11-27
Last Modified: 2010-04-25
My notebook failed (power supply or motherboard problem, maybe).  HD is fine.  I have recovered all of the data, but I would like to be able to run all of the programs I have installed (for some of them I no longer have install disks).  Is it possible to attach the old hard drive to my desktop (the old HD is XP Pro, Desktop is XP Home) by USB, boot up from the old HD, and run my programs as before?  Would a program like Boot Manager make this possible?
Question by:gbesq1
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

ID: 18020545
Chances are slim, I'd say. With the amount of tweaking involved I suspect you'd better concentrate on installing your software on the desktop. For one, all paths will be messed up as the USB drive will not be "C:" or whatever it was in the laptop, but something else. Any references to "C:\directory\subdirectory\necessary.dll" will be false and the lookup will fail. Is your time worth it?
LVL 69

Expert Comment

ID: 18020622
You may be able to run the programs from the laptop drive, depending on what the installed program did to the machine.  Your hard drive has registry entries for locations and directories which the program may expect to find - Microsoft Office, for example, does this, and it can't run from anywhere but the drive it was installed on, and the system has to be booted from that drive.  Other programs let you copy the entire installed directory to another location, but you won't know until you try to run it.

It will be difficult to boot from the laptop drive because it has drivers for the specific hardware on the laptop (motherboard chipset and video).  You may be able to get away with a repair install ( and be able to boot from the laptop drive, at which point the programs should work.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 18021107
You won't be able to boot from the drive attached via USB ... but there is some chance you can do what you want IF you do the following (I'll outline what you need to do ... post back if you decide to do it and need more details):

(1)  Resize the laptop drive's system partition to as small as possible.
(2)  Free up enough space on one of the desktop's drives to hold the partition from the laptop (if you only have one drive, then just resize the partitions on that drive).
(3)  Image the laptop's partition; then restore it to the free space on the desktop drive.
(4)  Install a boot manager on the desktop (e.g. Boot-It) that will allow you to choose the system to boot and restructure the MBR that system will "see".
(5)  Simply boot to the "new" install of XP (the one from the laptop) ==> it MAY simply boot and automatically find all of the appropriate new hardware and (after a couple of reboots) run just fine.   If not, you'll need to do a Repair Install (use the michaelstevens link Callandor provided).

Note:  A simple way to test whether or not the drive will boot is to disconnect your desktop's hard drive(s);  attach the laptop drive via a 2.5"-3.5" connector directly to the primary IDE channel; and see if the system will boot.  (    Then, if it works okay, you can do the above to set up a dual-boot system with your desktop's XP Home and your laptop's XP Pro.
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Author Comment

ID: 18021127
Callendor:  very interesting.  You are suggesting that a repair install may "fool" my old hard drive programs into thinking that they were installed on my new machine?

If a repair install does not work, is there a way to determine whether a particular program has registry entries that can be tweaked?

rid: can I rename my old hard drive as the c drive in the new computer to solve this problem?

I have on program (non-Microsoft) in particular that contains very important data that require the program to be usable.  Is there some way to recover this single program even if it is not worth trying to rescue the disk as a whole?
LVL 31

Expert Comment

ID: 18021202
Switching the drive letters around will generally cause problems, again it's about paths to files needed either for the O/S or programs...

Some programs are self-contained, sort of; they keep their executables and libraries in their program folder. This sort of programs can be moved - you copy the entire folder to a new drive and you're all set. I hope the program you mention places the data somewhere you can find and retrieve it...
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 18021217
"... Is there some way to recover this single program ..." ==> With some programs (it can take a good bit of "playing" to get it all correct) you can simply copy the entire entry from the old Program Files directory to the new one (you could do this with a simple USB connector for the drive);  then try to run the program ...

... if it complains about missing DLL's (a common occurence) then find those on the old system (in Windows/System32), copy them to the new system and register them (regsrvr <dllname>); then repeat the process.   After a few tries you can often get the program to work just fine (done this many times for folks in similar situations).   It DOES take some patience, and a few tries ... but it's very likely you'll be able to get it to work.   If there's only one or two programs involved, this isn't a bad approach ... although getting the entire old system set up as a 2nd boot partition would be more thorough.

Author Comment

ID: 18192181
sorry about not accepting answer earlier.  I followed garycase's advice.  Repair install did not work (I could not get the Windows disk to show that as an option) so I went to the "single program" solution.  I worked with the missing DLL problem for a while and then, just recently, found the missing original installation cd.  problem solved that way but garycase's advice was good.

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