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How can I swap hard drives between 2 Dell Computers

I have an existing Dell Dimension 8400 running Windows Vista Ultimate with a primary 750 Gig and 250 Gig secondary hard drive. I would like to swap the existing 750 Gig drive and OS into a new Dell XPS 420 which has Windoes Home premium as the OS and smaller disk. This will then go into the Dimension 8400.
I have physically swapped the drives but the XPS will not boot, not even in safe mode. I have booted from installation disk and tried to to use the Repair Computer option but the clever thing says it can't fix the problem. I thought about a reinstal to put the correct drivers onto the XPS but the upgrade option is disabled meaning I would foirmat the hard drive defeating the object of the exercise.
Any bright ideas.
Incidentally I have successfully swapped drives between Dell Dimension PCs with just a reactivation of the OSs required. Fluke?
Avatar of alex4544

I don't think this is possible but may be wrong, as far as I'm aware the issue actually lies in the way Vista writes its partition table/MBR. Although I haven't looked at the specs for the PC it may be that both the DELLS used diffrent processors so say your 8400 is using AMD and the XPS is Intel this would stop them booting correctly when you swapped drives
Avatar of gilbey666


The XPS is an Intel Quad Core and the Dimension a P4 if that helps?
does the machine blue screen or anything?
Nope, just won't boot, ends up at the 'Windows failed to start  etc......' one
Avatar of Gary Case
There's an appreciable architectural difference between these two systems => A 925X chipset and P-IV in the 8400;  the X38 chipset with a Core architecture chip in the XPS 420.   Not at all surprising that the OS's won't cross-boot.

Is your goal here to move the OS's ... or just the hard drives?    The latter is simple IF you haven't done anything that corrupted the OS's original configurations ==> will each system still boot okay in the original system??    ... answer this before you do anything else that may modify the OS's on these drives.

As for your other question ["... Incidentally I have successfully swapped drives between Dell Dimension PCs with just a reactivation of the OSs required. Fluke?"] ==> Not a fluke, per se, but in those cases there were fewer architectural differences that allowed Windows to detect and install the appropriate drivers to resolve the system differences.
Hi Garycase, the object is to swap the physical drive and the OS plus progs and settings to the replacement machine. At the moment both drives still work in their original machines. I tried to get round the Vista installation problem by using the factory drive to boot the XPS with the drive from the Dimension as a secondary drive. This allowed the option to 'upgrade' as this can only be done from within Windows according to the on screen info. Problem is that it wants to install on the drive that booted the system, not on the 'F' drive that has the Windows Ultimate on  that won't boot. Is there a work round do you think?
Avatar of Gary Case
Gary Case
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Will try that using Norton Backup Exec Desktop for images. Just noticed that the XPS will not 'initialize' the new 1TB WD Caviar drive I have installed to take the images. It appears under Disk Management but all the options are greyed out, good start!
Be very cautious using any "live imager" for doing your images.   I've used most of the "big boys" in the imaging game [Ghost, Acronis, etc.] but have long ago quit using anything except Boot-It => it's simply an exceptionally well-focused rock-solid utility that always works and works well.

Not sure why your system won't initialize the 1TB drive -- are you sure the SATA port you've connected it to is enabled in the BIOS?
garycase: Hi tried your scheme but didn't work. Got an up to date version of Norton Backup Exec Desktop V8. Took image of Dell8400 onto USB external drive, restored using the 'new hardware' option to 1TB drive in XPS and after three restarts when I assume the correct drivers were being installed, SUCCESS.
What prcess I described will absolutely work.   If you followed it precisely that only thing you MAY have had to do is modify the BOOT.INI (with a free utility I could have given you a link to) if one (or both) of the systems has a Dell utility partition ahead of the bootable OS ... which would have required making the BOOT.INI "point" to the correct partition to boot.

... but glad you got it working another way.