Copying Old Hard Drive to New PC

Category: Hard-Drives

When I buy a new computer, how do I transfer everything from the hard drive on my old computer? I enjoy the Tourbus and appreciate all the information you provide.

If you bought a new computer, or just a new hard drive for your old computer, you'll need to transfer the files. Here's how...

Do You Really Want To Do That...?

There are several options, but first let's talk about NOT copying everything from the old hard drive to the new one. When you use a computer for a couple of years, it tends to build up what I call Cyber Sludge, and you really don't want that nasty old sludge on your shiny new hard drive.

In most cases, all you really need to copy are the personal files you have created, such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, photos, etc. You can use File/Export to dump your web browser favorites into a plain-text file, and the same applies to your emails and address book.

Various Ways to Transfer Files

To transfer to the new computer, you can burn a CD containing those files, or copy them to one of those nifty USB-connected portable hard drives (also called Flash Drives or Memory Sticks), or attach the files to an email and send them to yourself.

If you have a home network, it's even easier. Just make the hard drive in the old computer a shared drive, and you'll be able to copy the files to the new drive with drag and drop. Without a network, you can install the old hard drive in your new computer, and just access the files on it as your D: drive. If you're timid about popping the hood on your PC, you can take both to a computer repair shop and ask them to install the old drive in the new machine.

Copying the Entire Drive

Since that's what you asked about, yes... there are ways to copy your old hard drive, lock, stock and bearings, to a new hard drive. In the old days, you could use the XCOPY command from a DOS prompt to copy everything in one swell foop, but modern operating systems make this impossible. I recommend you use software specifically written to deal with all the intricacies of dealing with partitions, copying the Windows registry, and handling locked, hidden & system files. Two programs I recommend for this purpose are VCOM Copy Commander and Partition Magic.

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Most recent comments on "Copying Old Hard Drive to New PC"

(See all 41 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

24 Feb 2009

Hello, I have a little problem. My computer crashed (mother board went out). Now I have a second pc with the same operating system. I want to save my data (pictures and other files) from my old hard drive. I installed this hard drive into the other computer as a slave. I can see the hard drive and access all the information but the one folder I have all the things on that I want to save. What can I do??

EDITOR'S NOTE: Are you saying that one specific folder on the old drive cannot be found, or that things are missing from it? If so, you should try a file recovery tool. See

Posted by:

26 Feb 2009

I have vista on my pc a the moment but i want to wipe the hard drive Could i transfer all my programs and files to another hard drive and have a new OS on my new hard drive wil the programs work from my old hard drive as a slave drive?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, you'll need to re-install those programs from the original media. Blame the Windows registry.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2009

I have just taken my old laptop's hard drive out and placed it into an external enclosure to use with my new laptop, however when I connect it I find that it is very slow and that I can't copy anything off of it onto my new laptop's HD, whenever I try it just starts up saying - 'copying 24 (or however many) items, (however many) minutes remaining and just hangs there making no progress. I tried with just one mp3 file and the same thing happens, I end up having to disconnect the old HD or Windows explorer stops responding, what am I doing wrong?

Posted by:

09 Mar 2009

I replaced my old dell Optiplex for a newest Compaq, but I wan to use the old hard drive in my new computer because i have a lot of programs in it. I just connected the old hard drive to the compaq, but it does not recognize the drive. It does not do anything, it is like nothing conected, the new desktop just wait for any hard drive in a black screen.

I put the hard drive in the old desktop and it is working fine.

Do you know why is it happening?

Posted by:

01 Apr 2009

Do you have any advice on how to transfer all my files (incl. Win Vista) from an old HDD to a new blank one? I've tried Acronis and Windows Easy Transfer but they only make backup /or require my new HDD to have Vista already preinstalled. It is worth noting that my laptop vendor never gave me the OS (which is installed in the old HDD) and I have since lost the recovery disk he gave me.

Are there any freeware software that could help me facilitate said migration? Thanks in advance.

Posted by:

14 Apr 2009

Hi Bob, I have a "lot" of word documents that are on an older Windows 98 desktop that I would like to have use of again . I parked the old computer four years ago and don't know if this or the older older system will be a problem. Didn't find any comments that covered my issue. I have XP professional on my newer system.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You should be able to open the Word documents from the Win98 machine on the XP machine with no problem.

Posted by:

29 Apr 2009

(How to transfer programs from old hd to new)

Just purchased a HP Notebook/laptop. I have XP on my desktop.. Vista is on the Notebook. I own MS Office Word 2007 on the desktop & to activate it on my notebook, I have to buy it. Is there a way to just keep the hard drive and access JUST the old hard drive through my notebook? Has pics and other documents as well on the older HD. Obviously, purchasing the MSOW 2007 again is out of the question, and the info on the one I have I've no idea where it is (unless I can find the key on my old HD). I'm getting rid of the desk top. Thanks so much, Cathie.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can use the old hard drive as an external drive, connected via USB. See

Posted by:

29 Aug 2009

I am trying to copy folders from my older PC running Vista 32bit to my new one running Vista 64bit. The new PC has a 60GB SSD as drive C and a 1 TB as drive F. The old PC has everything on one drive (C). I want to xfer folders etc from old drive C to new drive F using easy transfer, but it doesn't give me a drive choice. So how do I do this? SSD cannot hold all the data, nor do I want it all there anyways.
Thank you in advance Bob

Posted by:

Jill Hayes
07 Nov 2009

My Sony VAOI died, would not power up....Had to send it to Sony and they sent me a brand new computer. They sent me the hard drive from old computer since I couldn't back it up with no power on the old computer.

Now what is the best way to copy some of the hard drive info such as pictures and e-mail folders to my new computer when the old hard drive they sent me back is not inside a computer?

Please go step by step as I am not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination.


Posted by:

16 Nov 2009

Now that Windows 7 is out and it seems to be getting good reviews, it is time to replace my Dell Inspiron 8500 Laptop with XP wich is over five years old. I am very nervouse about what, how much and how I should go about moving my files to the new computer. What compatiibility problems will I run into? My main concerns are my quicken and financial information. Is there a step by step system available to follow?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This should help:

Posted by:

19 Nov 2009

I just replaced an Emachine with a Compaq presario. I have a ton of mucic and pictures on the Emachine but the motherboard crashed. How can I save my stuff?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Easiest way would be to convert the Emachine hard drive to an external drive. See

Posted by:

28 Mar 2010

Tax time! 1993 compudyne with windows 3.1 and pfs
Window works version 2 (spinnaker) would not execute monitor or printer - took computer to repair shop they copied hard drive onto one disc-
When I insert disc to browse shows all files - but can not open files -reads gobly gook- went to windows for download, ends at win 98 - HOW CAN I OPEN THESE FILES? did see an ad for "file helper"
converts old files? not convinced that this is my only option. Please help...clock is ticking....THANK YOU!!

Posted by:

Tiffany Bailey
28 Mar 2010

Bob, what I need to do is copy info from 7 outdated computers' old IDE hard drives onto a new external teradrive. I've been told I should get a dual SATA docking station. Do I need one of these to do the copying? Shouldn't I get a SATA/IDE docking station? OR, better yet, is there a way to use a docking station and a USB cable to hook up to those old computers via USB to get the information off their hard drives? Will the old computers need power so I can access the hard drives?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tiffany, it might be simpler and less expensive to buy an external IDE enclosure kit. Then you could hook up the SATA drive and each of the IDE drives (one at a time) to copy info from them. No need to boot up the old computers, and better not to!

Posted by:

28 Jul 2010

I have to transfer data from my old removed XP laptop hard drive to a newly installed hard drive. Please help me to do this step-by-step.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2010

Hi Bob,

I have a Dell Optiplex GX260, WinXP Pro, 80gb HD. I have a new 160gb HD to put in and want to transfer the C: drive from the original 80gb HD to the new and faster 160gb.

What jumper settings do I put on the new HD so that it will be Master after the copying?

I have Partition Magic 7.0 which doesn't tell me anything about the IDE jumper settings needed to accomplish this. I have heard that this is possible, never done it myself. Usually I just put in a new HD the same make, model of what came with the system. I didn't do that this time but now want to add storage by adding a new HD and also making the C: drive on the new HD and boot from that.

If you could share with me the jumper settings for this, great. Both HDs are Western Digital.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would install the new drive as a slave, make a full backup image on it, then power down. Remove the old drive, set the jumpers on the new drive to master, and restart.

Posted by:

07 Nov 2010

Hello Bob!

I could use your help. I had an old windows95 machine that recieved a new hard drive and a programming upgrade about a year and a half ago. Was running XP with SP3. I recently received a newer P4 system that already had a Primary drive running XP Home. My OLD system was a Gateway, and my newer system is an ABIT AG-8V motherboard.

I placed my OLD drive into the newer system, but I can not run any of my programs on my old drive. How do I get the programs and files and data off, and transfered to the newer drive? This is the first time I'm attempting something like this ,and didnt want to have to spend BIG bucks to do something that anyone can do at home with the right instruction.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like you placed the OLD drive into the newer system as a secondary disk. You have two choices: Re-install those programs from the install CD, or use a program to help. Take a look at the Transfer Wizard in XP, it might do the job. See

Posted by:

15 Feb 2011

I have a q.?i have a gateway labtop that the screen broke on it,i used to just hook up a house monitor for a screen and use it like that and it used to load up fine.but now it doesnt load up.the hard drive light doesnt even light up.i cant even switch the screen on anymore to see whats going i was woundering if i could just hook up that gateway hard drive to my dell labtop to see whats going on with it and maybe fix that possible?i mean will it work going from a gateway to a dell???and is it a good idear to do so?thanks

Posted by:

21 Apr 2011

Norton no longer offers Partition Magic.

Posted by:

21 Jul 2011

MY old pc completely crashed, I was unable to do a transfer files programs from my hp pavillion xp to new pc dell optiplex 320 windows xp cause it was in operational. a friend helped and placed my old hard drive on my new pc, he thought id be able to transfer everything from E hard drive to my new pc but i cant get it to transfer using the wizrd from old pc to new pc.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2013

ive had a problem with my xp 32 bit hard drive and im looking to transfer all date to a new drive running vista please help?

many thanks


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