[HOWTO] Copy Old Hard Drive to New PC

Category: Hard-Drives

One commonly asked question is “How do I transfer everything from the hard drive on my old computer to my new computer?” 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 the Export option to dump your web browser favorites into a plain-text file, and then Import then on the new computer. The same applies to your emails and address book, if you’re using a desktop email program. If you use a web-based email service, all your emails and contacts are stored online.

copy old hard drive to new pc

Various Ways to Transfer Files

To transfer files to the new computer, you can burn a CD containing those files, or copy them to a USB flash drive. Another option is to upload the files to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Transferring them is then just a matter of copying them from the backup source you chose to the appropriate folder on the new computer.

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. You might also convert the old drive into an external drive, which is explained in my article Convert Internal to External Hard Drive.

LapLink PCMover is a data migration tool that automatically backs up all your registry settings, data files, and most applications; then moves them to a new computer. It's fairly mistake-proof if you just follow the on-screen instructions carefully. You can select which programs, settings, and data files get moved over to the new operating system, or just let PCMover move all it can. If your computer has multiple user accounts, PCMover can move all or some of them as well as each user's settings and unique folder and file structure.

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.

When you buy a hard drive, sometimes it will come with software designed to help you move the files from your old drive to the new one. I replaced the drive in my desktop computer with an SSD drive, and the Samsung data migration software worked beautifully. You can also create a backup image on the old computer, and then restore it on the new computer. There are commercial disk cloning utilities, but many penny-pinching geeks swear by the free, open-source Clonezilla. Macrium Reflect is another tool I recommend for cloning, backups and restores.

Have you replaced a hard drive? How did you copy the files from the old drive to the new one? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Copy Old Hard Drive to New PC"

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
20 Mar 2017

I am surprised you do not suggest the possibility, for a complete copy of the entire drive, of connecting the new drive, booting any of the Linux distributions live CD, and running rsync in a console.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm sure that could work, but it's a tad geeky, wouldn't you say? :-)


Posted by:

Joe
20 Mar 2017

How about swapping out a small SSD for a larger one. The small one has my Operating System on it as well as some programs and is getting fairly full. Or, should I just use it as is and do everything else on the 1TB HDD?

Thanks.


Posted by:

Michael Choma
20 Mar 2017

I simply used Macrium Reflect Free to restore an image backup of my old hard drive to my new replacement SSD drive. No hassle, no issues, no sweat and no pain. I was done in no time and the computer was up and running in about two hours from start to finish.


Posted by:

Lee
20 Mar 2017

I have done this several time and have used the Samsung Migration Utility, Macrium Reflect and most recently Acronis a license came with my most recent PNY SSD. Acronis was the easiest ever and I was able to also use it to reuse my smaller OCZ SSD in another system.

Seems you left out copying data over to a new PC here which I thought you meant to cover? Another article maybe?


Posted by:

john yessis
20 Mar 2017

Hi,
I tried cloning my hard drive, say 500 Gb and after downloading, installing Macrium, it gave me a message , " free version limited to 300 Gb"

So, no good.
Plus their web site today, has no comment on size limit on all versions.


Posted by:

Lee Hamilton
20 Mar 2017

If you want to copy a large quantity of files to your drive, try Tera Copy, formerly a Microsoft Toy, available at http://codesector.com/teracopy. Free for personal use, or buy pro version license. Performs multi threaded copy optimizing seeks. If a file already exists it will offer to leave alone or to copy it.

See also sync toy at https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/download/details.aspx?id=15155 for a versatile ways to synchronize files one way or both ways. Uses a private file to keep track of previously copied files so that only new or updated files are copied. This how I keep some backups up to date.


Posted by:

CtPaul
20 Mar 2017

My internal hard drive is 1 Terabyte. I have several 8 terabyte external hard drives. About once a month I copy my Internal hard drive to an external one. Occasionally, when I am bored out of my mind, I delete duplicate files.
It keeps me occupied... you know the old saying:
the devil finds work for idle hands

​
"said to show that you believe people who have nothing to do are more likely to get into trouble or commit a crime"
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/devil-finds-work-for-idle-hands


Posted by:

Ken
20 Mar 2017

I have been saved by Acronis several times over the past decades. I am puzzled though - you made no mention of the different hardware aspects of copying. Acronis refers to it as a "Bare Metal" restoration as I recall.

Thank you for your consistently excellent articles which have been immensely useful over the years. Have you considered charging an annual subscription? What would it do for you if every person on your list paid just $10?


Posted by:

Monte Crooks
20 Mar 2017

You did it again, Bob! Yet another in a long line of articles I define as a "KEEPER," by which I mean another "Ask Bob" article I send to my Ask Bob Keeper file. There are whole lots of articles in it for sure!

Thank you, Bob.


Posted by:

Gordon Peterson
20 Mar 2017

My current notebook computer hard drive is only about 350Gb, which is small. Obviously, I want to upgrade to 1Tb or more, but while I want to resize the main partition (to as big as the new drive allows) I want to also copy the other partitions too (which normally aren't mapped as accessible, but which contain the restoration copies of Windows 10 for example). I'm disappointed that you didn't even mention this (VERY significant!) issue...!!!!


Posted by:

Steve Miller
20 Mar 2017

I have used Aomei Backerupper for a number of years with excellent results. In fact, I try to clone my hard drive to an external drive every few months as insurance in case of HD failure , or virus, etc. I have also used Macrium Reflect with some success and Acronis True Image.


Posted by:

KONRAD POTH
20 Mar 2017

I began using computers in my law practice in 1976.When it became possible to partition a large hard drive, I did just that: using C as the operating system, D drive for all data, and P drive for photographs. My backup for the last two decades is an external hard drive powered by a small, precise, and totally reliable program called "Second Copy". Thew only things I back up are my D and P drives, automatically every night at 3 AM. I have changed computers several times over the years and after partitioning the hard drive on the new computer to C, D and P, I simply copy the fields from my external hard drive to the new machine. Each file, exactly as it was on the old machine is ready for use - uncluttered by OS files as it would be if everything was on the C drive.


Posted by:

Phil
20 Mar 2017

Bob,

I have used Clickfree to make an image as a backup of my current WIN XP computer. I am thinking of buying a new WIN 10 computer and was wondering if I could set up a separate partition on the new computer and then transfer the Clickfree image to that partition and use it as a separate boot on my new computer (allowing all my old programs to run on the new computer)?


Posted by:

Dave
20 Mar 2017

I used Lap Link's PC Mover in January to move data and apps from my slowly failing PC to a new one. It worked pretty much as advertised. It doesn't bring everything over--you still need to spend a few hours tweaking your new hard drive. But it was a good aid and saved a lot of time. The software says it's only good for one usage.


Posted by:

Murray White
20 Mar 2017

I agree with Bob about cleaning stuff when getting a new computer. I will create a wordpad document via C Cleaner of all the programs installed on the system which are on the C drive while on a totally different drive are all the data which then simply is installed in the new tower. Because I keep the links and the setup files for my programs in separate folders and others that come with CD's I can then choose to do an update to a program, install the one I have the setup file for or simply eliminate something not used a lot. Then of course all data files have triple BU with a couple of drives in safe locations.


Posted by:

Jim Michaels
20 Mar 2017

"REDO Backup & Restore" is the easiest cloning software out there. I've restored both Windows &
Linux machines. It's FREE and fits on a CD/USB that you boot the computer with. Select the source and destination drives then start. That's it.


Posted by:

Steve
20 Mar 2017

I started using AOMEI Backupper to create incremental images of my system and data drives, in the event I need to restore them. Not sure how it compares to Macrium, which does similar things.


Posted by:

RandiO
20 Mar 2017

I have been noticing that Mr. Rankin keeps silent anytime one of us groundhogs comes out of our hole and yells out "Acronis!". Sure, "Friends don't recommend friends PAYware" but Acronis is the 600pound gorilla in the industry and has been for over a decade+. Sticking with Acronis also has the added benefit of being backward compatible with their older versions; allowing usability of the archives previously created by older AcronisTrueImage versions.
AND, if you own a WesternDigital HDD/SSD, you can download/use Acronis FREE of charge.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm just not a fan of Acronis. I have used it and recommended it here in the past, but the 2014 and/or 2015 versions were terrible. So I switched to Macrium Reflect and I like it a lot. That's why I now recommend it.


Posted by:

RandiO
21 Mar 2017

Thank you for the Comment, Mr. Rankin.
For security/privacy concerns; it [i][b]should [/b][/i] also be noted that encryption/passwording of the archive/image is necessary.
Some of the FREEware versions of such programs do not have this feature.


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