Ahh, Vista... how I won't miss you.
December 21, 2009 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Questions about hard drives, enclosures, and other ways to survive a blue screen of death.

I have a HP desktop running Vista. I went to do a SP1 upgrade ahead of a potential change to Win7, something went off course, and now I own a desktop that won’t get past a blue screen of death when I try and start up. I’ve tried a handful of things to resolve the issue to no avail, and at this point, I’m just ready to get a new desktop (had been thinking about it anyway, so I figure this is a sign from the computer gods).

99% of my data was backed up ahead of the upgrade. However, I would like to be able to access the data on the old HP just in case. Limited technical knowledge, but a history of reading AskMe questions, leads me to believe that I can remove my HD from the old desktop, place it in an enclosure, and access it like an external drive.

How complicated is this? Is it really that straightforward? Anything I’m not thinking of?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
What does the blue screen say?
posted by defragmeout at 5:44 PM on December 21, 2009

You can just buy a new hard drive and SATA cable, plug it up inside the existing compter and load new Windows on the new drive (disconnect the old one temporarily to avoid mistakenly formatting it).

Shut down, plug the other drive back up. You should boot into the new Windows. The old hard drive will show up and you can copy files from it to the new drive.

Lifehacker explains the basics of connecting a SATA hard drive here
posted by ijoyner at 6:15 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hard drives are easily removable (should just involve taking the cover off, pulling out two cables, and removing a few screws, although it might be more involved if it's some kind of funny HP case). Once it's out, you can slap it into a SATA dock (if it's a SATA drive) like this one. If it's an IDE drive, you'll have to install it in an enclosure (or mount it inside your new computer); I don't think there are any docks for those.

If your drive has two rows of pins in back that a wide ribbon cable connects to, it's IDE. Otherwise, it's SATA (much narrower cables with L-shaped connectors).
posted by neckro23 at 6:38 PM on December 21, 2009

Can you not go back to a restore point/back up point on the desktop? My laptop was bluescreening after a spate of updates, and it was something stupid, like a driver for some 3rd party device (this is an HP laptop). Restore back to before the update - no problem.

Then you can upgrade to 7 without doing the Vista updates. After the blue screen, I didn't bother with anything but the most critical of updates, because driver compatibility is such an all-fired bitch with Vista.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:40 PM on December 21, 2009

My only suggestion is to run from Vista. On three computers I did a clean install of Windows 7 and forgot about everything else. I had to install my software over but from what I can tell I have been better off compared to folks who upgraded from Vista.

You have your data, if you have your software install disks (e.g. Office 2007 or whatever you use) then just dump Vista and move on.
posted by fluffycreature at 9:04 AM on December 22, 2009

I would check to see if your computer came with any restore CD. That would most likely have an "image" of your computer which is an exact copy of your machine that it came with when it rolled off the factory line. If you did have one, all you would have to do is boot from the CD and you would have your original cpu back in a matter of minutes.

If not, then you can still use your existing hard drive. Its unlikely a blue screen means theres anything physically wrong with your hard drive, especially if it came as a result of trying to upgrade something.

If you do go the new computer route, here is my suggestion for avoiding future problems like this which is a method i have used for ages and learned as an IT pro.

Get your new computer and add the old hard drive to it (youll have to format the old hard drive but this is simple). Set up your operating system so that all of the installations of software and OS are on the main drive (THe C: drive) and set it up to point to the second hard drive to store all of your files and data (my documents, pictures, backups etc..).,

Then, buy yourself an imaging software like Norton Ghost or, I highly recommend Acronis True Image. Its $40. Once you have that you can make a perfect image of your computer.. think of it as a perfect carbon copy (it works by copying your hard drive contents sector by sector which is different than the way normal copying works). This way, if anything ever goes wrong with your operating system, you can be back and running in minutes without even having to move and recopy all of your data from backups and re-installing software.

And, if you want to install a piece of software youre not sure of, all you have to do is image your computer just before you install it so you can revert back to a true restore point.
posted by postergeist at 12:43 PM on December 22, 2009

forgot to mention something important which is that you would be imaging the C: drive and backing up your data separately. You would only want to restore the operating system itself from the image.
posted by postergeist at 12:45 PM on December 22, 2009

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