Computer help
April 20, 2005 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Computer A has a HDD and loads of software on it. Computer B has no HDD, but all new hardware. If I take HDD from Computer A and put it Computer B, how many aspirin do I have to take?

Yes, I want to get a new computer, but I don't want to reinstall my old programs.. This is XP home. Please tell me this is possible! Thanks!
posted by eas98 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Presuming that Windows is installed on the HDD, probably not too many aspirin ! If you have the Windows install CD, the plug and play features will load the drivers needed for the new hardware, and pretty much work !
posted by curtm at 8:43 AM on April 20, 2005

None if you're lucky, lots if you're unlucky.

It all comes down to the hard-drive controller drivers, which are an integral part of XP and motherboard dependent. If you machines have the same motherboard, there's a good chance the swap will be painless, with you just having to put your windows disc in for drivers for higher level hardware.

If not, you'll get the dreaded "Boot Device Not Found" or "NT Boot Loader Failure" and then you're in a world of Panadol...

It's possible (I've been told) to install the right drivers for the new hard-drive controller on the old machine before moving the disc, but I've never done this myself and I understand it involved hacking around with the debug interface, so if you're not geek-tastic, you may want to rethink...
posted by benzo8 at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2005

Generally, moving hard drives like this can be a painful process. One solution is to buy a cheap, smaller hard drive (20gb, $40-50) and install that in the new machine with your XP Home CD, and use the second hard drive as your non-startup/system disk. This seems like the best thing to do if you can afford it.

On the other hand, you could also move the hard disk to the new computer, then start the computer with the XP Home CD, and reinstall XP on the hard drive.

I've overly simplified this procedure, it would be helpful to know if you have access to your XP Home CD (getting a new one isn't too hard if you've got your serial number) or if you have a system recovery disk from a company like Dell (you never got an XP CD).
posted by onalark at 8:47 AM on April 20, 2005

Like they said, you can do it, but XP will choke if figures out you've moved it to another motherboard, but, you can fix that with an install CD, just doing a repair/reinstall. 35 minutes.
posted by airguitar at 8:50 AM on April 20, 2005

I agree with onalark. If you follow his/her instructions, make sure that you change the jumpers on your old hard drive so that it's set as "Slave" with the new one as "Master".

Here's my favorite strategy, though: you know, hard drives are so cheap nowadays that you might as well just buy a HUGE new one. Keep the old one in your machine if it's big enough, or just copy all the old data off of it onto the new one and keep it as a backup.
posted by redteam at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2005

This can be a headache, but it usually works. I've done it more times than I can count.

First, make sure you have your Windows install CD and activation key. You are going to need both.

Boot on the old computer into safe mode. Remove the drivers for your video card, sound card, and network card. Shut down. Move the hard drive to the new computer. Turn it on. If Windows comes up, you can make it work.

If it does come up - install drivers for the current hardware, and remove anything that no longer belongs. You'll need to do some reboots, and they might occasionally fail. Just remember you can use safe mode. Also, you'll likely need to reactivate Windows.

If it doesn't come up - either risk doing a reinstall on the new computer using your CD (and take the slight risk of losing all your data), or follow onalark's suggestion above.

If these instructions seem a little bit complicated, you probably want to get some help doing this. It isn't very hard, but it helps to be familiar with the process.

Oh, and one more thing - make sure you have a Windows install CD, not a manufacturer's XP rebuild CD (like from Dell). The rebuild CDs wipe your hard drive clean and install everything the way it came from the factory. If Microsoft made the CD (holograms, etc) you should be fine. If it is from a large computer maker, check very carefully.
posted by bh at 9:02 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far.. What I most want to avoid is reinstalling the dozens of programs that I've installed over the years. Getting a new boot driver would require I do so.

I can get an XP Home CD.. If I reinstall (or repair) the OS, will I have to reinstall all of the other software?
posted by eas98 at 9:09 AM on April 20, 2005

Nobody's mentioned this yet -- if you change processor families, you'll have to do a reinstall regardless of other installation and uninstallation of video card, nic, etc. drivers.
posted by boo_radley at 9:12 AM on April 20, 2005

I can get an XP Home CD.. If I reinstall (or repair) the OS, will I have to reinstall all of the other software?

Not if you install the OS on the same drive.
posted by bh at 9:13 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Nobody's mentioned this yet -- if you change processor families, you'll have to do a reinstall regardless of other installation and uninstallation of video card, nic, etc. drivers.

For real? I was planning on Intel to Amd. :(
posted by eas98 at 9:14 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: There has to be an easier way to upgrade computers.. I mean, the thought of finding and reinstalling ALL of my software makes me not want to upgrade at all!
posted by eas98 at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Mostly the issues would be with the registry.. I mean, I could bring the original HDD as a slave and copy the programs, but the registry entries will not be there, and perhaps missing system dlls.. Maybe a utility out there that does this?
posted by eas98 at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2005

I've done this before on Windows 2000, when a motherboard died on me. It was relatively painless, about 10 minutes of 'New Hardware installed' dialogs and installations, and it worked fine, without any problems.

I dont know how the product activation on XP will deal with it, but it should install anyway. You might have to phone them for a new activation code. Similarly with Office maybe, I dont know if that is tied to hardware in the same way...
posted by Boobus Tuber at 9:33 AM on April 20, 2005

In my experience, it will depend on how the machine looks for the boot sector, and how proprietary their startup is. Some pcs (Dells) will boot to just about any drive/OS combo you throw on them, while others (Compaq) are more fussy. Worth a try.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2005

For real? I was planning on Intel to Amd. :(

Yes, boo_radley is right. I upgraded from an Intel motherboard to an AMD one and I had to reinstall the OS.
posted by madman at 12:51 PM on April 20, 2005

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