Can I backup my Windows 7 operating system for use on a new hard drive?
April 30, 2013 12:49 PM   Subscribe

The hard drive on my computer is about to go. I've backed up all of my files, etc. but is there a way for me to back up the Windows 7 OS and install it on new hard drive?

It's a Lenovo computer with a restore partition that allows me to create a recovery disc but it says that backup will only work on the current system. I assume that means it won't work if I put in a new hard drive, correct? If so, what are my options to avoid having to purchase another copy of Windows 7?
posted by gfrobe to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You can clone your existing HD to the new HD using the free program Clonezilla. I just did it yesterday and it mostly involved burning a CD, booting off of it and hitting enter a few times. At the end of the process your new HD contains the exact same system as the old HD.
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2013

I used DriveImageXML. Extremely simple.

You might also consider Keyfinder to get your existing Windows key if you don't already have it, and the official Windows ISOs should you need to reinstall sans backup.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:50 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

The warning is because a system restore is unlikely to work in another computer due to driver incompatibilities. It should pretty much work fine in the same laptop with a new drive.
posted by srboisvert at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2013

Unless you will have a really hard time reinstalling all your software, I would suggest that you use this opportunity to start with a fresh installation of Windows 7, using the Keyfinder utility and the ISOs pointed out by urbanwhaleshark. Windows tends to get kind of bloated after a while, so a fresh start might help speed things up a bit.
posted by number9dream at 3:19 PM on April 30, 2013

If you're just replacing the hard drive, you can clone the dying drive to a new drive using something like Norton Ghost or one of the other programs listed above. This will copy all of the data including Windows and all your programs over.

Note that with Windows 7, to make the new drive boot up properly you have to do a startup repair. It's easy enough to do--with the new drive plugged in, boot up to the Windows 7 install disc and I believe it is the first option on the list.

If you're trying to set up a new computer with completely different hardware, or if your drive is badly damaged, cloning doesn't work well. In that case, you're better off reinstalling Windows (use produkey to pull the product key and reinstall from a disk).
posted by JDHarper at 4:03 PM on April 30, 2013

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