can I replace my hard drive preserving Windows
September 14, 2017 8:00 AM   Subscribe

My Windows boot hard drive has an intermittent problem and needs to be replaced. If I clone it to a new bigger HD using GNU ddrescue as suggested by flabdablet in 2015 will it boot Windows 10 Pro as before, or do I need to extract my Windows key somehow (how?) and reinstall Windows on the new drive?

The drive intermittently has a bitmap attribute problem in the Master File Table. I suspect this isn't easily fixable, but if it is then please tell me how.

When rebooting the PC mostly goes into an infinite loop of "Preparing Automatic Repair .. Diagnosing your PC .. Your PC did not stat correctly". Once in a while it actually boots up -- it's up and running now and I've temporarily disabled updates, so hope to solve the problem with a new HD.
posted by anadem to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Reinstall no options. IMHO
posted by Freedomboy at 8:14 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can almost certainly move the install over and remain licensed, though it's possible that you'll have to call Microsoft. But if your Windows install is broken due to corrupted files, it isn't going to work correctly on the new drive.
posted by cnc at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Did you activate Windows by product key or "digital license" (nee "digital entitlement")? If the latter, the license is tied to your specific motherboard, so you should probably be able to reinstall without entering a product key or calling Microsoft.

I wouldn't boot from a clone of a failing drive. There's no telling what's corrupted: NTFS doesn't have the same self-consistency protections as, say, ZFS. Definitely use ddrescue to recover what you need, but clean-install Windows on a partition on a good drive.
posted by lozierj at 9:58 AM on September 14, 2017

Are all you worried about is whether Windows will activate properly if installed on the new drive? Generally, you shouldn't have any trouble with that given your circumstances, assuming that you either have the product key you used for the original installation, or Windows was installed on the machine from the factory (in which case the key is stored on the motherboard's firmware). At most you might need to call MS to get it activated if the automatic activation fails. Highly recommend you do that instead of trying to recover the OS from the old hard drive; you'd still need to reactivate your new copy of Windows if you did that anyway, but the risk that the OS is corrupted is higher.
posted by Aleyn at 12:29 AM on September 15, 2017

A swift Google search suggests that "chkdsk /f" may give you a temporary stay of execution - however a new hard drive sounds like a good plan

Since you're on Windows 10 you don't need to backup your licence key (for those reading this who aren't on 10, look for Advanced Tokens Manager).

However I would recommend backing up your drivers onto a USB stick (look for "boozenet double driver") before you unplug the drive and stick a new one in. That way you can quickly reinstall the drivers that are missing after you've done a fresh install of Windows.

If you have licenced products on the computer look for programs such as Produkey or KeyFinderThing which will give you a list of the serial numbers.
posted by mr_silver at 4:04 PM on September 15, 2017

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