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Cloning a hard drive, by definition, copies everything on it. There is a better option for upgrading which includes a clean installation of the new operating system.

My hard drive is acting up, so I have new one that I want to install. I wanted to copy everything to my new hard drive. I'm also thinking of installing Windows 7. How can I clone everything from the old hard drive to the new without XP? When cloning, my understanding is it will clone everything. Thanks, in advance.

In this excerpt from Answercast #16, I discuss cloning a hard drive and repeat the importance of backups and a clean install of any operating system.

Does cloning copy everything?


Cloning by definition means cloning everything. It means making an identical copy of your hard disk to another hard disk or another media of some sort.

So what you're trying to do is copy everything, but the operating system. I don't know of a way to do that.

Correct installation

The correct way to do what you're attempting to do - switch operating systems - is to:

  • Get your new hard drive.
  • Install Windows 7.
  • And then install your applications and your data there.

Naturally, the step left out is that you should really start with a backup, especially if your hard drive is acting up.

Backing up is crucial

You should be backing up regularly right now just because you don't know when that hard drive is going to die a permanent death.

Also, there no upgrade path from XP to Windows 7. The right way to switch an operating system version (and the right way for you to do what you want to do here) is to:

  • Install Windows 7 from scratch on the new hard drive.
  • Then reinstall all of your applications.
  • And then copy over the data that you care about

Presumably, you copy back your data from some other location or from your backup.

Article C5318 - May 9, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
May 11, 2012 8:41 AM

When you bring data back, be sure you put it in the correct folder. Windows 7 will use different default folders than Windows XP for some programs. What I usually do is create some data with the new setup - see where the data is stored (do a search), then backup everything, move my data over to the new location from the old harddrive and test it to make sure I didn't mess up anything. The folder tree structure can be very different between those two operating systems - especially if you install programs for all users - at least in the 7 Enterprise version!

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