Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

You can move a hard drive from one computer to another... but it may take a re-install of Windows for the software to work with the new hardware.

Can I take the hard drive out of a desktop with an Intel Core and put it in another desktop with an AMD processor? They both have the same connectors.

In this excerpt from Answercast #85, I look at the possibilities of moving a hard drive from one laptop computer to another and have it "just work."

Move hard drive from a computer

Yes and no...

Yes, you can. Absolutely! There is no issue from an hardware perspective.

The CPU type really doesn't matter for hard drive functionality. In fact, the hard drive is blissfully unaware of what kind of CPU happens to be driving the computer that is accessing the hard drive.

Can you "just boot"?

However, I do want to caution you - if you are expecting the installed operating system on that hard drive to simply work, the answer is maybe. Literally, if the only thing that's changed is the CPU itself, then it might actually work.

When you reboot that machine and Windows notices that the CPU has changed, it may be able to reconfigure itself to take advantage of this different CPU's capabilities. Because the CPUs are actually used in such equivalent ways, there's usually very little difference (from Windows' perspective) as to how the operating system needs to access this CPU.

Hardware differences

However, since typically changing the CPU requires a completely different motherboard, and usually involves completely different additional hardware, then the answer is no, I would not expect Windows to just work.

You will probably need to install that hard drive on that other machine with a different processor, and then install Windows from scratch. Install your applications from scratch and restore your data to that hard drive.

Software probably won't work

In other words, expecting the software (the installed software and specifically Windows itself) to just work if you change the hard drive from one machine to a completely different machine -- not very likely.

However, if all you're doing is moving a hard drive (and it's empty, and you're not doing anything with it) from one machine to another, the CPU type really doesn't matter.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Next from Answercast 85 - Why can't I resize this window?

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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.

Not what you needed?

john ruelle
January 8, 2013 8:49 AM

Leo....I have been a subscriber to your very informative news letter for a long time now and always look forward to your great information!

I just have a small comment to add to the above information on moving a HD. Rather than move the HD, move the image of the HD and then install the old HD internally, or as a USB drive.

Acronis true image 2013 and the accompanying 2013 plus pack allow one to move an image of the original PC's C-Partition (and whole disk if one desires) to a new PC with completely different hardware. The driver issue (i.e. chipset, video, etc.) is easily handled by simply loading them beforehand to a memory stick and setting the path during Acronis's universal restore.

As you mentioned, the hardware is usually fairly different. So, when the new PC is booted, a microsoft notice appears stating that the system requires validation within 3 days. Validation takes only a few seconds and no windows key is required.


Gord Campbell
January 8, 2013 12:54 PM

A different brand of video adapter is generally a much bigger challenge than a different brand of CPU.

Ron Kroger
January 8, 2013 5:46 PM

Just for your info. You can move A linux HDD from PC to PC. I install the various distros while the HDD is installed in my new (much faster) PC then move it to the old (slow) machine.

john ruelle
January 9, 2013 9:03 PM

Gord, the brand of video card (or on-board graphics) is no problem with Acronis Universal Restore. Simply load the video drivers to a USB memory stick or CD ahead of time and point Universal Restore to the location where you put the drivers.

January 10, 2013 8:54 AM

I did move a hard drive to a different computer and it was easy but not completely easy.

Upon booting up, Windows XP did the found new hardware. Problem was that XP didn't have all the drivers that were needed. Windows wanted to run Windows Update to find drivers. Problem was, that the network card was one of the missing drivers.

Fortunately, it recognized the modem and I could use dial-up networking to get to Windows Update.

So if you're going to do this, make sure you have all the drivers handy.

January 10, 2013 9:13 PM

I moved a hard drive from a dead computer(mobo quit) to a new one with a completely different configuration with zero problems EXCEPT with Redmon. I had to buy a completely new OS because it was a 'new' computer, despite the fact the old one was dead and the 'new' (used) one was running XP Pro before I swapped. I went from Intel to AMD with no hitches, machinery-wise - Win XP Pro did a stand-up job.

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