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The approach that I'm going to suggest is quite practical and I think it kills two birds with one stone.

Hi, Leo. I've just brought my Toshiba laptop out of retirement and wish to upgrade the hard drive to a larger size. The laptop came with Windows XP Home Edition 2002 and I'm operating 32-bit. I do not have a disc, but I do have the product key number. What are my options to transfer the OS to a new drive, if any, without having to purchase a new program?

In this excerpt from Answercast #58, I look at two ways to replace a hard drive in an old computer.

Moving XP to a new disk

Well, there are two approaches.

One actually does require that you purchase a new program - and that you go out and scour eBay or the secondary market for a copy of Windows XP. That will allow you to set it up from scratch. Given that you don't have a disc, that would be a nice safety net to have.

However, the other approach that I'm going to suggest is much more practical and I think it kills two birds with one stone.

Make a backup copy

Since you don't have installation discs, what I strongly suggest you do (regardless of whether or not you replace your hard disk) is you immediately get a copy of a good backup program like Macrium Reflect and create an image backup of your entire system. Save that.

Save that somewhere that you'll continue to keep for quite some time, because if something goes wrong on your system, that is a backup that you can revert to to get your system working again.

Copy the image to the new disk

Now, the neat thing about having that backup, that system image backup, is that you can replace the hard disk.

What the steps are:

  • Take a complete system image (probably to an external hard drive which I recommend you get and continue to use for backup purposes).

  • Replace your computer's internal hard drive.

Then, booting from the recovery media that comes with the backup software, you can restore the backup image of your system to your new hard drive.

Then, the software will either allow you to resize that image to encompass the entire hard disk, or you can run out and use one of the free disk partitioning tools to actually do that for you.

But in either case, the key here is a good backup program; a good system image backup program. Macrium Reflect is the tool that I use and in fact have used for exactly what you're looking to do.

Article C5876 - October 3, 2012 « »

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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.

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4 Comments
Brian
October 7, 2012 3:59 PM

I was understanding all of this quite well, I thought, until you said, "then, the software will either allow you to resize that image to encompass the entire hard disk, or you can run out and use one of the free disk partitioning tools to actually do that for you."
What does all that mean and why is it necessary?

If you have a 250GB hard disk and back it up, then replace it with a 500GB hard disk and now restore the 250GB backup - the backup software MAY simply create a 250GB partition, making it look exactly like that original 250GB disk, with the rest of the space in an unused and inaccessible partition. If that happens you need to use partitioning software to expand the restored 250GB partition to encompass the entire 500GB disk. On the other hand some backup software will automatically expand on restore.
Leo
08-Oct-2012
Brian
October 8, 2012 11:46 AM

Thank you, now I understand

Ray Ostrander
October 10, 2012 5:07 PM

This comment "Then, booting from the recovery media that comes with the backup software, you can restore the backup image of your system to your new hard drive" needs further explanation. It's contained in the article "How do I replace my HD while preserving the contents". I use Acronis TI 2010 to do weekly full backups and preserve them on an external 1 TB HD. Fortunately I never have to do a recovery usin Acronis, so booting from recovery media is not clear.

Edward
October 13, 2012 8:29 PM

Acronis has an option for you to create a bootable recovery disk. By booting the computer with this recovery disk, you can create a mirror image of the entire disk on your external drive. This will save you much time and grief in case the hard drive fails. In the case of hard drive failure, you will need more than your weekly backups to make the the replacement drive start your computer. The image of the entire disk will be invaluable if your hard disk crashes. It will also make it unnecessary for you to reinstall the entire system on to a new hard disk from scratch. Just boot the recovery disk and restore the image that you made earlier. You won't even have to format the new drive.

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