Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Transferring to a replacement drive needn't be difficult. In fact, prepping for a transfer can be as simple as a side effect of backing up regularly.
My hard Drive states that failure is imminent & I should replace it immediately. My questions are as follows: When I replace my hard drive, will I need to install a new operating system? Is there a way to clone my current hard drive completely including my operating system? If I am able to clone my entire Hard Drive, will I need hardware or some device to set up between the old hard Drive and the new while I do the transfer? What is the best way to save my existing files if I can't salvage my entire hard drive? Are there software programs that can help me do this?
There are indeed programs that can help. They're called "backup programs".
While there are many, many ways to do what you're looking to do, I'm going to review what I think is the most appropriate way.
In fact, it's the very way that I just recently did exactly what you're asking about.
First things first: start backing up. Now. Do not wait.
You are very, very lucky: most hard drive failures come without any warning. One day the drive just fails.
The fact that you're asking this question tells me that you haven't been backing up.
If you had been backing up, you would have:
The knowledge that your existing files are there, in your backups, ready for recovery should you ever need them for any reason.
The ability to recover even if your hard drive failed completely without warning.
A means to transfer your entire system to your new hard disk.
If you read Ask Leo! frequently you may be tired of my constant harping on the miracle that is a well maintained backup, but I can't stress enough how important it is, and how many types of problems from which it can help you recover.
I know this for a fact myself, since very coincidentally two days before writing this article my hard drive - the primary hard drive on my primary work machine - developed a bad sector that could not be repaired.
However, I've been doing regular backups to an external USB hard drive. So no mater what, I knew that I would not lose any files or important information - only the time and inconvenience of purchasing, replacing and restoring a backup image to a new drive.
And that, quite literally was the process:
Once I determined that the drive should be replaced I ordered a new one. (A larger one, while I was at it.)
When the new drive arrived I installed it into my system, removing the old drive.
I booted from my backup programs bootable rescue media and restored the backup to the machine.
I rebooted my machine and was back in business - my operating system installed programs and files successfully transferred over courtesy of the backup
(Full disclosure: there were, of course, some additional steps I've glossed over. Conceptually, though, it really was that simple. I'll cover my experience in detail in a later article.)
The bottom line is exactly what you were looking for: having a full backup allowed me to transfer everything from my existing, failing hard disk to my replacement disk.
And that's exactly what I recommend you do: start backing up to an external backup hard drive. Use an image backup tool like Macrium Reflect, which I used in my example above, or any of several others. Backup regularly: daily is common.
It's hard to overstate the number of different ways a regular backup can save you.
But this is clearly one of them.
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