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Can You Swap the Main Hard Drive from One Computer Into Another Computer

#1 User is offline   SigitNurhadi 

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:54 PM

If you remove a hard drive ( in this case, the boot drive that has the operating system, applications, and all the other stuff in it) from one computer and install it on another computer, will it work?

#2 User is offline   snorg 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 01:30 AM

Yes that will work, BUT the drivers may not work so you need to be prepared to install drivers for that PC.

#3 User is offline   mphenterprises 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 01:31 AM

Hi Sigit. First, I have changed your Discussion title to give a clearer indication of your question. As mentioned previously, please be as descriptive as possible in both the heading of your Discussion as well as the post itself.

Now, the short answer to your question is yes it can be done. To provide a more thorough response, we need more information:

- Is the main hard drive from one computer going to be the main drive in another computer?

- What Operating System is installed on the hard drive?

- What type of drive is it? (IDE versus SATA)

- What is the manufacturer and model number of the computer you plan on moving it into?

Please remember that the more information you provide us from the onset, the more effectively we can troubleshoot your issue.

#4 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 02:36 AM

snorg said:

Yes that will work, BUT the drivers may not work so you need to be prepared to install drivers for that PC.

I would modify that answer and add to it...

Yes, it CAN work...but may not or you might run into some challenges.

There are a few caveats, however. As first noted, you will have to deal with the driver issue. If the computer has different equipment (which is rather likely unless you talking about two identical computers such as maybe where one has a problem and the second is a replacement and you want to swap drives and then will send the other one back), then they will use different drivers. This can potentially result in a system crash (and maybe BSOD) upon boot-up in many cases as the drivers will be different enough. To deal with this, you should first uninstall ALL drivers on the system while the drive is in the old computer. Then shutdown (do NOT reboot as that will go through the process of trying to reinstall drivers). Then move the drive to the new computer and boot it up. It should then use the Windows Hardware Wizard to try to load as many drivers as it can. You might then have to locate some drivers that don't come standard with Windows and install them "manually".

The second caveat is activation. If the OS is one of Microsoft's more modern OSs (i.e. Windows Vista or XP...and maybe even Windows 2000...don't recall for sure on 2000), then it has an activation function/"feature". Part of activation is that if Windows detects a significant change of hardware (which moving a drive from one computer to a new computer will DEFINITELY do), then it must be re-activated. Generally speaking, this is more of just a hassle/speedbump, but it can be a deal breaker. Technically, if the old computer has an OEM license for Windows, then I believe you are NOT permitted to move that OS to another computer per the EULA of Microsoft's OEM OS license. Thus, you might have trouble activating it. If it is a retail or upgrade license, then you should not have any problems strickly speaking and it should be just a matter of jumping through the hoops (which might be as simple as doing it online, but could mean having to call Microsoft and telling what is going one to get it activated). If it is a volume/site license Windows install, then you should have zero trouble with activation...same with older Windows OS such as Windows 98, 98se, and Me.

The last caveat is a small one...this all assumes that your new computer supports the type of hard drive that is in the older computer. If your old computer has an IDE drive and the new computer for some reason does NOT have any IDE connectors, then you might hit a road block (there are some adapters out there, but I have not always heard good things about them). The parallel issue is that if the old computer is old enough, then you might not be too keen on using an older (and potentially smaller) hard drive. Now, the way to pontential deal with both these items is to clone the drive to a brand spanking new hard drive (just make sure to uninstall the drivers BEFORE you clone it...and then use a bootable CD of the cloning software so that you don't start up the driver reinstall process).

#5 User is offline   rgreen4 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:35 AM

I had an answer ready, but decided to test my theory. Intellectual Ingrigue rears it's head again. !http://forums.pcworld.com/legacyimages/
1! What I discovered is that yes, if you transfer an XP system drive from one machine to another, it will boot. I took the original XP Media Center Edition (XP Pro or Home may be different, but I doubt it) that was set up for my HP Media Center and installed it in my self build machine. Now the specifications of the machines are similar, in that both have Intel C2D processors, both have Nvidia video cards and both have DVD burners, but the brands of the MB's are different and the signatures of the boards and CPU's will be different.
In the case of the XP drive, it booted but then said that I had to activate this copy of Windows before continuing and asked if I wanted to activate. I took a no, and it gave the the HP Administrator logon selection at which point I shut it down. It might give you 30 days to re-activate before disabling itself as it would on a new install.
Vista was a completely different story. I took the backup Vista system drive from my HP Media Center (I had cloned this drive and then installed SP1 on the clone which is now the primary drive) and installed it again in my Gigabyte machine and attempted to boot. It halted, restarted and then gave me the black screen with white text that windows was either not shut down properly or failed to start previously, and gave me several options. I could either repair, etc or I could start in the safe mode with several options or start normally. It would not even start in the safe mode.
In the case of XP, I'm not sure whether you can transfer an OEM license to a new machine or not, at one time they were a little more lenient. However, I do know that in the case of Vista they have stated that you cannot. In fact some have had to purchase new copies of Vista after having a MB replaced. It is interesting to note that both of my experiments involved OEM licenses, even though the Vista was an OEM Upgrade (the machine originally came with XP MCE and I received the free MS/HP upgrade to Vista, but it shows OEM in the COA on the screen.
A true upgrade or full retail Vista installation may behave differently, but I don't have any to try at this point. I have a true upgrade disc but it has never been installed.

#6 User is offline   mjd420nova 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 10:01 AM

Yes, you can. BUT you may need to do an OS repair to get the new OS installed with the proper drivers for the OS and get it to recognize the new hardware. You will also have to reinstall all the software programs to get it to recognize the new hardware. To me, this isn't really worth the hassle of all the reinstalling, far better to wipe the drive if it's the only one you have and install a new OS and the software you want. What I really prefer doing is to install a new hard drive, install the OS and the software packages for the hardware I'm using and when all that works and the software programs all play well together, install the old drive as a second drive and then you'll have access to all the data that was on it and the programs you like, but remember that the programs on the second drive were installed under a differently installed OS and with a different hardware characterization.

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