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Ways to Copy the Contents of One Hard Disk Drive to Another
Last updated: 12/11/02

This article will show you how to configure your old and new hard disk drives and describe four methods used to copy the contents of the old one to the new one.

Protect Your Data.  Before doing anything major to a hard disk drive be sure to backup your data and follow the Rules for Working With Hard Disk Drives and Safeguarding Data.

Setting-up the Drives.  A hard disk does not have be mounted in a computer case to copy stuff to and from it.  Be sure the power cord is pulled, and simply set it on top of the case up-side-down so the printed circuit board is not shorted and plug in the cables   A shop computer in a desktop case is shown in the picture to the right.  Lay a tower down on its right side and set the drive on top of the left side.  Be sure to put something such as a  foam rubber pad under the right side of the case to protect it from scratches from loose screws. etc. that have a way of accumulating on workbench tops.

If your motherboard has two IDE interfaces, image and data transfers will go much faster if the two drives are set as Masters, the default setting for almost all new hard disk drives (with no Slave present ), and connecting each to one of the interfaces for the transfer.  That is, temporarily disconnect the CD-ROM and connect the hard disk drive in its place on the secondary IDE interface.  However, do not leave the drive on the secondary with the CD-ROM if you are going to use the drive frequently.  A CD-ROM can slow-down a hard disk drive.

One would normally make a new drive the Master, especially if it is a 7,200 RPM drive and the old drive is 5,400 RPM.   Not only is it faster, the new drive should be more reliable and last longer than the old one.  I usually put the old drive on same cable as the Master and jumper it as a Slave.  If you want to use the new drive as slave, remove the old drive, set the new drive as a Master, and prep it with a Startup floppy using fdisk and format per our How to articles.  When done, jumper and connect it as a slave.  Disconnecting the old drive helps avoid the mistake of prep’ing the wrong drive/partition.

1.  Copy an Image of the Drive (or Partition).   A hard disk may have one or more partitions.  If you just have a C: drive, files are stored on it in a single partition.  Copying an image of a hard disk partition copies the raw data, the 0's and 1's stored on the partition.  This is done with an image copying utility such as:

EZ Drive in Maxtor's MaxBlast Plus II Utilities and Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools are capable of doing a simple image transfer.

2.  Selective Directory/File Backup, Clean Install, Restore.  Copy application data, user data in Windows, and reinstall Windows and applications.  I usually do this to my hard disk about once every six months, or when it gets very unreliable from installing and uninstalling software and hardware on too many times.  Use the Windows Explorer to copy everything that isn't "junk" except the Windows directory/folder and reinstall all applications, etc.  Then make a Windows folder on the destination and selectively copy subdirectories/folder and files with user data from the Windows folder to the destination (to the backup).  These include, but may not be limited to:

If you are doing this procedure for a clean install and it involves wiping the disk clean, it is a good idea to make a backup with MS Backup, which comes with Windows 9x/Me, on a scratch drive or network file server in case you forget something.

Some applications keep data in the their corresponding subdirectories in the Program Files folder; e.g., Quick Books Pro accounting in the Intuit subfolder.  You may therefore want to make a folder Program Files,  appropriate subfolders, and copy the data over.

Next - Use a Backup Program >

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