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Ways to Copy the Contents of One Hard Disk to Another
Page 2
Last updated: 12/11/02

3.  Use a Backup Program. There was a time when we followed Microsoft's recommendations for moving a Windows-based hard disk to a new hard disk drive.  We would use Microsoft Backup, which comes with Windows, and backup the drive over the network to one of our file servers or to a scratch drive, installed an abbreviated version of Windows on the new drive, and do a restore.  This often resulted in Windows registry problems when Windows merged the old registry with the new one.  As disk drives, programs, and data got larger it also became very time consuming and error prone.  Other backup programs worked better, but the size of the backups were a real problem.  Tape drives were even slower and the tapes were often unreliable.  Backups are still valuable in cases where the original drive fails, but for moving data from one good drive to another the image copy method is the best choice.

4.  Directly Copy All of the Directories and Files.  In the old days of MS-DOS operating system, Windows 3.x, and Windows for Work Groups 3.x, one used the the DOS xcopy command  and it worked quite well.  The command is:

a:\> xcopy c:\*.* d:\*.* s/h/e/v

The flags copy subdirectories and their contents, hidden and system files, empty directories, and verifies the data.  In this example, the command is issued from a boot floppy.  There are other variations of the command.  The C: drive is the existing drive and the D: drive is a newly formatted drive that has had the DOS system files transferred to it so that it is bootable.  Prior to formatting the D: drive, if it is new,  it has to be partitioned with the DOS fdisk command to create a Primary DOS partition and any desired extended DOS Partitions (and logical drives D:, E:, etc. assigned).  The Primary DOS partition has to be made active.  More on this later...  To format the Primary partition and move the system files in one operation, use:

A:\>format C: /s

Or format it without the /s flag and use,

A:\>sys C:

to move the system files to it.

All versions of Windows 95 and 98 eliminated the capability of using xcopy to reliably copying the Windows directory (folder) and system files from one hard disk drive to another.  The DOS version of the xcopy command could no longer copy system files.  When run from a DOS Window in Windows (running in the Normal Mode), the xcopy (xcopy32) command could copy system files, but since some files are in use while Windows is running and cannot be copied, this procedure does not work.

Nick Rage sent me the following via E-Mail on11/20/02.  His procedure uses xcopy32 in a DOS window in Windows 9x running in the Safe Mode.  I tried it with a clean install of the Windows 98 Upgrade and it worked!  I did not have to SYS the drive and did not use the /s flag when formatting it.  Where he says, "7. Get a dos prompt box..." he means open a DOS Window in Windows running in the Safe Mode.

Hi Larry,

Here's one method that I have used with great success over the years to copy one hard disk to another.

If possible..
1. Make windows startup disk using the feature found in Control Panel - Add\Remove - Startup Disk, and set it aside, you'll need it.

2. Clean up temp files and other extraneous stuff ie.. Temporary internet files, history, cookies, windows\temp folder, etc..

3. Turn off virtual memory and disable screensaver and power management functions.

Steps 2 & 3 aren't strictly required.. but works for me.

4. Shut down system and connect new(?) drive. Connect as master on secondary ide if possible. You may have to disconnect CDROM.

5. Insert Startup Disk in floppy drive. Start up PC. Make any necessary changes to CMOS setup (autodetect drives usually works best). Make sure floppy drive is 1st in boot sequence. Exit setup. Continue boot from floppy. Partition new drive. Reboot. Format new drive.

6. Remove startup disk and reboot system into safe mode.

7. Get a dos prompt box. (I know, I KNOW!!..Windows will bark and mutter about corrupt video or some such, go ahead it's OK.) Maybe this is a good place for disclaimers!!

8. Get to c: prompt.

9. Now to the good stuff..the command that has worked for me hundreds (yes, I've done it quite a bit!) of time IS...

xcopy32 c:\*.* d:\*.* /s /e /r /v /k /f /c /h

We even made it easy to remember.. SERVe Kentucky Fried Chicken Hot! Also this assumes 2 drives with 1 partition each. Adjust recipe to suit. But you get the idea. I'm sending this info as a note to the attached article (very well presented i might add). I'm just sharing something from my experiences that might help someone over a hump. Thanx!!
Nick Rage


Nick, Thank you very much for taking the time to write-it-up. Larry

I still think copying an image is a better procedure as files in some applications may cause problems, etc.; however, this procedure may get the job done in a pinch.
I thought I saw an error when it was copying.  To make a log, the screen output can probably be redirected to a file by using something like:
  xcopy32 c:\*.* d:\*.* /s /e /r /v /k /f /c /h > c:\log.txt
I haven't tried that yet.

Windows Me changed the xcopy command so that it can copy hidden and system files from a DOS prompt using a Windows Me Startup floppyMicrosoft Knowledge Base Article Q289483, Switches That You Can Use with Xcopy and Xcopy32 Commands, states:

In Windows Millennium Edition (Me) only, an /h switch is added to the xcopy and the xcopy32 commands. This switch copies hidden and system files in MS-DOS mode. However, the Xcopy files are not automatically included on the Windows Me boot disk.

One does not use the SYS command for Windows Me like previous versions of DOS and Windows.  It is not available from the DOS prompt.  However, xcopy will copy the system files and thereby make the hard disk bootable.  I found that various combinations of flags listed in the Knowledge Base article would not work together as they should.  The following command does work as far as copying the system files:

a:\> xcopy c:\*.* d:\*.* s/e/h

The v flag is not available in the Win Me version of xcopy.

As stated in the Knowledge Base article, xcopy is not part of a Standard Win Me Startup floppy.  It can be copied to a Windows Me Startup floppy from a hard disk that has Windows Me installed with the Windows Explorer or:

A:\>copy c:\windows\command\xcopy*.*

This copies three files: xcopy.exe, xcopy32.exe, and xcopy.mod (xcopy.exe calls xcopy32.exe).

I attempted to copy the file in the primary partition on my hard disk to a newly formatted hard disk using this procedure.  It took a whole afternoon and didn't work.  The primary partition was about four GBytes and had about 9,345 files after I aborted a couple of xcopy attempts and cleaned-up the disk some discovered by watching the process how much junk in the form of unnecessary files Microsoft now puts on a hard disk when Windows operates.

If anyone can get Nick Page's procedure to work with Windows Me, I'd appreciate the details.

Seagate has a utility called FileCopy in its DiscWizard Program Suite that, "manages the transfer of data from the old drive, which becomes the slave, to the new drive, which becomes the master. Even hidden files are transferred. FileCopy also solves the logistical issue of reversing the positions when you replace a functioning, existing drive with a new drive."  I have not tried it.  If you run across another program that really works, I'd appreciate hearing about it.

This article assumes that the partitions and drives are not compressed.  If Windows 9x/Me C: drive has only a few files on it, the drive is probably compressed and most of the files are in a compressed volume, which is often the H: drive.  Visit our forums if you would like to learn how to work with compressed drives.


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