How to Copy Old Hard Drive to New PC

A commonly asked question is “How do I transfer everything from the hard drive on my old computer to my new computer?” Here is an article from the site that explains how. Thanks to Malcolm Garrett for finding this gem.

Do You Really Want To Do That…?

There are several options, but first let’s talk about NOT copying everything from the old hard drive to the new one. When you use a computer for a couple of years, it tends to build up what I call “Cyber Sludge,” and you really don’t want all of that on your new hard drive. In most cases, all you really need to copy are the personal files you have created, such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, photos, etc. You can use the Export option to dump your web browser favorites into a plain-text file, and then Import then on the new computer. The same applies to your emails and address book, if you’re using a desktop email program. If you use a web-based email service, all your emails and contacts are stored online.

Various Ways to Transfer Files

To transfer files to the new computer, you can burn a CD containing those files, or copy them to a USB flash drive. Another option is to upload the files to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Transferring them is then just a matter of copying them from the backup source you chose to the appropriate folder on the new computer.

If you have a home network, it’s even easier. Just make the hard drive in the old computer a shared drive, and you’ll be able to copy the files to the new drive with drag and drop. Without a network, you can install the old hard drive in your new computer, and just access the files on it as your D: drive. You might also convert the old drive into an external drive, which is explained in my article “Convert Internal to External Hard Drive

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LapLink PCMover” ( is a data migration tool that automatically backs up all your registry settings, data files, and most applications; then moves them to a new computer. It’s fairly mistake-proof if you just follow the on-screen instructions carefully. You can select which programs, settings, and data files get moved over to the new operating system, or just let PCMover move all it can. If your computer has multiple user accounts, PCMover can move all or some of them as well as each user’s settings and unique folder and file structure.

Copying the Entire Drive

Since that’s what you asked about, yes… there are ways to copy your old hard drive, lock, stock and bearings, to a new hard drive. I recommend you use software specifically written to deal with all the intricacies of partitions, copying the Windows registry, and handling locked, hidden & system files.

When you buy a hard drive, sometimes it will come with software designed to help you move the files from your old drive to the new one. I replaced the drive in my desktop computer with an SSD drive, and the Samsung data migration software worked beautifully. You can also create a backup image on the old computer, and then restore it on the new computer. There are commercial disk cloning utilities, but many penny-pinching geeks swear by the free, open-source “Clonezilla” ( “Macrium Reflect” ( is another tool I recommend for cloning, backups and restores.

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