How to build a computer
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How To Build A PC - A Computer Building Guide
Rob Williams - contact via the forums
Last Updated: 4/13/2014
How to build a computer
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FAQ: Can I Use My Old Hard Drive With A New Computer?

This is very frequently asked question, and for good reason. You'd naturally like to keep and use all the stuff you have on your old computer on your new computer. The easiest way to do that might be to just use the old hard drive in the new computer. But will it work? I mean, what's going to happen when the operating system starts up and sees that the whole world as it knew it has -presto- changed?

And the answer is - it might. Or it might not. Or it might if you struggle with the configuration a little. Or it might if you struggle with the configuration a lot.

Actually, it's kind of impressive that it even might work. It's asking a lot of the operating system to hot-swap possibly every single driver for possibly very different hardware and come up smiling. But it very well might, especially with some amount of reconfiguring. And my guess is that the more recent the operating system, the better the odds it will work. I give Windows 98SE an even chance, up to Windows XP a very good chance.

I'd say it's certainly worth a try on old hard drives using Windows 98SE on up. But I would not try it with the old hard drive itself since there's a chance it won't work. Instead, I would clone the old hard drive to a new hard drive using the hard drive cloning steps I include on my Hard Drive Upgrade tutorial. The cloned hard drive does not need to be identical hardware to the old hard drive, so in most cases it makes sense to get a new hard drive which will be much faster and will have much more capacity.

If the new, cloned hard drive works in the new computer then you have the benefit of having as much of your data and applications carried over as possible on a newer, faster, bigger hard drive. If it doesn't work then at least you haven't compromised the contents of your old hard drive.

Just be careful to test everything afterwards to verify it works on the cloned hard drive with the new computer. Verify all the applications work and all the data is recognized. Run tests such as the diagnostics and benchmarks I mention near the end of my assembly pages and verify the results.

Note that Windows XP users may have to re-activate Windows XP if the hardware on the new computer is very different.

This question is similar: "Is there a way to copy all my files and settings from the old computer to the new computer?" Maybe, at least partly. I've never tried it. But this article on How To Migrate To A New PC covers it.


My complete recommendations for building a computer with quality components at unbeatable prices is on my home page at Build A Computer Like My Super PC - Cost To Build A Computer. Here again are the recommendations for a hard drive!
Description Where I Would Get It Today Today's Price Comments
Western Digital 1TB RE4 SATA 3 Gb/s 7200rpm SATA 3
Amazon
$84.99 OEM version. Serial ATA III hard drive. Clicking the link takes you directly to it. Plenty of storage with 1000GB. Quiet, reliable and very fast.

Backup Tips - Protect Your Valuable Data.
Westerm Digital 1 TB External Hard Drive
Amazon
$69.99 Free shipping! Clicking the link takes you directly to it. This external hard drive connects to the computer via a USB port. Then copy over critical files periodically using software like SyncBack.
2BrightSparks SyncBack
2BrightSparks
Free Free download! Clicking the link takes you directly to the download page. The freeware version is near the bottom of the page. Use a freeware utility like SyncBack to schedule automatic copy operations to your backup hard drive. SyncBackSE, a feature rich version, costs $30. See the SyncBack version comparison chart for details.
Online Backup
Mozy
Free Off-site backups give maximum backup protection. Mozy is free for under 2GB with no credit card required. Unlimited backup space is available for $4.95 per month.



Skip Ahead
  Introduction/Cost To Build A Computer
  Computer Building Price Considerations
  faq: OEM Definition
  Case And Power Supply
  Processor
  Motherboard
  BIOS Settings
  RAM
  Video Card
  Sound Card
  SSD - Solid State Drive
  Hard Drive
  faq: Can I Use My Old Hard Drive With A New Computer?
  CD-ROM And CD-RW
  DVD
  Change The Front Panel On The DVD RW
  Flat Panel LCD Monitor
  Other Computer Hardware
  Windows Operating System
  Firewall
  Sharing Cable Modem or DSL
  CPU Cooler And Case Fans
  Overclocking
  How Fast Is It?
  Assemble
  What Problems Were There?
  More About How To Get A Cheap Computer With Top Quality And High Performance
  Changes For A Game Computer And Enjoying Computer Games
  Changes For A Computer With MP3 Music As A Priority
  Media Center PC
  Help And Support
  faq: How Can I Tell What I Already Have In My Computer?

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