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installing an old hard drive to a new computer

January 18, 2019 at 10:01:02
Specs: Windows 10
Good afternoon,

I recently purchased a Dell XPS 8930 loaded with windows 10. CPU is am Intel Core i5-8400. Currently has 8gb of DDR4 ram. I am having some issues running older programs I used to run on my old computer (games and such). I am considering installing my old hard drive which has Windows 7 64 bit installed as a secondary hard drive for older programs as well as house my music collection. From what I can see it should be fairly straight forward to install the old drive into one of the free HD cages and connect the SATA cables. Are there any pitfalls I should be aware of? I realize to access the secondary I will need to change the boot order at start-up. Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

See More: installing an old hard drive to a new computer

January 18, 2019 at 12:14:40
Moving a win-7 installed on a drive from one computer to another computer isn’t quite that straightforward. You likely will find it won’t boot, as the installation will be linked to the original computer’s hardware, and the license likewise linked too.

To get it boot even it’s own in a different computer to that where it was created/installed requires a repair installation, and likely have to register anew with M$-land.

If you go through that routine in the new PC, and the win-10 drive is connected at the time, then win-10 will not boot afterwards. You would avoid that by ensuring the win-10 drive is not connected during the repair routine of win-7.

Afterwards you reconnect win-10 and then decide how you go about selecting which OS to boot as per. Two options at least... Use an add-in boot manager, or go through the routine to add win-7 to the win-10 boot-menu. Not having gone your journey with win-7/win-10 I’ll leave others to talk you through adding win-7 to win-10 boot-menu; or you can google for the how to, and find quite a few hits.

The third option is of course to select which OS/drive to boot via the bios...; which is a cumbersome option to choose?

If there is “stuff” on the win-7 drive you value, even though a repair install doesn’t damage etc.’d be wise to duplicate that stuff to another hard drive and/or DVD, before going the repair routine.

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January 18, 2019 at 12:58:02
Thank you for the response. That certainly gives me a bit to chew on. The issue of the old OS being linked to the old machine did not occur to me (glad I asked the question before wasting a lot of time on something that can't be accomplished). I guess the safe route would be a clean install of windows 7 on the old drive. If I understand correctly this would do away with the problem of being linked to the old machine. I know you may be thinking "if he goes that route, why doesn't he just partition the new drive on the new computer and install Windows 7 on the same drive"? I am concerned about storage issues having two operating systems on the same drive, which is why I would like the other OS on its own drive. Or do you think a 1TB drive will have enough space for 2 operating systems, numerous games, and a large iTunes library?

Also, I will have to purchase a copy of Windows 7 as my old desktop came with it pre-loaded and did not provide an actual disc.

Thank you again for you time, patience, and insights.

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January 18, 2019 at 13:50:10
As long as you have a valid copy of win-7 installed, and thus “somewhere - on the olde PC housing” the key for that installation, you don’t need to buy a new copy. You can download (legally and free) an ISO win-7 p, urn to a DVD and use that DVD with your current win-7 license.

You likely have an OEM installation, and the key will include OEM within its numbers/letters. You must use an OEM ISO, not a retail one. The key for each flavour is specific to that flavour, and they can’t be interchanged to use on the other flavour

There are pholks here who can/will direct you to safe, legal download sources; so hang about until others come across here.

Also once you have a DVD, I’d still try the repair routine first, with the drive in the new home - and the win-10 drive disconnected.

As earlier then consider options for boot selection once both drives installed etc.

The routine to add win-7 to the win-10 boot menu isn’t too much travail; but again hang about a while for input from those who have gone that route. Experience in that regard is useful here. I last went assorted dual/multi-boot paths quite a while ago. They included adding the older after the newer windows, and visa-versa. But I never involved win-10 which I tend to regard as somewhat a beast on its own, and by no means as friendly as earlier windows when adding an older version to current win-10 installation.

Also I would leave current win-10 drive as is, win-10 on its own home; and leave win-7 on its own drive - regardless of how you go about the win-7 repair or fresh install.

The less one messes with a win-10 installation the better I feel (based on observation various). And as regards the boot option, whilst I have tended away from third-party add-in boot utilities, on this occasion I could see one as a safe(r) option? Again others here can/will add comments based on their greater experience with win-10, so again, hang about, watch this space.

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January 18, 2019 at 14:07:14
Thank you again. I agree with not fooling with the Windows 10 install. I am much more comfortable with the prospect of having Windows 7 on its own drive. I also agree Windows 10 "does not play well others". I'll keep an eye out for comments/advice from others. Hope you have a nice weekend.

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January 18, 2019 at 14:33:15
It is my understanding that the OEM license you have cannot be transferred to new hardware so you will need a new license or license/disk combo. It is my understanding that retail versions of Windows do allow reinstall to new/different hardware but OEM ones do not so all will go well until you activate it through the license and then it will tell you it is not authentic and become a 30 day trial only until a new unused license is entered.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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January 18, 2019 at 14:44:58
I have used an OEM license on a second hard drive in the same PC as the original.but not in a totally different PC. Quite possibly Fingers is correct in his caveat...

Presuming so then you likely do need a new license. If the pennies allow I’d go for a retail version rather than an OEM. Retail allows greater flexibility in terms of use across assorted computer if need arose; as in hardware changes are allowed which include the motherboard

OEM is tied to the motherboard for the first installation. Which having said I have seen one or two claims that M$-land has on occasion been a little flexible there.

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January 18, 2019 at 14:45:33
Thanks Fingers. I thought the same was true but wasn't positive. If I need to purchase a new Windows 7 disc/license combo it won't be the end of the world. Would be nice not too, but it is what it is. I appreciate the input.

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January 18, 2019 at 14:52:30
Thanks trvlr. From my understanding, OEM is a 1 time deal. Once installed, it can't be moved. I've looked into a fresh copy of Windows 7 and retail versions are scarce and very expensive (from what I've found). Verified fresh OEM copies with a legitimate key can be had for under $100, so I may go that route, unless someone has a source for a reasonable priced retail version.

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January 18, 2019 at 16:36:22
I would give the W7 drive a try.

Most modern CPU's will not run W7.

Here is one successful clean install.

message edited by Johnw

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January 18, 2019 at 17:10:10
If you got the "new" OEM route... at least you'll end up owning 2 legitimate OEM keys; the new one for the win-10 PC system,and the original for win-7 PC as is/was... I have, as I say earlier, reregistered a new hard drive via M$-land using the original OEM key; and I have seen comments "on assorted online sites" saying that M$-land are sometimes quite flexible abut that change. - as it didn't include a motherboard change of course.

If you chose to run a repair win-7 in its home box then again you could download a legit OEM ISO, burn it to DVD and use that DVD - for the win-7 box.

An alternative approach to having both OS available each on separate drives in the win-10 box... and also being able to access/share data between them.. is of course to simply network them? That arrangement allows older non win-10 friendly apps to run on the win-7 box as is - with or without a repair or fresh install...

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January 18, 2019 at 17:37:25
Thanks Johnw,

I'm not sure if I should be inspired to proceed or depressed and concede defeat based on the above. Both articles were a bit over my head. It seems like this is doomed to fail. Would you say this is a worthwhile endeavor? I apologize for my ignorance, but this is a bit outside my wheelhouse.

Thank you.

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January 18, 2019 at 17:45:22
HI trvlr,

Your alternative approach in regard to networking the drives is foreign to me. Forgive me for asking, but can you elaborate? My skill level with this kind of thing is "low to medium-low".

Thank you.

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January 18, 2019 at 18:05:33
If you need to run legacy programs (win 7?), install oracle virtual box (free) and try to install your OEM win7 as a virtual machine (VM). however (high) graphic games will not work on VM''s. If you need an ISO of win 7, check if you license key work here:

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January 18, 2019 at 18:35:02
You have a router, and it has ethernet ports. Your computers will have ethernet ports too, and likely wifi as well.. Likely your router is also wifi.

You connect each computer to the router via ethernet or wifi.

You create a shared folder or drive on each computer and basically that’s it.

There’s a wee bit more to do but it’s nothing heavy or difficult to do.

It’s way past my beauty sleep time in the UK so I’m crashing out until sometime Saturday.

But the day shift is obviously around here now, and they can/will talk you through it more fully; and possibly point you to a simple “how to” tutorial as well.

Simple peer to peer networking is not difficult to set up, and it’s what many here use - at least in home situations.

A google trawl for how to network windows-7 and windows-10 computers will likely bring up a host of tutorials too

message edited by trvlr

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January 18, 2019 at 18:52:50
I shall wait until you go through the above posts rfearo.

As trvlr says, google trawl until you find something you can understand.

Alternately, get a friend, workmate, neighbor etc to help you.

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January 18, 2019 at 19:00:32
By your statements:

"I am much more comfortable with the prospect of having Windows 7 on its own drive."


"My skill level with this kind of thing is "low to medium-low"."

make me think that you're wanting Windows 10 and Windows 7 on the same machine (forgive me if I'm wrong), but you don't have much experience with installing multiple operating systems on the same machine. If so, then I'd highly agree with Johnw's statement about getting someone else (preferably a local computer-wiz) to assist, since that takes a bit more "wizardry" than just installing a single OS...

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

message edited by T-R-A

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January 19, 2019 at 09:44:27
Thanks. I've seen some things about virtual box and have been meaning to do some more research on it. Sounds like a possibility.

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January 19, 2019 at 09:47:39
I get what your saying Trvlr. I apologize that in my original post I didn't include the fact that my old desktop has a failed motherboard and is no longer operational. I should have led with that.

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January 19, 2019 at 09:56:41
Thanks Johnw and T-R-A. The more I read the more I'm thinking this may be above my skill set. Thanks to all for your time, patience, and effort. I'm glad I went this route as I feel much more informed about the task in front of me. I think I may need to turn this over to someone who does this for a living to have it done properly. I have someone in mind who used to live down the street who has his own company and does custom builds, repairs, networking solutions, and the like. I will give him a call.

Thanks to all who contributed. Your insights are greatly appreciated.

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January 19, 2019 at 11:16:07
Install the old HDD in your new PC. After doing so, boot into Win10 & copy off any important data from the old HDD; then shutdown. Temporarily disconnect the cables to the main HDD, then boot off your Win7 disc. Delete ALL partitions from the old HDD, create one or more new partitions, then continue with the installation. After installing Win7, all the drivers, running Windows Update, & installing all your 3rd party software, shutdown & reconnect your Win10 HDD.

Then you'll have to decide how you want to deal with the 2 operating systems. The simplest method would be to install a 3rd party boot manager program. There are several to choose from; I've had good luck with GAG:

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January 20, 2019 at 06:08:08
riider's method in #20 is your most straight forward but before you begin make sure that for your machine there are Windows 7 drivers listed on the manufacture's web site and download them all to a flash drive. That way you can install them immediately and not find that you cannot get to the internet to get them after you begin the install. It will also save you time. If there are drivers then you should be able to do this yourself, if there are not drivers then I would recommend consulting with someone with more knowledge so see if it is still possible or practical.
If not practical then the virtual machine idea may be easier since the host OS deals with the hardware so no drivers are needed (as far as I know).
Note that all current hardware is no longer available with drivers for Windows 7 so we all will have to decide to either go Windows 10 or go to Linux instead. I personally manage OK with Windows 10 at work but still prefer Windows 7 at home. The most annoying part of Windows 10 in my opinion is that of it forcing its updates whenever it wants to and that includes after you click on 'not now', turn your back for 5 minutes and it runs it anyway even though you were doing something important and my daughter finds that her laptop updates even when she closes the cover and puts it to sleep, closing all of the things she was working on.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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January 20, 2019 at 17:17:04
@Fingers, you can control the updates somewhat in the "Advanced options" of the "Windows Update" pane. If there are updates you do not want to install just yet use wushowhide.diagcab from . I agree Win X is taking control of the user (slowly) away. I guess it is the transistion towards SaaS or perhaps Windows as a Service ....

message edited by sluc

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January 20, 2019 at 21:19:29
I am not trying to block updates, just have some say on when they are put through. They sometimes feel like they are ramming them down our throats. On Windows 7 you could have the system download the updates and tell you they were ready. Then you could stall a couple of days if needed and install them. With Windows 10 they are persistent and even when you indicate 'not now' or 'Remind Me Later', the first time the machine is left idle for ten minutes it feels like, the update has already frozen the machine and is updating.
On a business system where the machines are shut down for the night, why can't MS wait until then to run the updates, give us that option.
On a personal computer where personal work or school work may require many things to be kept open and accessible for a number of days in a row, give us the option of scheduling it for 1-7 days into the future when it is not a problem any longer and can be planned for.
That is the respect that I feel that MS needs to offer the user, especially those who generally know their way around a computer. And why have they taken steps to make maintenance difficult? On all previous systems you can easily go to Disk Clean Up, Devices and Printers, Back Up and more of the simple stuff and forget about Control Panel in general, Disk Manager, Administrating Tools, etc. without using the search feature or G-d Mode.
Sorry for the rant.... I know that many do more harm with the tools than good but educating is better than hiding them because Windows still overstuffs folders with temp stuff and other bad habits to 'make things better for us' but if not cleaned up makes things worse over time.
And Edge has some bad habits also.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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