I am upgrading my laptop hard drive. What is an easy solution to copy my old hard drive to the new one. I believe there is something called "ghost image" correct? I really do not want it to be very technical, the easier the better. However, I would prefer to do a clean install, but I would have to reinstall a lot of programs.. A lot. Maybe there is a new way to move all the settings and installed programs to the new installation?
What you wish to accomplish is to take an image of the old hard drive and then copy it to the new drive. In other words, you take a complete backup of one disk and restore it to another.
You might find the following product as useful : Paragon Backup and Recovery Free.
However, as you are new to this area, I would suggest that you read all available documentation on the Paragon site before starting. Google for more info if needed, but don't start without having a good understanding of what the tool does.
Well you can use Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost that backup and restore your OS and softwares, although your OS might or might not support dissimilar hardware. (Acronis True Image does have a universal restore feature in some of its products, but I can't vouch for it as I haven't personally used this feature.) What I would suggest is do a clean install and create an image of this install which can be restored to a later date so you don't have to do the installation all over again.
As for a backup of your older settings: There are lot of third party or free software that let you backup your settings but there are no guarantees that you will find such a solution for all your softwares. For eg: You can backup most Mozilla products using Mozbackup.
One more solution is to google each software that you own and try to copy the files that hold your settings and you can restore them after your installation is complete but this is really a manual process. I wish there was an all in one software that could backup all your software settings but making such a software would require the creator to study different software storage patterns and write the software accordingly and the software would definitely need many updates depending on how often the software is renewed.
If you want to copy your entire hard drive (data) to another drive you could use the clone disk feature available in Acronis True Image or simply connect both the hard-drive on one computer and copy-paste the old hard drive data to the new hard drive.