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Just taken out a hard disk with Windows Server 2008 on and plugged it into a different PC and tried to boot it - it is blue screening and I can't even tell what the message says as it reboots immediately. I take it I cannot trasfer one hard disk with operating system installed straight onto another PC with a diff motherboard. I know Windows 2000 didn't like it but I'm sure XP was fine with it. Although I have limited experience with Server products I just thought I would double check.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The most probable reason you are getting a blue screen is conflicting drivers. Your windows install is setup to boot a certain set of drivers meant for your old system and now that you are plugging the drive into a new machine, the drivers are causing problems.

You can attempt to recover/repair the installation using your Windows Server DVD (boot to the CD and select the recovery console).

With a repair install you shouldn't loose any data, but the drivers should get updated automatically for your new system.

Keep in mind that you should never try this, and that you risk loosing your data. Server migrations are not as simple as just plugging in the drive into a new machine, you have to account for the hardware changes that will occur before hand.

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I know Windows 2000 didn't like it but I'm sure XP was fine with it

This is not true. Unless you were extremely lucky or were transferring between two nearly identical machines, XP did not support transferring the system disk to another computer.

Starting with Windows Vista (and including the associated server operating sytems: Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2), Microsoft changed the installation process such that it copies a generic system image to the disk that can reconfigure itself for whatever hardware it finds. This makes the odds of success for an endeavor such as much higher. However, this operation is still highly suspect, as a lot of things still happen on first boot and once certain drivers are installed they can conflict with other hardware.

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Go to your BIOS, and set the hard drive mode from AHCI to compatibility. It NEEDS to be the exact same setting as your old computer.. (so if your old one is AHCI, and this one is compatibility, change that).

With the wrong storage driver, it can't read the drive, and it will blue screen like that every time. We've been seeing this exact problem moving drives between identical laptops at work.

If you can boot it to compatiblity mode, you can then look for AHCI drivers for your storage hardware, and update.

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There is an easy way to migrate a hard drive to a new machine without reinstalling Windows: use the sysprep tool. It "generalizes" the Windows installation back to a "System Out-Of-Box Experience (OOBE)." In this mode, Windows will install needed device drivers for the new hardware the first time it boots.

See this guide for details; it targets Windows 7, but sysprep is installed by default for Windows Server 2008 as well.

Note that this process does rebuild portions of your registry, so you may lose certain configuration settings. E.g., when I personally used this technique, I was prompted to reenter the license key for some purchased software.

Finally, caveat emptor: Microsoft's sysprep article explicitly states that sysprep should not be used to reconfigure an existing Windows installation. That said, I have successfully used this approach to swap the hard drives between two different Windows 7 installations, and it worked like a charm—whereas without running sysprep, both machines blue-screened on boot after being swapped.

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