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By "blank" I mean an empty laptop hard drive. I'm going to have my hard drive replaced, so I believe the new hard drive won't have an operating system installed on it. So if I create a system image and store it in an external HDD, will I be able to reinstall the OS simply py plugging the external HDD into the laptop ?

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I believe that would depend on how you're creating the system image. If you're using a program like Ghost or TrueImage, you'll have a bootable CD with the application that both creates the image and is able to restore from it.

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+1 for TrueImage. I used TrueImage to image my HDD and then restore it after I set up RAID on my desktop. It allows you to be able to restore disk images (including full Windows installations) on a new disk even if it's not the same size or type. And since I was setting up RAID, it even allowed me to inject the RAID driver into the Windows image during restore. Very powerful software. – Ben Richards Aug 9 '11 at 17:07
and TruImage is darn inexpensive for home users. (no affiliation other than a satisfied user) – StevenV Aug 9 '11 at 18:52

I would use following method:

Buy the new HDD and create the image of your current one using something like Seagate DiscWizard live-cd. Then use the same tool to copy the image onto the new one.

But care about partitions etc. - for example I have more partitions so I would have to create the partitions first, before copying the image to the new HDD.

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+1 for reminding the OP about partitions. – CarlF Aug 9 '11 at 18:34

So long as the hard drives are the same, yes. Just clone the entire thing with your favorite disk cloning tool, and then copy the image.

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The important thing to note is that you need a tool that will create the image, and a tool that will put the image on the new hard drive.

Most disk imaging tools have this ability, however, if you're doing the work yourself, you must remember that you won't have windows running when you try and copy the image back down to the new hard drive.

If you can connect the new drive using a hard drive tray or something similar, you could simply copy the data from one drive to the next (copy paste won't work, but copy using a hard drive imaging tool) and then make the switch.

Whatever method you choose, so long as you have accounted for how to get the data off of the old drive and on to the new drive, you should be set.

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Some manufacturers like Western Digital provide free software to "Clone" your old hard drive to your new one, Install the software on your old Operating system, connect the new Western Digital hard drive to the notebook using a USB to hard drive adapter, the use the software to clone the old drive to the new one. This software will only work if you have at least one Wester Digital brand hard drive present in the system. Once clone is done, swap in the new hard drive and boot up, done!

Or use this Free software with any brand of hard drive to clone it using the same method.

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