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The hard drive is failing on my old PC which is running Windows XP. I'd like to create a verbatim image of the hard drive, move that image onto a new hard drive, and then put that new hard drive into a new PC and make it the primary hard drive. Is that possible? Or will XP refuse to boot up if it detects a different motherboard/CPU ?

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migrated from Aug 29 '11 at 19:17

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

What's the downvote for? Shouldn't there be a comment explaining why? – Tim Aug 29 '11 at 19:16
FYI, this is absolutely possible. However, it might not be legal. If it is an OEM version, then technically you can non transfer it to another PC. – Keltari Aug 29 '11 at 20:05

You can, but depending on the hardware changes, it may involve some pre and post-transfer customization and will almost definitely require you re-register.

There is a pretty decent article here of how one person accomplished it.

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+1: Specifically, you could run into HAL Hell – surfasb Aug 29 '11 at 21:17

XP will attempt to boot up, but may fail if the hard drive controller is sufficiently different. It may require the license to be re-activated, but that's as simple as pushing a button.

There are tools specifically intended for moving a Windows machine onto different hardware. I've used Acronis TrueImage with its Universal Restore feature. It has worked quite well for me. You may not need it.

If the new image refuses to boot on the new machine, first trying changing the hard drive mode. If the BIOS is set to RAID, try ACPI. If ACPI fails, try IDE/emulation. If that fails, you can try a repair installation of XP on top of the existing installation.

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It should work just fine providing you do the following first: Download all the necessary drivers for the new computer hardware and save them on the hard drive.

Common systems that do not work when doing this are the network and video cards, so having the drivers already there on the new system will make it easier to make this transition.

Once you've put the newly imaged drive in the new computer, install the new drivers, and uninstall any driver packages specific to the old computer.

A few of the times I've done this, some drivers become very problematic and I've had to repair the OS. But 9 times out of 10, it works without issue.

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You can do this easily with Symantec System Recovery. While not free it does great job of taking an image of "old" PC and restoring it to a new one even if hardware is very different. Install software and backup the system when running (can be done if off as well) and save the image to a USB drive or similar. Boot new PC with Symantec System recovery bootable CD/DVD and restore. You will be warned of possible driver issues, so as noted by others, have the correct video and LAN drivers handy on removable media. Just restored an image of anew i7 desktop to an old Dell D810 laptop. Worked great and only one driver needed. There is a free trial I believe
System Recovery 2011

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Paragon has software that can migrate an installed OS to new hardware, its called P2P Function, look in the section at the bottom "WinPe Recovery CD"

Once it is bootable you can install the necessary motherboard drivers.

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Another good way to do this is by using a free P2V tool like disk2vhd or SmartMigrate. Basically, you end up with a virtual disk of your old machine.

I know these tools do some automatic HAL migration (with varying degrees of success,) so it's possible to boot the machine up in Windows Virtual PC. This might be better than doing a physical-to-physical transfer because you would be okay with the VM having possible driver or HAL issues, rather than relying on this converted machine as your primary system. Hey, if you can get the machine into a VirtualBox VM, you'll be surprised at the speed.

I'd try a few different tools until you have a virtual machine that runs well enough.

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