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I have a damaged 500GB HDD, and I want to change a new one now.

Is there any way I could do this without having to reinstall the OS and all the applications?

Is it possible to take a snapshot of everything on this old HDD; then, when I've switched the new HDD I would "paste" everything there, everything would still be the same, right?

Or is doing so likely to cause a lot of problems (I don't know, registry problems or perhaps stuff like that).


  1. Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 on Acer Aspire 4937G (Core 2 Duo T9550 Processor 2.66GHz, 4GB RAM), with one C:\ drive 79.5 GB free of 465 GB.

  2. I do use programs like Microsoft SQL Server / Visual Studio 2008 / Visual Studio 2010 / Eclipse / Netbeans / uTorrent / Bittorrent / Chrome (with addons) / FireFox | (in case there may be some problems)

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

What you need to do is clone the old disk onto a new disk using a disk imaging program. There are a few free programs around, like DriveImage XML or there are good professional programs like Acronis. You can also search for Hiren's BootCD which has a number of free utilities including disk cloning and imaging. Here is another good Free disk clone software it can clone or make a full disk image that can be applied to the new drive.

You cannot simply copy the files over because there are lot of hidden and special files that cannot be copied over using the Windows Explorer. Disk Cloning/imaging tools are designed to copy every bit of data of the drive and make a nearly exact duplicate that you can swap out and use and Windows will (almost) not know the difference (It will detect a new drive, but everything will work the same).

Also you could consider using Clonezilla which you can find here, which is very efficient at cloning your drives either the completed disk, or even partition by partition. Still I would suggest to restore partition to partition. An added advantage is that it can clone multiple systems through a server (Though may not mean much to home user, still is fast and reliable).

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I tried EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0 but it crashes my com. Then I tried DriveImage XML and it took 9 hours to do a failed backup, which I had no choice but to cancel. I'm going to try Clonezilla now, btw which version should I use Clonezilla Live or Clonezilla SE ? – Pacerier Sep 23 '11 at 2:25
Btw should i do a Drive to Drive or Backup ? – Pacerier Sep 24 '11 at 23:03
If you are replacing a hard drive, then do Disk to Disk and make sure both hard drives are connected to the same computer. You can pull the drive out and connect it to your desktop computer and run it that way. – Chris Thompson Oct 14 '11 at 14:42

When copying through Explorer, some data will be lost:

  1. Explorer cannot copy locked files – namely, currently loaded registry hives. You simply won't have anything in the registry if you copy everything that way.

    (Aside from the registry, Windows keeps the pagefile and hiberfile locked, but copying them is useless anyway.)

  2. Explorer does not copy file ownership or (until recently) access permissions. If the system files are owned by you, the risk of them getting damaged is way, way higher.

  3. Explorer cannot copy files you don't have access to – for example, those encrypted using EFS, or where the owner simply removed access to other users.

#1 can be solved by creating a temporary Shadow Copy using vssadmin, then copying data out of it. (Shadow Copies are meant for doing backups, anyway, so they are not affected by file locks in the main filesystem.)

For #2 and #3, you could use robocopy (along with Shadow Copy, of course):

robocopy /mir /b /copy:datsou /dcopy:t  F:\  G:\

(However, this probably still won't copy EFS-encrypted files.)

Your best choice is to use a dedicated backup or disk imaging program.

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Btw should i do a Drive to Drive or Backup ? – Pacerier Sep 24 '11 at 23:03

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