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I just bought a new laptop with Windows 7 pre-intsalled.

It has a 500GB hard drive. I would like to remove this hard drive and then re-install Windows 7 to smaller 256GB SSD that I have.

My issue is that I'm not sure how this should be done. I see some options to create backup disks in Windows 7, however they seem to want to create disk images as opposed to something that I can use to re-install the OS on different hardware.

I do not have any files that I need to back-up, I only need a way to re-install the OS.

What is a good way to go about doing this?

What I ended up doing:

  1. Cloned the SSD from the old laptop to a "normal", but larger, 500gb hard drive so that I would be able to access my old computer just the way it was in case anything went wrong. I used "Drive XML". This is the only thing I could get to work with Windows Vista (the operating system on my oled computer). And it only worked when I used their special option to repair a Vista Disk Clone.
  2. Created a windows "system repair disk" for the new laptop by going to: "Control Panel\System and Security\Backup and Restore". I did not use this disk, but probably would have had I not already had an OEM System Builder's disk lying around. Note that I did not do the "system image" option.
  3. Installed the SSD in the new laptop.
  4. Used an OEM system builder's Windows DVD that I had lying around to install a clean Windows 7 installation on the laptop (this could probably just as well have been a retail disk). I did this because I was hoping to avoid the bloatware that comes with a new computer. I used the product key on the laptop to register the windows installation, NOT the product key that came with the OEM System Builder's disk. Note that when I called Microsoft to ask if I was allowed to do this, they said "No, that is not allowed." On a hunch I did it anyway figuring I could fall back on the recovery disk if they rejected the activation. In the end the activation failed online and directed me to activate over the phone. When I called to activate it, I was able to activate it with no problems.
  5. Used the driver's DVD that came with the laptop to install all the drivers.
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You have OEM Windows. That is not reinstallable. If you want to install Windows, you have to have installation media which is not provided with OEM Windows. – Dan D. Mar 16 '12 at 23:09
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I just bought a new laptop with Windows 7 pre-intsalled.

Read the User's Manual (it's probably a .pdf file somewhere on the HDD) for the procedure to create (burn) DVDs or CDs for reinstalling the software. Or look through the All Programs menu for a "Recovery Media Creator" program from the laptop maker, not from Microsoft or part of Windows 7. There should be a recovery partition on the HDD, and you want to create media that will allow you to rebuild that recovery partition on your new disk drive. The PC manufacturers do allow you to transfer your OEM Windows license to another disk drive, and creating these discs also serve as backups.

Once you have these "recovery disks", you can swap out the HDD for the SSD. Boot from the first recovery CD/DVD, and there should be tools to format the drive and install the software to the original "out of the box" state.

BTW the User's Manual probably has a section with instructions for replacing the disk drive.

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I actually did this, but did not end up having to use the disks. – Chris Dutrow Mar 17 '12 at 21:15
Good going, although using the recovery media would positively confirm that they are really good discs and can accomplish what they are supposed to do. Years ago I made the recovery discs from an HP PC with a 120GB HDD, and tried to install it on a 400GB drive. The recovery software refused to install itself on the 400GB drive, but did for a 250GB drive. – sawdust Mar 17 '12 at 22:48

Delete all temp files, turn off system restore and hibernation. Defrag the drive. Use computer management to shrink your disk to 256GB. Create a backup image (to an external USB drive) and a system restore cd. Swap the drives, boot from the sytem restore cd and follow the prompts to restore your image from the USB drive.

Keep the old hard drive safe until you are sure everything is working ok.

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If one of the disks is Western Digital, they offer a free utility to do this stuff:

from the manual: "When recovering to a smaller capacity hard drive, the partition(s) size will be proportionally reduced"

The "free" version will try to detect the WD disk in the machine.

I think there are other similar deals from other manufacturers, but I've only done this with WD.

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