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Basically, I want to get a new PC, but I have so many software/games installed on my current hard drive, that I don't want to waste the time to re-install/re-configure. Would it work if I just take out my current hard drive, and stick it into a new PC? the motherboard/video card etc are all different, would the new PC boot up and work flawlessly?

The operating system is Windows 7.

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possible duplicate of How to change computer but retain hard disk –  DragonLord Apr 14 '12 at 22:35
    
Switching from 32 bit to 64 bit might mess things up a bit –  sq33G Apr 15 '12 at 10:24
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> What would happen if I take my hard drive out of my current PC and put it in a new PC? If you’re lucky, not much; Windows will just detect all the new hardware then install drivers for them and ask you to reactivate. If you’re me, then this. –  Synetech Aug 29 '12 at 15:54

5 Answers 5

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Just did this on my HP laptop, pulled the hard drive from my g62 and put it in my dm1z, it booted, logged in and let it sit at the desktop while Windows 7 installed drivers for the new hardware automatically, had a few missing so I downloaded them from HP, posting this message from that system.

Hardware was quite different also, went from Intel to AMD processors, no hardware was the same or even close.

W7 is much better at tolerating this type of change than XP ever dreamed of.

So far it runs just fine with few complications that I can see. Windows 7 64bit.

I don't recommend it, but if you decide to, be sure to back up any important data before you do the swap.

If you have any 3rd party software loading drivers on boot, I would uninstall that software before the swap takes place.

No guarantee yours will work out as mine did.

EDIT 1:

Cleaner method to transfer hard drive to new hardware

Open an elevated command prompt and type:

%windir%\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe

and hit Enter

In sysprep dialog that opens, choose System Cleanup Action as Enter System Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE), select Generalize, select Shutdown Options Shutdown. Click OK

enter image description here

Sysprep generalizes now your Windows 7 setup and shuts down your computer. Do not run any other programs during this phase.

enter image description here enter image description here

Switch the main power of your PC off and install the new hardware OR dismount the hard disk(s) and mount it (them) to a new computer Boot the PC from sysprep generalized hard disk. You will notice Windows booting as if it was the first boot after installation, installing default drivers and updating registry. One or two reboots are needed, depending on your system specifications

When Windows finally boots up, you will need to enter all information as if this really was a new, fresh installation.

Because your old user profiles already exist, Windows does not accept your normal username, but instead you have to create a new temporary user. I use username Test for this purpose.

When login screen appears, choose your old user account to login

Windows boots now to default OOBE first boot desktop, with default 800*600 resolution and default theme. All your installed applications are there, as well as your old user profiles and folders. Windows has installed the default drivers for your setup, you can update them if needed.

Go to Control Panel > User Accounts and delete the temporary user account (in this case Test) that you just created.

Note: You may or may not have to re-activate Windows, and reactivation may or may not be successful depending on your type of Windows license.

Source of Sysprep Information

Edit 2:

I tried the Sysprep method on my dm1z, I did not move it to new hardware, just left it in the same PC to see what the procedure was like, it went smooth and rebooted to a windows screen installing devices for a while, then did the graphics test, then gave the option to set time zone, time and date, then asked for the Windows Product Key, then asked me to set up a user, which I did just for grins, then logged into my usual user account. Whole process was about 35 minutes.

Some side effects I noticed after I logged in.

  • All my pinned apps on the taskbar were gone, no big deal to re-pin them.

  • My taskbar toolbars I had added were gone also, again no big deal

  • The hidden administrator account which I had un-hidden was now re-hidden

  • Strange, the start menu pinned items were still there.

  • My Windows Live Mail client accounts had the passwords reset to blank, so when I popped my mail I had to re-enter my account passwords and re-save them.

  • Internet Explorer was changed when I first opened it, had to choose whether to use recommended settings or not.

  • It did re-install all my drivers I had previously, this would not happen if I moved to different hardware.

.

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Thanks, always great to see first hand experience. What are the "few complications" you speak of? –  KoKo Apr 14 '12 at 22:29
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Had to re-install certain programs due to different hardware they accessed, nothing big, all minor stuff. Since mine are laptops, there could be other complications I will experience when going mobile. –  Moab Apr 14 '12 at 23:58
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I use it with external monitor and keyboard, have not tested the fn or other special keys for functionality or other laptop only features, desktop should have none of these potential issues. Clean install is the best route but I did not have the time, this is a temporary solution to my time crunch, new lappy coming in July, I can wait, takes way to long for me to clean install and configure my laptops, time better spent on other projects right now –  Moab Apr 14 '12 at 23:59
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I can confirm this from firsthand experience as well. Windows 7 is the first Windows OS that's been tolerant of drastic hardware changes (eg chipset drivers). It's worth a try. In general, if Windows boots it will recover. If it fails to boot, there's virtually no chance it will reconfigure anything that would make your system unbootable if you failed and had to put it back into the old machine. –  Stefan Mohr Apr 17 '12 at 7:14
    
For the record, I took the hard drive out of an old AMD-based Windows 98 HP desktop computer and stuck it in a Pentium 4-based Dell system and it booted just fine as well. It also went through some autodetection processes for the new hardware (motherboard and all) but it worked. I suspect that even back then it knew to revert to generic drivers for unknown hardware. –  Ben Richards Apr 26 '12 at 19:56

If you are going from a HDD to an SSD, it is recommended that you do a proper re-install, as Windows 7 by default enables features specific to SSDs when it is installed on an SSD. It is possible to manually enable such features after the fact, but I don't know if all features are enable-able after Windows 7 has been installed.

If you have games that implement GFWL (Games for Windows Live), or other DRM, be warned that they may consider it a new system and require you to re-authorize the system. This may adversely affect any saves you have.

If you run games that only use STEAM as their form of DRM (as in WITHOUT GFWL AND on STEAM), the saves should be fine, but they may be in your user profile, not in the STEAM folder.

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I'd say about a 50% chance that it'll even boot properly. Even if it does, you'll have to reinstall all the drivers, and in the end it might just be easier to do a clean install on the new hardware and transfer your data and program settings over.

Also note that if the old computer had an OEM Windows licence, then you're not allowed to use it on different hardware. You'll have to buy a new licence and re-activate your Windows installation with the new product key (edit: or re-activate it with the key that came with your new computer).

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What makes you so sure this won't work? I've upgraded my computer several times in exactly this way, and never had problems. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 15 '12 at 16:24

There will be tons of complications. First and foremost, the machine is unlikely to boot at all, because Windows is loading the wrong drivers. This may be fixed using safe mode or the repair procedure on the Windows install medium. If you can't get it to work, there is a chance your current installation will be corrupted by simply sticking the hard drive into a different machine. Unlikely and easily fixable, but as a precaution, I would duplicate the contents of the hard drive instead.

Reinstalling programs on a new computer might be tedious, but reconfiguring is usually far more trouble. If you would go for a fresh install altogether, backing up your current application data folder and restoring it per application will save you quite a lot of time and effort.

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Yes.

You will have to uninstall the drivers for the old components and install drivers for the new ones.

Installed applications will still work, unless they're tied to specific hardware.

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