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A friend has a 5 or 6 year old Vista machine with reasonable low-end hardware (Athlon64x2 w/ 8GB RAM), but the Vista install is pretty messed up and it needs to be wiped and reinstalled. We're thinking of buying a retail copy of Windows 7 for the fresh install with the idea of transferring the license to a new machine in a few years. I know a retail license can be transferred to a new machine, but is it possible just to move the HDD to a new machine, reactivate, and avoid reinstalling the OS and programs?

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If you said you wanted to reinstall Vista in the first place.. why not just format the HDD and put Windows 7 on it first thing in the new computer? – cutrightjm Jul 14 '12 at 18:58
Let me clarify. My friend would like Windows 7, but doesn't want to by a new machine right away. His old machine needs a fresh OS installation anyway. What I'd like to be able to do for him is install Windows 7 on his current machine and just move that hard drive to a new machine in a few months or years when he does get a new machine without having to reinstall the OS or programs. – Jack Christensen Jul 14 '12 at 20:52
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can probably do this if you sysprep the old windows installation before you move to the future computer.

  • First, make a backup. Just in case.
  • Test the backup
  • run %windir%\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe as an administrator
  • Select OOBE, generalise and shutdown.
  • After the computer has shut down, move the HDD to the new computer. It should boot without installed drivers.
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