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My computer is dead. I am giving up on fixing it (I tried very hard), but I still want my files with me when I reinstall the operating system. The problem with using normal tools to migrate data is that they require a bootable windows installation. I can't boot to my windows installation but all the files on my C: drive are fine. For all I know, my windows files are still completely fine. I just need a way to transfer them from one installation to another. Would it work to just copy every file on the drive into a new installation? Or are there certain files that wouldn't work? Any help is appreciated.

Also BTW I am using windows 8.

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How many systems do you have now? Two computers - one dead and a new one? Or just one computer with another drive that you intend to use? Where do you wish to transfer things to? – M K Oct 6 '13 at 13:16
I have one computer with one hard drive. I can use the HP recovery to reset my entire computer. My plan would be to transfer my stuff to an external drive using a different OS to do the transfer. Then, once windows is working I would transfer all my programs and stuff back to it. – thequantumguy01 Oct 6 '13 at 13:21
Data is easy to copy around. Programs most likely will not copy properly. AT installation time, most program made entry into registry, and/or files and/or dll and/or services all over the place. Even tho you can copy the program folder / files, there is no guarantee they will work after copying, unless they are somehow old and isolated program that have all their files in the same folder. – Darius Oct 6 '13 at 13:42
Would it work to copy my registry? I am installing an identical OS on an identical system so shouldn't the registry be near identical to the new one? – thequantumguy01 Oct 6 '13 at 13:45
What files are you trying to move? Your title says “programs”, but the beginning of your description sounds more like personal files, and the end of it sounds like you want to copy everything. You’ll need to be more specific about your goal. – Synetech Oct 6 '13 at 14:04

Since you do not have a bootable Windows system and your Windows installation is not working, you cannot use any disk cloning tools (those would clone your broken Windows installation too). The easiest option would be to use a Linux Live installation on a USB drive.

  1. Download any flavor of Linux as a Live CD image (maybe Ubuntu or Linux Mint).
  2. Put that Live CD image on a USB drive (a pen drive or external drive).
  3. Boot from the USB drive.
  4. Copy files from your Users directory (usually C:\Users\username) to the external drive.
  5. Keep a note of all the applications that you have installed.
  6. Install Windows afresh using the recovery option.
  7. Install all the applications that you had earlier (there's no way to transfer applications safely on Windows unless a full disk clone is being done).
  8. Run the applications at least once and close them (this is to ensure that they create their default settings). Do not go to the next step without completing the previous step and this one!
  9. Copy everything from the backed up user directory on your external drive to restore your applications' settings as well as your data.

You will then have all your applications with whatever configuration you had before. But any Windows configuration you had done (like networks, appearance, printers, devices, etc.) may be lost and would have to be done again.

As an additional safety measure, I would recommend that you also have a complete (and separate) clone of your drive using a tool like Clonezilla Live or Redo Backup & Recovery.

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Thanks... I was hoping to be able to copy my programs intact but I guess that's not possible :( – thequantumguy01 Oct 6 '13 at 13:57
You can copy programs only if you're cloning the complete Windows disk or partition (so you get a bit-by-bit copy of everything). – M K Oct 6 '13 at 14:03
Microsoft provides a tool called Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7 and Windows 8, but that tool cannot copy programs either (it can copy program settings and data). Plus, it requires a bootable Windows installation on the "old" and "new" computers, which you don't have. – M K Oct 6 '13 at 14:03

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