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What utility can move my Windows boot partition over to another hard drive?

I have a laptop running Windows XP, full of work-specific applications, developed in-house and now unavailable to be put on another computer (don't ask). This laptop is intended for use at home but now I am looking to upgrade this laptop. The problem is that the workplace are unable to provide me these applications, nor will they provide any sort of back-up option in order to pass new files onto a newer laptop of theirs.

It's a crazy situation, but it seems clear to me that I need to copy all the files from this disk to the other, somehow. I could always swap the hard drive, but this one is only 20GB and I need a large drive to keep these files/reports.

This laptop has one working USB port and is (barely) connected to the Internet. Is there any way in which I could copy EVERYTHING from the old laptop to the new laptop? When I mean everything I mean EVERYTHING; the Operating System, all the applications, absolutely everything. When it boots up I want it to boot up the exact same contents from the old one. I may even need to do this to multiple laptops should the need arise.

Is this possible, and is it easy to do?

  • 1
    Go virtual, so you don't need to sort out the hardware difference every single time you need to move or copy it somewhere again. A self-contained virtual machine that you can run on almost anything seems the way to go. Aug 23, 2009 at 15:12

10 Answers 10


You should use two tools:

Then you have to:

  1. Create an image of the laptop using the imaging tool
  2. Install that image in the target computer (will erase hard drive contents), but this will leave you with a 20 GB partition only
  3. Create a different partition with the rest of the disk or resize it to full disk size with the partition resizing tool

It's not particularly hard, but things can go wrong especially in the partition resizing department. I suggest you make a trial run (in a non important disk/machine) if you have the time an resources to do so.

  • I'll have this laptop for a while, so I'm sure there'll be no problem if I just start again, right?
    – Mike B
    May 22, 2009 at 7:11
  • Yes, you can start again, unless something really bad happens which is not likely.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic
    May 22, 2009 at 7:18
  • I think this will work, but there may be some drive issues because of hardware differences once the image is deployed to the target machine. These should be simple to resolve
    – Anonymous
    Jun 3, 2009 at 11:44
  • 1
    EDIT - DRIVER issues, not drive issues
    – Anonymous
    Jun 3, 2009 at 11:45

You might want to consider installing something like Vmware or something on your new system and then do a P2V (Physical to Virtual) of the old system. If everything goes well you will get the exact environment as a virtual machine that you will be able to use on the new system.

It will be much easier then trying to adapt an existing install to a new system since you will have the aide of the p2v software built to make the transition easy. Also you will be able to use newer software on the newer host system without having to break the VM.


Use snapshot (www.drivesnapshot.de). Assuming you have enough disk space on the old laptop you can snapshot the old C: drive to a file on the drive (i.e. snapshot the disk to itself; sounds odd but it works). Now boot the new laptop of a WinPE or BartPE CD and map a drive to the C: disk on the old laptop. Run snapshot and you can restore the snapshot onto the new laptop.

When Snapshot restores the image it can grow it to use whatever size disk you have in the new laptop. Best of all there is a free eval version that will be fine for the one occasion you need to use it.

Booting off a CD and connecting to the old laptop is easy for long time network nerds like me, but can be daunting for the beginner. If you run into problems doing it post here and I'll try and help.

John Rennie

  • +1 for Drive Snapshot. Great program but I've had trouble making a boot CD for it. I started a question here if you wouldn't mind taking a look: serverfault.com/questions/18183
    – jacobsee
    Jun 2, 2009 at 20:47
  • I will add writing a WinPE howto to my list of things to do!
    – John Rennie
    Jun 3, 2009 at 7:20

Boot with a Knoppix CD/DVD, connect the new drive through USB and use cfdisk to partition the new disk with a bootable partition that corresponds to the size of the old drive -- you'll later format the rest as "D:". Then do something like

# dd if=/dev/hda1 of=/dev/sda1

(If you're uncomfortable with dd you may also use partimage or Ghost for Linux. Real Men use "cat'.) Generate a MBR, swap drives, reboot, test and enjoy your shiny new disk.


Acronis True Image is a safe bet. Unlike many of the backup solutions given, Acronis lets you do a bare metal restore to different hardware and keep your installation intact rather than simply restoring your files. Contact Acronis support, they will usually let you demo thier product for free.


If one of your hard drive is either Seagate or Maxtor, you can use Maxtor MaxBlast as the Acronis software replacement since it's just a rebranded version of the same program but limited in some areas. Notice that if no Seagate or Maxtor hardisks are found, the software will refuse to work.


CloneZilla(i link to wiki as the site is down at the moment), or NortonGhost may be of use here, although there will be an element of risk involved. You may be better getting this done professionally in order to avoid data loss unless you are entirely comfortable with what you are doing.


Please note that if this is Windows we're talking about - before you do the image, reset the disk controller driver to a generic ata or sata one - or it will bluescreen on new hardware (including virtual hardware) requiring advanced and often unsupported recovery procedures.

Some (not all) P2V migration tools will do this for you, but most just instruct you how to prepare the system for the migration manually.

Besides this note, I agree with Zoredache about migrating it to a virtual machine as a starter. Unless the applications in question require special hardware-level access, you might want to always run this as a virtual machine on whatever new hardware and operating system you get in the future as well - instead of trying to image this thing to all new machines directly.


Re jacobsse's comment, see http://www.ratsauce.co.uk/notablog/WinPECD.asp for my walkthrough of making a WinPE boot CD.



The questioner appears to be asking about Windows, but if on a Mac, the tools to use are SuperDuper! and/or Carbon Copy Cloner.

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