I've got an installation of Windows 8 on a drive that has bad blocks within Windows installation folder or registry. Obviously the drive is on its last leg, however it appears that the files within the /Users folder are still intact and without problem. I can iterate through them all without any failures or lag.

So my question is: aside from a Windows Easy Transfer to move settings over, which is impossible in this case, can one just move /Users over to a new Windows 8 installation and retain settings? Obviously file retention is not a problem, I just want to minimize setup time for the users on this installation.

Throughout previous situations like this with Windows it always was a matter of putting a lot of additional effort to not only install apps again, but to also tweak settings. I have used Laplink with some success in the past, but usually when a drive is still functional. Any methods that offer a reduction of time or a more succinct solution would be much appreciated.

*NOTE: Please realize that Windows Easy Transfer will not work in this case as others have thought. Windows Easy Transfer requires a functional copy of Windows, as far as I have ever seen, to make a backup to restore. I am looking for other options that do work.


I would not, under any circumstances, attempt to simply copy over the \Users folder! And unfortunately, without being able to do that (or use Easy Transfer), you're just not going to get everything.

However, you can get pretty close. Here are the things I've been able to transfer in similar circumstances (I'll call the individual user "Jim"; of course you'll substitute the name(s) of the real user(s):

Easy stuff

(just copy from the old drive to the new):

Desktop contents: \Users\Jim\Desktop,   \Users\Public\Desktop      
Documents:        \Users\Jim\Documents, \Users\Public\Documents
Downloads:        \Users\Jim\Downloads, \Users\Public\Downloads
Music:            \Users\Jim\Music,     \Users\Public\Music
Pictures:         \Users\Jim\Pictures,  \Users\Public\Pictures
Videos:           \Users\Jim\Videos,    \Users\Public\Videos
IE Favorites:     \Users\Jim\Favorites

Slightly harder

Firefox settings - Install Firefox on the new machine, run it, then close it. Navigate to \Users\Jim\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles. You'll find a folder called (random string).default; the random string will be different from the one on your old drive. Delete the contents of this folder (don't delete the folder, though!) and copy into it the contents of the equivalent folder from the old drive (NOT the actual folder!).
Run Firefox again, and you should have ALL of your old settings - bookmarks, plugins, saved passwords, etc.

Chrome settings - Install Chrome, run it, close it. Navigate to \Users\Jim\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome. Rename the User Data folder (just in case), then copy over the User Data folder from the old drive. Doesn't always work.

That's about it, I'm afraid.
Other programs may store their settings locally (in which case you're in luck) or in the Registry (in which case you may be SOL). Of course, you can load individual hives of the old Registry and copy some settings, but 1) it's a huge pain 2) it's very hard to be sure you're getting everything and 3) if the drive is failing, I wouldn't recommend loading hives from it. I honestly don't know what would happen if the old drive failed in the middle of operations and left the Registry with orphaned entries, but I wouldn't want to find out on a machine I actually cared about.

One last thing: some of this will cause Windows to complain that you don't have the necessary permissions. The easiest thing is to use a tool like Robocopy or RichCopy.

  • Yeah, this is how I always handled it from Windows9x to 7 more or less, had just hoped for a cleaner and leaner method going forward with 8 for users. Thanks.
    – ylluminate
    Jul 29 '13 at 5:33
  • If you can't boot the old machine, I think this is as clean and lean as you can get...
    – MT_Head
    Jul 29 '13 at 5:34

Windows Easy Transfer is the only trusted way to transfer userdata and settings correctly. I've used this tool several times and it works fine.

  • Unfortunately this will not work. It requires an image to be made or for the hard drive to be bootable in order to transfer files. Please review the use case scenario again and I believe you'll see, after reviewing how this tool works that it will not work for this scenario.
    – ylluminate
    Jul 28 '13 at 4:15
  • no you don't require to create an image. Start the tool, select this is the PC you want to collect the data and select to store the data into a transfer file. On the second PC/other account, select that this is the PC where the settings should be restored and open the Transfer file. Jul 28 '13 at 7:23
  • Again, I'm sorry, but you're not following the original explanation. As noted, this HD is effectively dead. It takes, due to the bad blocks, an inordinate amount of time and frequently just flat out reboots during boot. The point here is that I can access the user files -- I cannot boot it and run as you've explained.
    – ylluminate
    Jul 28 '13 at 19:47
  • do what MT_head wrote and only copy some data. Jul 29 '13 at 4:40

If the drive will spin-up, then use a slave cable device to read read the files. Then open the users folder that needs the data transferred. Make sure to "Show Hidden Files and Folders" in the folder options, that way you will be able to see all the NTuser files. DO NOT copy any NTUser related files or it will screw up the transfer. Start copy the main folders, AppData if you want Outlook PST files, Desktop, Favorites, etc, etc. Save them to a removable media or whatever.

Part 2: You will want to make sure that a profile shell exists on the new machine, do that by logging in on the new machine, and if you are bringing Outlook stuff over, run Outlook one them so that it will build its shells. All you need to do is reconnect the removable media and reverse the process.

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