Unfortunately, most hard drives will eventually die. Sometimes, they die because they are packed with information and you haven’t run a disk defragmenter in a while. Other times, they die through no fault of your own.
When your hard drive is dying, it starts to make clicking noises and go through other strange errors. If you hear these noises, consider yourself lucky: most people don’t get a warning shot before their hard drive dies. They just try to turn their computer on one day and find that it won’t start up.
If you’re ready to replace an aging hard drive, then you might not want to go through the pain of installing a new operating system and replacing all of your programs.
Today, we’re going to show you how to transfer your operating system – and all of your files – over to a new disk without losing any of your data.
Step 1) Create a system image in Windows 7
In order to restore your operating system on another hard drive, you need to create a system image of Windows 7. This is best done right after installing and activating Windows, but you can do it at any time. Just follow these instructions:
-Open the Start Menu and type ‘Back Up’. Click on the Back up your Files link that pops up
-Once you click next and Start Backup, the process will begin. This can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes to complete. Be patient.
-Once the process completes, Windows will ask if you want to create a system repair DVD. This is what you’ll use to restore your installation on your new hard drive.
Step 2) Use free hard drive imaging programs to rescue the rest of your files
If you want to transfer the entire contents of your hard drive – as opposed to just your Windows installation – you can do so by using free disk imaging programs. Here are two programs to check out:
Reflect Disk Imaging
Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition
Using these programs, transferring your files between drives will be a piece of cake. Just create an image of your hard drive and transfer the image to your new hard drive. The program will do the rest.
Or, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of working with programs, you can always just copy and paste your files over. This can be time-consuming, especially if you have a larger hard drive. However, you should be able to keep your directory intact by copying and pasting from some of your computer’s most important folders – like the Program Files folder under your main drive.
Step 3) Replace your faulty hard drive
Once you’ve successfully rescued your Windows installation from the failing hard drive, it’s time to replace it and buy a new one. Hard drives aren’t expensive, and you can get one with 2TB of space for around $100.
Once your new hard drive is in your computer, move on to the next step.
Step 4) Repair your Windows installation using the DVD you created
Now, it’s time to restore the Windows installation on your new hard drive. Insert your DVD and follow the steps to “Re-image your computer.” The installation process will ask if you want to restore your hard drive, which may sound bad, but it will actually just restore it to your last disk image, which should be fairly recent if you created it in Step 1.
This will transfer all of your system settings, programs, Windows files, and basically everything you need to run your computer.
If you’re still missing any files, use the free backup utilities you downloaded to transfer the rest of your hard drive image over.