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Step By Step: How To Replace Your Hard Drive But Keep Your Windows, Files And Settings

Updated on August 5, 2012

It is quite common for users who want to upgrade their system to have a hard time deciding over what to do with their hard drive; they would like to replace it with a newer, faster one (maybe an SSD drive) but they find it hard to reinstall Windows, all games, all programs, files and settings. On the other hand, keeping an old, maybe overused hard drive on an upgraded system isn't very smart either, because it will be slowing the whole system down and not allowing it to show its real potential.

That's where hard drive cloning comes handy; with various software solutions, a computer user can clone the whole hard drive or partitions of it into another hard drive, so the system is ready to boot with the new drive, without need for new Windows, programs installations and more. The process is not very hard and it is surely worth the time invested on it.

In this guide we will show how it can be done through CloneZilla, a freeware program which is based on DRBL, Partclone and udpcast, through Debian environment. CloneZilla allows low level cloning of all data in the partitions, as well as their restoration later on. Most important feature of CloneZilla is support on almost all filesystems, even legacy ones, for example NTFS, EXT2/3/4, ReiserFS/4, HFS+, UFS and VMFS. For the supported filesystems, block copy technique is used, while on the unsupported ones (about 0.01% of the market) there is only sector to sector copy. Additionally, there is support for GRUB, something which allows cloning of systems with dual-boot operating systems, for example combinations of Windows and Linux distributions.

Get the Live CloneZilla distribution from www.clonezilla.org, you can opt to choose any version but better prefer the latest Stable one. You can download an ISO which can be burnt on DVD or "installed" on a bootable USB hard drive; you will find a guide about how this can be done in my relative hub. The process is easy and fast.

Install Clonezilla in DVD or USB and connect the new hard drive on your motherboard. Do not remove the old hard drive yet, else you won't be able to copy its contents.
Start Clonezilla by setting your computer to boot from USB or DVD, depending on where the application has been passed on. The starting page of CloneZilla is not different from other Linux distributions.

Before the graphical environment is started, you will be asked for your preferred language and your keyboard keymapping. Choose Default. Start Clonezilla and select "device device work directly from a disk or partition to a disk".

In the next window, you are presented with two possible choices; "Beginner Mode: Accept the default options" and "Expert Mode: Choose your own options". You better opt for Beginner Mode. Since you want to copy the whole drive into a new one, choose "disk_to_local_disk"

Now you need to select the two hard drives which will be involved in the copy. You will also need to note which is the source and which is the target. If there are only 2 hard drives connected on your motherboard at this moment, choice will be even easier. Click at Enter.

CloneZilla will perform some final checks and alert you that the target drive data will be erased. This is normal, since the old drive is copied on the new one. Type Y to accept it and move on. You will also be asked on the partitions and bootloader, but other than that, you will have to wait till the copy is done.

A Matter Of Time!

On your screen you will be shown the current copy speed and the progress in percentage %. The time that is needed is relevant to the speed of the two hard drives, their capacity and files size. When you receive the Success message, you need to power off your system, remove the old hard drive and connect the new one at the same port. You are now ready to boot into the new hard drive.

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    • boosters profile image

      Sandeep Rai 4 years ago from India

      Thanks for the nice hub.. recently i am planning to replace my HDD