Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to move a Windows 7 installation to a different hard drive, or a larger hard drive

I ran into a problem today where I only had 3GB left of storage space on my primary hard drive. Luckily, I had a spare 500GB drive that I could upgrade to. But I did not want to re-install Windows, deal with calling Microsoft to re-activate Windows, and re-install all of my software. All that I needed to do was move the Windows install to the other hard drive. After a little bit of time, I figured out how to do this and am very pleased with the results. If you want to do this, here are some simple rules:

*The drive that you want to move the Windows installation to needs to be EXACTLY the same hard drive size as your current drive or larger. For example, if your Windows installation is on a 40GB hard drive then you need to have a 40GB hard drive or larger available.

*A full system image backup can be as large as the size of the hard drive that Windows is installed on so make sure you have an external hard drive that is large enough to handle the backup. Otherwise, make sure you have enough DVD-Rs to create a full system image spanned across a DVD set.

*Keep in mind that you cannot ‘move’ your Windows 7 installation to a new computer. That requires Windows to be re-activated and possibly force you to buy a new Windows 7 license. These procedures are only for moving your installation to a different or larger hard drive on the same computer.

So, without further ado, here is the procedure for moving your Windows 7 installation to a different hard drive on the same computer:

1. Open the Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore.
2. On the left panel, choose “Create System Image”.
3. Save Windows system image to an external hard drive.
4. Burn a system restore disk when prompted.
5. Turn off the computer. Remove the old hard drive, insert the new one.
6. Boot the PC with the System Restore Disk.
7. Restore the saved system image and boot into Windows.

At this point, Windows has been restored with all of your files and applications. If you moved to a different hard drive that was the same size as the last one, then you are done. But if you migrated to a larger hard drive, continue with the steps below.

8. Open the command line.
9. Execute “bcdboot c:\windows /s c:”.
10. Open Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management.
11. Click on Disk Management. Right click the c: partition and choose “Set as Active”. Click Yes at the warning prompt.
12. Reboot the computer. Log back into Windows.
13. Open Disk Management and delete the BDEdrive partition.
14. Right-click the C: partition and choose “Extend Volume”.
15. Choose your options on how to want to extend the volume. Usually, you simply want to extend the volume to include all of the unallocated space. Finish the extension and verify the results.
16. Done.