Can I Combine Two Drives into One?

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I have a PC, which I’ve upgraded about as much as I can, and I’m just looking to get a new one. My current PC has two hard drives: operating system drive and a secondary storage drive of 256 gigabytes, approximately. So would it be possible to transfer the data from both hard drives on to one… say, one terabyte drive installed into the new machine?

As long as the new hard drive has enough room for everything, you can absolutely transfer data from both hard drives onto it.

I want to cover the process, how I’d go about doing it, and some of the options for actually getting the data transferred.

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Organizing your data

To be clear: we’re not talking about moving the operating system or any installed programs. You’ll have a newly installed operating system on the new machine, and you’ll reinstall the applications that you want from their original installation media or downloads.

Then all that’s really left to talk about is copying over your data.

There are two approaches to organizing the data on your new drive.

  1. You can actually partition that new hard drive, (the terabyte drive in your example), into two parts, so it would mimic the two drive setup you have now. One could be your operating system disk, and the other could be your data disk. All of that data would be on a single drive, but it would look to the operating system like two separate drives.
  2. Don’t partition the new drive; leave it as a single, large, partition. You could place the data from the drive you now use for storage into a folder on the new drive and then organize your files and applications according to your liking.

Personally, I prefer a single partition per hard drive. Others disagree, which is fine. It’s really up to you.

When it comes to actually moving the data, there are multiple options. It really depends on what equipment you have, and what you’re comfortable doing.

Copying DataOption 1: Create a small local area network

The simplest way (and the way I personally do it) is to have both computers connected to my router at the same time, so that they’re on what’s called a “small local area network”. Having both machines connected to the local network allows me to use Windows file sharing to connect from one machine to the other; so that I can just copy everything that I want from that old machine to the new.

However, networking can be finicky, so this approach doesn’t always work.

Option 2: Grab an external hard drive

Connect an external hard drive to the old machine. Copy the data you want to move to the external drive. Dismount the drive. Plug it into the new computer, and then copy the data off the external drive on to the new PC.

Option 3: Turn your old storage drive into an external hard drive

Take that second hard drive out of the old machine, put it into an external drive enclosure, and use it as an external drive. You can then copy your data over to the one terabyte drive. If you wanted to, you could even leave the data on your “new” external drive, or use it for backup. You’ve got some flexibility there.

Option 4: Use a backup image

Another option is to use a backup image on an external drive, and recover your data from that image. Assuming that you have been backing up this old PC, you have backup images that are already stored on external drives. If you don’t already have backup images, you can make one on the old machine. Then with that image on an external drive, you can move it to the new machine and use your backup software to recover or extract data to the new drive.

My suspicion is that copying using an external drive is probably the simplest and the easiest way to get working and get working quickly, but honestly it’s really up to you. There are lots of options here, and I really do think you can get set up just the way you’d like to.

3 comments on “Can I Combine Two Drives into One?”

  1. You missed option 5, albeit, it’s a little more techy. But for completeness, here it is: Put the two hard drives into your new computer. They would show up as drives E: and F:, for example. You could then copy the data to C:. This might require you to change a jumper on the drives when you put them in the new computer, hence being more techy.

    The local area network or external drive are my favourite options.

  2. I bet your question related to combining two hard drives of, say 500 GB each into what the computer see’s as a single 1 TB drive. I have also wondered about this.

    • RAID systems are not uncommon these days – my recently bought motherboard supported RAID arrays out of the box. In my opinion however, such RAID systems just compound normal disk errors and failure rates – as one failure from any of the drives impacts all of your data.

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