Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Can I clone everything on my hard drive except the operating system?

My hard drive is acting up, so I have new one that I want to install. I wanted to
copy everything to my new hard drive. I’m also thinking of installing Windows 7.
How can I clone everything from the old hard drive to the new without XP? When
cloning, my understanding is it will clone everything. Thanks, in advance.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #16
, I discuss cloning a hard drive and repeat the importance of
backups and a clean install of any operating system.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Does cloning copy everything?

Absolutely.

Cloning by definition means cloning everything. It means making an identical
copy of your hard disk to another hard disk or another media of some sort.

So what you’re trying to do is copy everything, but the operating system. I
don’t know of a way to do that.

Correct installation

The correct way to do what you’re attempting to do – switch operating
systems – is to:

  • Get your new hard drive.
  • Install Windows 7.
  • And then install your applications and your data there.

Naturally, the step left out is that you should really start with a backup, especially if your hard drive is acting up.

Backing up is crucial

You should be backing up regularly right now just because you don’t know
when that hard drive is going to die a permanent death.

Also, there no upgrade path from XP to Windows 7. The right way to switch an operating system version (and the right way for
you to do what you want to do here) is to:

  • Install Windows 7 from scratch on the new hard drive.
  • Then reinstall all of your applications.
  • And then copy over the data that you care about

Presumably, you copy back your data from some other location or from your
backup.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

1 thought on “Can I clone everything on my hard drive except the operating system?”

  1. When you bring data back, be sure you put it in the correct folder. Windows 7 will use different default folders than Windows XP for some programs. What I usually do is create some data with the new setup – see where the data is stored (do a search), then backup everything, move my data over to the new location from the old harddrive and test it to make sure I didn’t mess up anything. The folder tree structure can be very different between those two operating systems – especially if you install programs for all users – at least in the 7 Enterprise version!

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.