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Can I Move My Old Computer’s Hard Drive to My New Computer?

My sister has a computer with Windows 98se. However, it is crashing on her. She got a new computer with the latest Windows. My question is, can she install her old hard drive with 98se onto her new PC so she can transfer her files over to her new hard drive? She is very illiterate when it comes to computers.

The good news is that a working hard disk that was formatted for use by any prior versions of Windows can certainly be read by Windows versions that come later. Your Win 98 disk can be read by Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

The not-so-bad news is that you’ll have to open the box, extract the drive, and do something with it.

I’ll admit it – that’s not for everyone.

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Installing the drive in another machine

It’s actually a common approach used by computer geeks. Take an old hard drive from an old computer and install it as the second drive in a new one. Everything that used to appear on the C: drive on the old computer might now appear as the D: drive on the new one. Once it’s set up, copying files from old to new is both easy and fast.

And this approach comes with a bonus. Once you’re done copying the files you want to keep, you can leave the old hard drive in the new machine, reformat it if you like, and have that much extra disk space to use.

The down side is that you need to be somewhat computer hardware literate to install the drive. It does mean opening up your PC and connecting the old drive in the right way in the right place. There’s no “one way” to do it – it can vary based on the type of computer you have and the type of hard disk.

A more flexible approach: the external drive

A more flexible approach is to instead take the drive out of the old computer and install it into an external USB drive enclosure.

That’s basically all that most external USB drives are: common hard drives in an enclosure that provides power and a circuit board to provide the USB-to-hard drive interface.

There are two things that you need to know before purchasing an external USB enclosure:

  • The drive size.
    Different HD Drive Sizes
    Two common hard disk drive sizes.

    By size in this case, I mean the physical size of the drive. The external enclosure that you might select needs to match the physical size of the drive that you’re about to put in it.

  • The interface:
    Two Hard Drive Interfaces
    The two hard drive interface types: SATA and IDE (aka PATA)

    There are two primary disk interfaces these days: SATA (on the left, above) and IDE (on the right). Most newer drives are SATA, but particularly on older machines, you’re likely to run into IDE. The external drive enclosure that you get must match the drive: SATA or IDE.

Once you’ve installed the drive in the appropriate type of enclosure, all that you need to is connect it via USB to any computer (and perhaps to power) and you’ll be able to access the data on it.

Some skills required

Regardless of whether you install the hard disk in a different computer or install it into an external enclosure, you will need to be comfortable opening up the old computer, disconnecting, and removing the drive. Then, depending on your choice, you’ll need to be prepared to install the drive in its new home.

If that sounds like too much, then perhaps it’s time to find a technician or at least a techy friend.

It’s typically a fairly quick and easy operation for someone that knows what they’re doing.

126 comments on “Can I Move My Old Computer’s Hard Drive to My New Computer?”

  1. Hello Leo,

    I have done copies like these using hard drive extensions. This is a non-obstrusive way to transfer data and eventually can be used for backup. They usually are priced bet $18-$30. Common type of interfacing is by USB.
    You put the old hard drive in the extension, use the USB connection to connect to your new pc and let XP search for the drivers. If XP can’t find it, use the drivers provided by the extension’s manufacturer.

    The extension will show up in your Explorer as your D: drive. When you are done with your copy, you can reformat the drive and use it as a backup. It really works well if you have multiple PCs like I do.

  2. I was a little confused by the name “hard drive extensions” in Jica A’s response. They’re more commonly called “enclosures”. If you search Amazon for “External Hard Drive Enclosure” you’ll find dozens.

  3. I need to move my old hard drive (windows xp home) to a new PC.

    My problem is, I recently had a house fire and my PC (windows xp home edition) was still running when the firemen put the fire out. They cut the power to the house right off. Then the smoke and water was the other problem.

    The power supply and the mother board is inop.

    The hard drive still runs and has my data.
    I have connected the hard drive to a lesser operating system (windows me) pc to read the drive and all the data points to recovery type files. I do not recognize any of the file names that I used.

    Do you have any ideas?

    Thank you


  4. I cannot find the d drive on my pc. I’m trying to install a printer and the pc is definitely detecting it but the pc is asking for the disc that came with the printer. When I insert the disc nothing happens. I have installed other things in my pc so I’m sure the dive is working. Can you help me?

  5. Hi I recently unpluged 1 of the IDE cables that was attached to one of my hard drives as I needed to attach my friend hard drive to translate data from him.
    I have to do this as I all ready have 3 hard drives installed on my PC + a dvd writer

    Any way I have just re-attached my hard drive and it isnt showing up in “my computer”.

    i have gone to device manager and the hard drive is showing up under “disk drives”.

    any ideas on what I need to do >> ??

    • I bought a SABRENT USB 3.0 SATA/IDE HARD DRIVE ADAPTER on Amazon. $20.09 no free shipping. I wanted to transfer files from a broken PC to my new one..
      I simply unplugged the power cable and the data cable from the old hard drive, and used the new cables which then go from my old hard drive to USB port on my new computer. I was able to capture everything on the C:\ drive, but nothing from the files above C;| such as DOWNLOADS, DOCUMENTS, PICTURES, MOVIES. So in the future, I back up those files regularly so I won’t lose them.

  6. installing drivers on hard drive bayed in another computer…

    ok here goes,
    firstly il say where it all went wrong:

    My freind was drinkin next to my computer and decided my keyboard was thirsty. Well i have a usb keyboard and mouse because of no psu connections or what ever the standerd mouse an keyboard connections are called. Anyway it seemed to have fried my usbs on my motherboard and they no longer work, so now i dont have a working keyboard and mouse 🙁 its sad but i figued out a solution, one of many firstly i thought “wouldnt the usbs have a fuse of some kind to stop surges”, and realized i dont want to get messy with my built in usb’s, so i decided on a pci usb card to connect my mouse and keyboard and then realized how am i surposed to install the drivers for this new pci card! So i then decide i will install the drivers on my harddrive main one with root folders.. c: on my freinds computer with working mouse and keyboard, now i am having trouble viewing my hard drive i can see it on computer management and am seeking help to install this software on my hard drive using another computer! Or any other sugestions on how to install drivers on to my hard drive…
    Thanks, Danny.

  7. What’s the name of the cable that you can buy to transfer data from one computer to the other. I think we used to call them “dumb cables”. What’s the technical name and are they still used?

  8. For serial ports, they were called “null modems”. For ethernet they’re called reversing cables. Not sure if USB cables have a special name for that or not.

    • The name of the USB files and settings transfer cable (at least the Belkin brand cable) is: “Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 7” (for transferring from XP or Vista to 7) and “Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 8” (for transferring from XP, Vista or 7 to 8). The cables come with Easy Transfer software on CD which must be installed on the OLD computer if it doesn’t already have the Easy Transfer program – i.e., Windows XP. There is also a transfer cable for XP to Vista, naturally called “Easy Transfer Cable for Windows Vista”, but I do not know if it comes with software. I paid $19.99 for my Belkin 7 and 8 cables at a local retailer, but they cost less than that on-line nowadays.

  9. My Gateway computer failed. The hard functions. Can I build a new computer use my old hard drive with installed XP operating system in the new computer?

  10. Hi… I’ve noticed others seem to have a similar problem but I coudn’t find where you responded to this issue.

    I’ve installed my not too old Seagate IDE C drive that used to be on windows xp onto my newly built XP but windows does not see it. The device manager shows it as being there and operational but it does not show up as a local drive anywhere. I did a lookup in DOS and it just doesnt show up. I’ve never had this happen before. I have info on it I would like to transfer to the new computer. My SATA drive shows up fine.

    Can you please give me some suggestions?



  11. I have the same problem as Dennis does with the SATA drive installed, but the IDE backup not being recognized in Win XP. I have a feeling it has to do with the drives being different types which is causing a conflict. I am going to put the old IDE drive in a external case and try to plug it in using USB and see what happens, unless there is a way to recognize the IDE while it is intalled in the PC?

    • Regarding you old IDE drive not being seen by My Computer; but detected in Device Manager:

      If it is a second drive make sure the jumper connections are set to slave; or set both drives to cable select.

      If your new motherboard doesn’t have an IDE cable connection for your old hard drive you need to buy a converter kit that has sata connections on the mother board side and IDE connections on the other end which attach to your old drive.

      Next go to your bios settings and verify that the drive is installed in the bios.
      If you can see the drive in Device Manager then the bios knows its there, but check anyway to see if the bios has a problem.
      Depending on your particular bios you may have to have the drive detected; or manually install it by answering questions about it’s size and other parameters.

      If the above items are satisfied go to device manager. Uninstall the old drive; and reinstall using add hardware process in your control panel.

      These are the usual suspects. I hope one of them helps you.

  12. How can I get someone to help me with my previous question. I see no one has responded but I feel there are others out there with the same or similar issue.. Appreciate some help on this if possible or respond to

    Thanks in advance

  13. mschilling: There is a setting in your BIOS which needs to be switched. You get in to that during boot up by holding the delete key. I’m not positive which setting it is, but this may give you enough info to ask someone else. Hope it helped.

  14. I was successful in moving my old computer HD to my New one and it looks like the BIOS are good to go. Also, when I go into my computer I can see the new drive as drive E:. However, when I double click the new drive it says “The Disk is drive E: is not formatted, would you like to format now?”. I am pretty sure that if I format it I will lose all data… so, how do I get my new computer to be able to read the old hard drive. Seems like I am almost there but please help????


  15. After installing new hard drive I installed all data from old drive including Windows XP using system recovery disks. One thing I cannot understand after booting etc,. I ran Disk Investigator and ran search for site I visited whilst on old hard drive, now removed, and to my surprise got positive results. How could this be I had not even visited any sites whatsoever since installing new hard drive.

  16. hi, im planning to buy new pc (new one currently has no operating system (ebay jobby)) if i put my current hd with windows xp in newbie pc and put it as master drive with new one as slave…will it recognise and accept windows xp like my current pc?

  17. I’d give it about a 50/50 chance. It depends on how similar the old and new machines are. But it’s not something I would count on working.

  18. Hi,
    I’m planning to move an old hard drive to a new PC. The old drive has Win 2K Prof installed and I’m using it as an MS SQL server. The new system is a brand new Dell PC with XP installed. I can remove XP or the new disc altogether. Will the OS in the old disc boot up in the new system or will it cause any data loss ?

  19. I put my old drive in my new computer and I can see it with Explorer but it denies me access to My Documentds even though I am the Computer Administator on the new machine. I did have a seperate user id and log-in on my old machine. Is there a way around this?

  20. Hi
    I’d like to use the hard drive from my burnt out WinME PC as an external HD for my XP laptop. Do I need a product like Adaptec’s USB Hard Drive Enclosure to do this?

  21. Can I remove my existing hard drive from my pc and instal in my spare pc, remove the hd from the spare. Both are windows 98se machines. Only difference is my spare is a p3 at 500mz old one is p2 at 300mz. I want the spare to operate the same as my existing. Thanks much.

  22. All I can say is “maybe”. Especially with Win98, it’s ability to detect and compensate for any other changes that it might encounter is not assured. You’d be safer installing it as a second drive and copying over data.

  23. I just transferred an old Win98 drive to a new computer as the boot drive. It works after much driver wrangling in the new system (P4 – 2.5mhz/1gb RAM). Problem is WIN 98 under the new PC is still hanging a bit and looking for the old sound card, even after the sound card was uninstalled in windows. I did run registry mechanic and Destroy IT! to get rid of erroneous registry entries, figuring it would solve some of the problems of moving an old OS into a new PC. THe computer crashes a bit more than it did under the old PC, but my dad doesn’t want to lose any data by starting with a fresh install of WIN98 on a new pc. There lies my dilemma.

  24. I too am trying to use my old hard drive from my previous computer (ME OS) as a slave HDD on my new computer. The problem I have is when I hook up the old HDD to the new computer, it boots from that old HDD and not the new HDD with XP on it, even tho I’ve checked the jumper settings on the old HDD to ensure it is set up as a slave. Do you know how I would go about disabling the old HDD from booting up first?

  25. I have a similar question to matthew; I have just been given an old pc with XP pro on it. The pc I use now has ME. The one I have been given has no space for a second hard drive, however, my ME pc does. May it be possible to put the XP hard drive in the ME pc ? If so could I boot from it? Thanks.

  26. I am trying to use an XP HD and connect to a 98 computer to retrieve files from it. Is it possible? And how? All I get is a white line going across the bottom of the screen.

  27. I have a new motherboard and tower i would like to use my old hard drive in the new computer as the primery drive i have put the old drive int the new one but it will not boot up can you help me with a step by step yours THANKS

  28. When installing an old hard drive in a new computer,does the old operating system need to be removed? Both are xp home with sp2.

  29. I’am building a computer. I have a computer with a Western Digital 250 Gig HDD. I would like to take this Hdd and place it in my new computer. This will be the only HDD I will be using. I have been told that it is hard to do. I think the person who told me this is just trying to scare me into paying him to do it. The Hdd is loaded with Windows XP Pro w/sp2. Is it possible to install the drive into the new computer and use it after I reinstall the OS? Please help me. Tell me what I should do to make this work. I have purchased the Asus P5NSLI Board, Pentium D 805 Processor, And the XFX GeForce 7600 Graphics Card. I do intend on using Kingston 533/512 Ram (2 Sticks).

  30. I have an XP boot drive on a slow 400MHz Celeron system, and I want to install it as my boot drive on a (slightly) faster P3 533MHz box. When I moved it, Windows tried to boot, but told me it couldn’t boot and there was probably a hardware configuration change … It gave me several choices to try to boot (Safe Mode, SM with Networking, SM with Command Prompt, Last Known Good, Normal) — none of those choices worked; I came back to the same message and prompts every time.
    Any ideas?

  31. This article was very helpful. The comments posted were also very helpful. I succeeded in putting the hard drive from an older computer into my Windows XP. It worked without me having to configure any settings on the PC. I just connected the power and 40-pin cables and set the jumpers. I set the original XP hard drive to Master and the older hard drive as a Slave. When I started the computer again it started as usual. When I went to My computer it had the added hard drive listed.

    Thank You

  32. my old computer no longer works at all–to save some files on the hard drive–I have removed the old hard drive and now need to know how to transfer and save those files ( I have extra external hard drives)
    Thank You-Mark

  33. mine is the opposite of this and i want to move files from my new computer to the old one that has 95. the new one has xp. can i do that with a usb cord and how?

  34. i’m building my own computer and i installed my hard drive from my old computer but it won’t boot. i would appreciate if you can help. Thank You

  35. when i hooked up the hd i’m trying to read on my xp computer it just boots to the 98 logo apears but then goes to dos. how do i get it to boot windows 98

  36. i want to pt my hard drive in my new comp will i be able ot do that and jsut install the drives for the new mother board or will i have to wipe hd and reinstall windows

  37. I have a related question. I want to move old hard drive (installed with Windows XP) into new PC and thats’ it. I have everything working on the old PC except that it is an old machine. I simply want to get more speed and do not want to reconfigure the OS

  38. i need to transfer my old hard drive to new computer that the motherboard shorted out, can I do this without installing it in my new computer. Old computer hard windows xp, new has vista. Thanks

    Hash: SHA1

    Sure. You can purchase a USB drive enclosure and put it in


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  40. Leo, I have enjoyed your newsletter for years, and am happy to be able to contribute something for your other readers. I have had great success in using a USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter from Newer Technology is accessing old hard drives, from both desktop and laptop computers. It eliminates the need to open your computer to install the old hard-drive. The adapter allows you to access the old hard-drive from your new computer as an external disk. The cost for the adapter is less than #30.00 not including shipping. I purchased mine from Other World Computing I have no connection to this Company, except as a satisfied customer. Best to you and yours

  41. I often have to add a drive to a computer on a temporary basis. I use an inexpensive USB – IDE/SATA/notebook adapter for this. It comes with a 5/12v power adapter to power the drive, and a multi-connector plug on the end of a USB cable. it even has a short SATA cable. Perfect for transferring data from an old hard drive.

  42. My old computer(pentium4,2.0ghz,1g ddr3200 ram, 800fsb).The motherboard failed. I rebuilt it using new components(pentium core2duo, 2.53ghz, 4g ddr2-800 ram, sata HDD). My old ide hard drive was fine so I put in in the box and made it a slave to the sata drive. I loaded my original win xp-pro and my original office pro2003. I made outlook express the default mail client. it worked for a day and them I started getting an error message that the address book was not installed, and that oe is not configured correctly. When I try to open email I get a message that there is an error and the email won’t open. I tried your suggestion of downloading ie from the microsoft website, but that did not solve the problem. I tried a system restore and that did not solve the problem. I have been able to read and copy most of my data files to the old hdd to the new. Also I would like to copy/move my address book and my stored/downloaded emials from the old hard drive to the new one. I found the old address book and I copied it to the desktop, removed the read-only attribute in the properties view, but still get the error message that the address book file has been locked by another application that I am supposed to close. But nothing else is open. I cannot find the old emails and where they are stored. I have no idea how to proceed from here. Thanks for any input.

  43. Ok I have an adapter, connected it. However my Vista notebook shows the external drive as being here, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to access it. Can someone enlighten me? It simply shows up in my hardware manager and nowhere else.
    I was using Linux, on my old pc. Could this be the problem? All my info is in my old PC. It died suddenly. The hard drive is not bad. I can hear it spinning.

    The hard disk is likely formatted using one of the Linux filesystems, which Windows cannot understand. You’ll need to extract the data using Linux. It’s possible that simply booting a Linux live CD might do the trick. But I could be wrong :-).

    – Leo
  44. I need a lil help my old emachines motherboard crashed or shorted or something, instead of buyin a mother board I decided to buy a new comp for just 100 bucks more or so. Anyways I now have an hp computer with a vista OS, my old computer had an xp OS. I know you said up top I can just go ahead and hook it up, but I’ve allready added an extra hard drive to it for extra storage. Can I just pop off the connectors from the extra hard drive I’ve allready installed and put it on the old hard drive? With out damaging my new computer or the old hard drive?.. any info is greatly appreciated

  45. I too transfered my Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 HDD from my non working eMachine to my new Acer w/Vista. I removed the jumper that was on the HDD. My computr recognizes the HDD but none of the files I had on the drive (pictures, music, etc.) show up. When I open a file folder all that is there is a ‘shortcut file’ for that folder. Where are all my files??? The drive shows that about 1/2 the storage capacity is in use. Did removing the master/slave jumper cause the stored files to be inaccessible? Please help, my wife will shoot me if I can’t retrieve all those pictures of the kids!

  46. I want to change my old hard drive into my new laptop , it is possible to swap it and make it work smoothly,i did it before with win 95 , it worked just right but with windows xp the new computer does not read the drive ..what can i do? please let me know, thank you.

  47. I put in my old hard, I can see it as drive F. I can open it and see the folders and stuff. I can seem to copy my MS office to the new hard drive. How do I do that?

  48. My motherboard fried so I went out and bought another computer for $100.00. The problem is there are only 40 gigs, my old drive has 80 gigs. Can i just switch this out? The 80 gig drive has XP but it is under a system restore (no discs). Is this even possible?

  49. I build my first PC with a Vista 64 ops system and everything is working fine. I want to take the HD out of my old PC (XP for business) and put it is as a second drive. I feel comfortable about transfering files (and I have them on a network drive as well) but my question is on the installed software. My old HD has all my installed software (Office 2007…); will I be able to move the software to the new HD or run it for the old HD?

  50. Please help! I have an old computeer with W98; it has a memory problem and i need the data on that HD; any way to tranfer or hook up the HD with a USb adapter? Much of what I have is pics that my wife will kill for! I am too yourng to die. lol

    Absolutely. You can purchase a USB Drive Enclosure, and remove the drive from the computer and place it in that. Make sure that it’s the right type of drive interface – I’m assuming from the age of your computer it’ll be EIDE, aka PATA.

    And start backing up in the future, OK? If your data is in only one place, it’s not backed up.

    – Leo
  51. I have a hard drive from a broken computer, windows xp. I bought an enclosure and connected to my lap top via USB 2.0 the lap top sees the drive but denies access to the files, I assume it is password protected by the old computer. Is there a work around?

  52. I’ve recently come across a free computer and it has everything but a hard drive. So I was wondering if i could just install The hard drive from my old computer onto the new one.
    Or would it just be easier just to buy a new hard drive and OS?

  53. Just thought I’d get my 2 cents in here for the people wondering how to do it.

    Don’t be intimidated… The worst that could happen if your are completely blatantly and intentionally careless is that you could screw over your old PCs motherboard but hey if you cared about that you would probably not want to take the hard drive out!

    ok so shut down your computer and disconnect all the wires. Now open your PCs case using whichever method your computer uses.. some dell’s have a pop switch some PCs have finger screws at the back and some have screws all over the place for you to try and find. you should be able to tell after a quick look how to do this.

    TOUCH A PIECE OF BODY METAL INSIDE THE PC TO GROUND YOURSELF BEFORE TOUCHING ANY HARDWARE (thats the only time I will scare you like that I promise)

    once you’re inside you’ll realise that the inside of a computer really hasn’t got all that much to it (ignoring the construction of individual parts of course)

    You’ll see your power supply (the one at the back at the top that has your mains electric plug into it) You will also see your CD/DVD ROM drive (this one is also obvious as it can be seen from outside) you motherboard is the giant microchip farm buried underneath everything… the rest is simply (usually) labelled your looking for something not directly attached to everything else.. it’ll be a small metal box usually with a sticker saying something like Seagate 500Gb SATA HDD or Hard Drive (you can usually assume that anything with a large storage ammount written on will be your hard drive) it will also be connected by wires to both the motherboard and the power supply. Simply unplug these wires and the Hard drive is yours… done… thats it!

    Now all you have to do is plug it in to the equivalent places inside the new computer (don’t forget to ground yourself first) and switch it on most computers these days will recognise it automatically.

    If you have any problems with your computer recognising your hard drive well then that’s a different story and I’m sure leo’s probably written an article on it by now already. Get searching (unfortunately this is a rare occurence and as such has never even happened to my “frankenstein” of a computer pieced together slowly out of the best bits of friends old ones let alone my decent “crysis build” machine and so it’s a problem I’ve never had to solve. I’m more of a hobbyist with this sort of thing than any kind of expert.. I only know how to do things that I’ve needed to do myself in the past year of learning from youtube tips and sites like this (and look now I know how to build a pc lol) time to share the experience

  54. Hi there, I have an old Acer laptop and now have just purchased a Compaq laptop. My problem is that my old Acer has just died, has no power at all. I have taken out the hard drive and am wondering how do I transfer the data from this hard drive to my new computer. The hard drive from the Acer has a different configuration to the Compaq.

    If you could help me that would be sooooooo appreciated.


  55. my brothers computer crashed cant boot and doesn’t start. So i don’t have choose. i’m thinking i will unplugg HDD and connect my own computer format then plug again. It will work? hehe.. 2day i will try this. Help me 🙂 My english also not good 😀

  56. after moving HDD to anther comp it boots but windows says serial is incorrect
    how do i get around thisthe OS is only installed on this HDunable to type the last digit for phone activation

  57. I just installed my old hard drive as a slave in my new computer but the old hard drive was password locked at windows start up and it wont let me access some of the files. How can I take the password off the old hard drive? Also when I tried to add my old memory to my new computer to bring it up to one gig it went nuts and wouldnt boot up.

  58. hi, i took my old hard drive and whacked it into my new computer, but the thing is that the new computer uses different (new type, they’re not bus lines) plugs from hd to cpu. i somehow connected my hard drive to power and cpu, but when i boot, the bios is fine, but there is a flashing underscore after that and then nothing happens. Help Me!!!!!!!!!!!

  59. I have a toshiba laptop that died, but all internal stuff is good. It just won’t turn on. I got a new Dell laptop latitude D610. The older toshiba satellite A75-S2292 was a better, more expensive Laptop. Can I just switch the better stuff from the toshiba to the Dell? The toshiba won’t turn on. Can I hook the two computers up and transfer data firing up the Dell only? I have no problem ripping either computer apart (the toshiba is already apart). I, of course, have no idea what I am doing here, but they don’t call me Jack-the-hack for nothing (back in the DOS days before the last Ice age). Help me computer lord!–Jimmyjack

    The super-short answer is no. What I would do it take out the hard disk from the old, dead machine and put it into an external USB enclosure so you can access its contents from your new computer. Typically that’s the only component worth salvaging when you’re changing brands like this.


  60. So as long as i have windows on my old hard drive and my new computer I can just plug in the power and data cord and my computer will reconize it?

    You’re not giving me a lot of details, but in general: no. That’s exactly what the article you just commented on is about.


  61. Good afternoon, Leo

    You said in this article that the new hard drive would be called ‘D:’ – but how is this possible when my CD-ROM drive is already on D: ?

    Also, will my CD-ROM not be affected?

    Thanks for the help

    D: was just an example. Windows assigns the next available drive letter, whatever that might be.


  62. @Joey
    Good point. This won’t change your CD-ROM. It will always be D:. The computer will assign the next available letter to your new drive.

  63. My laptop has been out of commission for a couple years now. My problem: its motherboard is shot. I can’t afford a new motherboard or a new laptop, and there are a few important files on it that I need to save. Can I somehow transfer those files to a regular PC? I’ve been everywhere, and can’t seem to get a straight answer to this question.

    Assuming the hard drive is okay, you can take it out and hook it up to any new computer with a USB adapter cable, or place it into an external USB enclosure. Your old hard drive will then operate as an external drive and you can find and save your files.


  64. I examined putting the old windows XP drive into my new windows 7 computer. By the time I bought the conversion parts, it was simply cheaper and easier to use a memory stick, flash memory ?, and transfer the files. Also a new external USB drive for backing up files is cheap enought, and is new and maybe more reliable than the old computer drive, so the cost is not much of a factor.


  65. Your comments about moving data off of an old computer hard drive onto an external USB drive enclosure is a great solution for preserving data from older machines running older operating systems. Thanks very much for the tip. I’ve got several old Windows 98 machines in my garage that I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to salvage the data. Now I know it is possible.

  66. There’s a gizmo to do this via USB. It’s not an enclosure, it a plug-in – power suppy and data cable – for SATA and the older ‘ribbon cable’.
    You can get it at Tiger direct for under $30.
    I’ve had one for a year or so and they’ll pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

    I have one of those as well, and they’re great as a temporary solution. I much prefer putting things into a dedicated enclosure for long term use.

  67. Snert and Leo – about that interface cable gizmo from Tiger Direct – do you have the part number? I SO need one of these!!

    Don’t know about Tiger Direct, but here’s one on Amazon. There are many available now.

  68. @DAanderud. I had a simler problem to yours, however i used Administrative Tools, which comes built into most windows operating systems, however you will need to do a search for it, but trust me its there. Using that programmn you click on disc management and this will show you which hard drives are installed on your system, the problem it turned out, was that the drive i was trying to access had a letter which was already assigned to another Hdd, so i simply changed the letter on my drive to one which was not assigned. and Bingo when i went back to My Computer, there my drive was in all its wonderful glory. hope this helps,

  69. For your consideration. Rather than purchase a hard drive enclosure to make an external home for a SATA hard drive you are removing, why not purchase a SATA dock. I now have 6 hard drives, including some from my desk top tower and one from an old HP laptop, that I simply pop into the SATA dock when I need information on the drive. The SATA dock accommodates all my old SATA drives. I also keep on hand an inexpensive unit that converts by old EIDE drives into USB drives. No special enclosure required.

  70. Hi,
    I’m installing Wind 2003 server & some applications in a hard disk of a machine. I want to take the same hard disk & connect it to different machine as a Primary drive. Is it possible?
    Or can we use it as a Secondary drive but still use Windows 2003 server?

  71. I have a hp pavilion dv7-1468nr with 320 gb hdd 5400 rpm with vista. I want to use my hard drive in a new computer but should I get a computer with 2 hard drive bays that has a SSD INSTEAD of HDD? And will I be able to get rid of vista?

  72. My old dell comp crashed. We brought a new Gateway, and dropped it. The screen is now jacked up, but not cracked. Can I take the hard drive out of the new on and put it I to the old Dell computer? Or would that not work? I am not sure how much it will cost for a new screen,or is there anything I can do to maybe restore the screen? Like I mentioned, it is not cracked, just jacked up.

    • Jgz,
      You don’t specify that these are laptops, but it kind of sounds like they are. Getting a new screen for a laptop can be pricey. It will need to be professionally done, so head on down to your local computer store and get a quote for that. It’s pretty cheap to buy an external monitor and plug it in, but then you lose any portability.

      Here’s an article on changing out hard drives in a computer.

  73. How can I remove the hard drive before donating? Unfortunately I have already disconnected all my cables. Trying to unscrew the screws but I can’t get to the other 2 to the hard

  74. I have a system with Windows XP installed on a 80GB hard drive plus a 250GB hard drive used only for storing movies, videos etc. There is no System or O/S stuff (not that I know off) in the 250GB drive. If I want to use the 250GB drive in a new PC with a Windows version, do I need to format the drive or will it still work? Thank you.

  75. I recently bought a windows 8.1 pc to replace my windows xp one . i have installed the old hard drive into the new pc , but although the pc can open the files , in say spreadsheet if i try to alter it it says that the file was opened in read only format . I have unchecked the box in properties but it still says it is read only format , any ideas on how i can open them to modify ?


    • One workaround is to save the file with a different name. It’s then usually possible to delete original file from Windows Explorer (the file manager, not the browser).

  76. Purchased a new computer and decided to remove the HD from the previous computer and connect it as a secondary drive on the new computer to speed the transfer of a GB of data. When I went to reinstall the HD as the primary on the original machine it does not appear to be recognized by the machine, only a black screen. Did something happen to the HD when I connected it to the new machine that now thinks its a secondary drive?

  77. Hey Leo,
    I just wanted to say thank you very much for your detailed information on hard drives. I was able to recognize the type of drive I had and connect it successfully to an enclosure. Thank you very much!

  78. hello,

    I have recently built my first pc and am unfortunately having some problems with it.

    when I boot it up it gives me the option to go into the bios but when I press said button I just get a black screen.

    I have tried putting my old laptops hard drive in it which has a copy of windows 7 on but nothing happens

    any help will be much appreciated.

    thanks 🙂

    if its any help I am running ….

    my motherboard is ” asus b85m-g”.

  79. Leo,
    I took the hard drive out and put in another computer, but when I try to copy files it says I do not have permission please contact the administrator.

  80. i had my laptop compleatly wiped and i saved my files that i needed on a flash drive. after it was wiped i plugged in my flash drive and all my files were empty. they were not empty when i put them on the flash drive… i cheeked. why is it like that and how can i get them back with out downloading anything?

  81. I have a new computer with Windows 7 Pro. I have installed on the D drive Windows XP, I access this by entering the BIOS and making 2 changes. Before doing this I tried installing the virtual XP. Virtual would not run the scanner I was trying to operate..My Windows 7 comes with an upgrade to Windows 10. If I do this, would I still be able to access my installed XP the same way? Would you do this?

  82. My old p3 pc is win… xp not working,so the data in the hard drive to be transferred to my laptop win…8 ,how to transfer the data ,is any cable available to do so or any other method to do………..please help…

  83. hello leo,
    is there a way to wipe a hard drive thats out of a computer? i’ve got a hard drive that i want to put in my computer and it was one somebody gave me yrs ago and i wanting to use it for g bits in my hard drive. i already have 16gb and i’m using windows 7 and it says it needs more.

  84. I have just bought a new windows 10 computer and discovered that my printer and scanner which worked perfectly on my old Vista computer cannot be upgraded to work on wind 10 because no suitable drives are available. Can I simply insert my old Vista drive into my new computer as say drive D, and be able to use my printer as usual?

  85. I have read through all the interesting questions and answers on the topic of re-using hard drives from old computers, but no one has mentioned my particular situation. I have three old hard drives, and fitted them into exclosures without any problems, two are made by Octigen and one Icebox types, I have no problems accessing files. I have some old hardware, a scanner and a plotter, and drivers are not available for the Windows 7 OS, that I am sticking with. The old hard drives have XP and possibly older OS’s. If possible, I would like to be able to use the drivers that are installed on the old drives, without having to boot up to them. Is this possible ?

    • As far as I understand it, you want to copy the drivers from the XP drives and have them work on your Windows 7 installation? If so, that would not be possible for a couple of reasons. If there are no drivers available for Windows 7, the XP drivers wouldn’t be compatible and unless you had the driver installation files. If the XP drivers were compatible, you should be able to find them on the device manufacturers’ websites, or Windows would automatically install them. Also, you can’t simply copy drivers from another installation and have them work as they install files in various folders and write registry entries.

  86. hello leo,
    is there a way to wipe a hard drive thats out of a computer? i’ve got a hard drive that i want to put in my computer and it was one somebody gave me yrs ago and i wanting to use it for g bits in my hard drive. i already have 16gb and i’m using windows 7 and it says it needs more. The old hard drives have XP and possibly older OS’s. If possible, I would like to be able to use the drivers that are installed on the old drives, without having to boot up to them. Is this possible

    {spam link removed}

    • You can place that drive in a USB drive housing and plug it into a computer and either format the drive, delete the files or use a file utility like CCleaner to shred the files if you don’t want the files to be accessible.

  87. Hello Leo,
    I know I’m way behind the times but I have a Mustek 1200 scanner that is only compatible with windows XP. The quality of the scanner is excellent but it is not compatible with my new windows 8.1 computer. I purchased an easy transfer cable but it does not work. I’d like to continue to use the scanner and transfer pictures from my XP computer to my windows 8.1 computer. Is there a product that is simple to use and effective for this transfer such as a transfer cable or external hard drive available? Thank you

    • I had a Mustek scanner in the early 2000s. When I got a computer with Vista, I had to get a new scanner. Sometimes there simply isn’t a driver for the newer OS.

    • Not that I’m aware of. It might be more pragmatic and significantly less time consuming to just get a new scanner. If that’s not an option then the next thing I would try would be to run XP in a virtual machine, but it’s unclear if the hardware interface will cross the barrier into the VM. (Had Mustek scanners myself years ago.)

  88. My laptop hinges broke so, I bought a new Dell laptop. Both have Windows 10. I removed the hard drive from the old unit and installed it into an external drive enclosure. I would like to install everything on the old hard drive onto my new PC. I have the external enclosure and a USB cable to attach to it and to the new PC. How do I proceed to transfer all the old info onto the new PC so when I turn it on it’s the looks and functions like the old did? thanks for your help.

    • Your situation is what is discussed in the article. It’s highly unlikely to be possible. If the drives in both machines are the same physical size, you should be able to put the drive from the older machine into the newer one and see if it works.

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