If I buy a new PC with Windows 7 can I then install my old hard drive as a
slave and access and run programs installed on it such as PhotoShop CS3 and
Microsoft Office 2007?
Yes, no, maybe and most likely not.
I’m sorry to be that vague, but the answer isn’t always clear (though it is
for the two programs you mention).
It’s a common desire, and a common question. I’ll look at the scenarios
where it works, and where and why it does not.
One common, very common, and quite valid approach to moving data from an old machine to a new is to take the old machine’s hard drive and install it as a second drive in the new. Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as a “slave” drive, which is actually an artifact of the IDE or PATA hard drive interface, and fairly immaterial.
The bottom line is that the old drive appears as nothing more than a second drive – often drive “D:” – in the new machine.
Another alternative is to take the old drive and place it into an external USB enclosure, and connect the drive to your new computer – or any computer for that matter – using the USB interface. Once again, the old hard disk simply appears as another drive and another drive letter on your new machine.
This is great for accessing data. Everything that was on the old machine’s hard drive is typically just there – ready to be accessed, albeit via a different drive letter.
Programs, however, are another matter.
While all the files that comprise a program are also visible on the old hard drive, the applications may or may not work.
A good rule of thumb is: if the program required a setup program to install in the old system, then simply moving the drive will not allow that program to run in the new.
Put another way: if it needed a setup program before, it’ll need a setup program again.
The problem is actually fairly simple – many programs, including programs like PhotoShop or Office, rely on configuration and registry settings that are made within the operating system, and occasionally elsewhere. Without having run setup, those settings are not in place, and the programs will not run.
Occasionally there are programs – typically smaller, downloadable utilities – that don’t require a setup at all, or automatically perform their own setup if they detect that it’s needed. These programs can be run from just about anywhere.
But most significant applications, especially suites like Office or PhotoShop, don’t fall anywhere close to that category.
As an aside, there are applications that, for a fee, will move software from one machine to another as well as entire installed systems including both the operating system and all installed software from one machine to another. I’ve no direct experience with them, but PC-Mover by LapLink is getting some press these days.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of taking a new machine as a point at which to start with a clean slate, and reinstall, from scratch, only those programs I actually use.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your installation disks and product keys. Not only for backup should your own hard disk or computer die, but for the day when you want to upgrade to a completely different machine.
You’ll need to reinstall those applications from scratch from their original media before you can use them.