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How to move your operating system to another hard drive

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How to move your operating system to another hard drive
Knowing how to move your operating system to another hard drive might not be a skill you can utilize every day. However, it will come in handy someday.

If the time comes when you’ll have to upgrade to a new hard drive, you’ll have a choice of either starting from scratch and doing a new operating system (OS) install or simply moving it from your old drive. The former is a long and tedious process we would not wish on anyone – and that’s assuming that you already have the correct drivers downloaded on a USB drive. Once you have the operating system up and running, you’ll also have to re-install all your applications, make sure you’re got the right system settings, and even transfer all your data and files.


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And, if you’re as lazy as I am, you’ll likely want to go for the second option. The best – not to mention, painless – way to migrate your information onto a new drive is to move your entire OS onto a new drive. This is not as simple as copy and paste, but it will certainly be much less of a hair-pulling affair than the first option. 

To move your operating system to another hard drive, you’ll need the right tools. There are a ton of them out there that you can use to do this. There are also many different ways of doing it. In this how to, I will cover the ways I do it in my home for my PC.


Before you get started…

Now, before we begin, I want to point out some important prefaces. The most important of all is you need to make sure that your computer is virus-free. If it has a virus then that will copy over to your new hard drive. If your operating system is corrupt, then you run the risk of your information not being accessible or being corrupt on the copy (sometimes it won’t be a problem but it depends on the damage of the hard drive). 

Also, make sure that you are moving to either the same size drive or bigger to ensure that the copy will not fail. This might sound like no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re caught up in the excitement of it all.


What you will need:


  • A USB Flash Drive (with no data on it or one that is expendable)
  • Maybe an hour (depending on how big your hard drive is)
  • A storage disk to save a backup image (always do this - follow the instructions here)
  • Both hard disks installed
  • TuxBoot
  • CloneZilla

Get everything you need ready for a smoother process. Once you have installed all the programs, settings, and have all the data you want, you can get started. Follow the steps below, and it should work out nicely and without a hitch.

1. Go to Windows/My Computer, and right-click on My Computer and select Manage. Once the window opens, choose Disk Management, and usually Windows will acknowledge a new disk has been located and that it needs to be initialized and formatted. Click OK and choose NTFS quick.

2. Download Tuxboot and CloneZilla. CloneZilla will be the application we will use to create an image of the hard drive, and Tuxboot is what we will use to mount it to the USB Flash Drive so that we can boot to it.

3. Once these applications are downloaded, plug in the flash drive that you will be using and format it clean, as we will be using this Flash Drive for CloneZilla. Go to Windows/My Computer, and right-click on My Computer and select Manage. Select the disk (making sure you do NOT select C: drive or another drive you are using) and right click and format it to NTFS Quick, and give it a Drive Letter.

4. Open Tuxboot. Once Tuxboot opens, click on the bottom and choose ISO and click the button to find the location of the CloneZilla live .ISO file. Once that is complete, make sure that the drive you are mounting CloneZilla to is the USB Flash Drive. Hit OK.

5. Reboot the computer and boot off of the USB Flash Drive. Go into BIOS. I don’t know what key that is for your computer but it is either F2 or the DEL key by default. Once you are in, go into your BOOT section and manually boot off of the USB flash drive. This will start CloneZilla.

6. Choose the default CloneZilla Start option, choose your Language Keyboard, choose Do Not Touch KeyMap, and choose the first option: “Start CloneZilla Live.”

7. The next prompt will show you either device-image or device-device. Choose Device-Device as we want to clone information from one disk to another. Once you hit enter, there will be a subsequent page for either Beginner or Expert. Choose Beginner. The main window of CloneZilla will ask you to choose where you want to move your disk-copy. There are different options, Disk to Local Disk, Disk to Remote Disk, Part to Local Part, and Part to Remote Part. We are going to want to choose Disk to Local Disk.

8. Now, time to choose the Source Disk that will be copied. Now, if you are like me, I have eight hard drives in my tower and when I did this I was using a Patriot Ignite 480GB drive (after my review, I bought one) so when my list came up I saw two Patriot Ignite 480GB drives and then Serial Numbers. I rebooted my machine, unplugged the new drive, restarted this whole process, and wrote down the serial (last 6 digits) of the old drive. Once I had that, I shut down, plugged in the new machine, and I chose the old machine (out of the two Ignite drives listed) as the Local Source. After you have selected the hard drive choice hit Enter to continue.

9. Once the Source Disk is chosen, we now just have to choose where this is going. If you are like me and have two of the same drives, only one will show up here (as the other one has already been selected). If you are smarter than me and just have two drives, choose your location and press Enter.

10. The screen will go black and you will see text, but do not fret! There will be a lot of warning text on the screen. Essentially, Clonezilla is checking everything for you. It will then prompt you, “Are you sure you want to continue? (y/n)” two times to ensure you want to do this. Now, if you made a backup image of your disk and/or checked that you are using the correct source and destination drive information then you are good to go. Worse comes to worse you have to restore your image and do it again. Hit Yes.

11. Once you hit yes, a screen will pop up to start calculating bitmap files, partition locations, and then it will automatically start copying your information. Now, depending how big the drive is, how much data is on it, and whether you are using all SSDs, IDE SATA drives, or going in either direction depends on how fast this will take. For me, I have about a 110GB worth of data on my drive so this took me about 6 minutes and 33 seconds.

12. Extra step(s) for those who move from a smaller hard drive to a larger hard drive (e.g. 128GB hdd to a 1TB) - once you are done with CloneZilla, choose to power off the machine and remove the old hard drive from your computer. Upon Startup you may have to go into BIOS and select the new drive as a Boot Option in your Boot Priority (mine automatically detects). Once you are in Windows, you will need to go back to Disk Management and you will have to edit how big your C:/ Drive is. The reason for this is that Windows thinks it exists on a smaller hard drive than it currently does, but that is easy to fix. Go to Windows/My Computer, and right-click on My Computer and select Manage and choose Disk Management. Right-click on C:/ Drive hard drive and choose “Extend Partition.” A Window will open up and just follow the prompts. I suggest using all of the disk space that you can and hitting enter.

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