How to move a hard drive to a new computer without re-installing Windows.

Have you ever wondered and scratched your head over some things and wished it could be done easier? As a System Administrator and Tech Support person, I have had sometime to move a hard drive to a new computer after the motherboard got “fried up”. In such a scenario, you desperately want to keep the programs that are on the said hard drive.

It might be a server or another critical computer which if you make a new installation you lose an unpreserved serial number or other special settings. You might also be upgrading the motherboard altogether.

There are many tools – some which come at a good fortune, that can be used to clone the drive and restore the image on a new machine. If you are lucky it may run with little glitches or after a few tweaks. Such tools include Ghost, CloneZilla, Acronis Image and lots more.

Unbeknown to some, Windows has a small built in utility that can be used to prepare a hard drive for moving to a new motherboard. Find here below a not-so-detailed out procedure to prepare a hard drive for migrating.

1.System Preparation Tool (sysprep.exe). Start an elevatated command prompt.

Elevated command prompt

2. Navigate to %systemroot%\system32\sysprep\

3. Type systprep.exe

4. Configure your desired settings. (Generalized, system out-of-box)


5. Remove your drive and install it in the new computer and be ready to smile. So go ahead and share with a geek and save them from pulling off what little hairs they have left.

The same process can be used to prepare an image for mass deployment. Some points to note are that during the process of preparing your hard drive, sysprep:

  • Removes PC-specific information from the Windows image, including the PC’s security identifier (SID). This allows you to capture the image and apply it to other PCs. This is known as generalizing the PC.
  • Uninstalls PC-specific drivers from
  • Prepares the PC for delivery to a customer by setting the PC to boot to OOBE.
  • Allows you to add answer file (unattend) settings to an existing installation.