How to reinstall Windows after replacing a hard drive

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Oct 20th 2012 - by Fix My PC FREE in: Blog Hardware Fixes | 0 Comment

One of the best ways to speed up your computer’s performance is to replace an aging hard drive. Today, hard drive space has never been cheaper. Internal hard drives with multiple terabytes of storage space can be purchased for under $100, and even portable hard drives offer an affordable and convenient way to store important files.

But one problem that some users encounter after replacing their hard drive involves reinstalling Windows. Do you have to buy another Windows license after getting a new hard drive? Do you have to completely reformat the operating system? Or can some of your files be preserved during the transition?

Today, we’re going to answer all those questions for you. Here’s a step by step guide to reinstalling Windows after getting a new hard drive:

Step 1) Decide whether or not you want a clean install

If you want to speed up your PC as much as possible, then a clean install of Windows is ideal. It’s like getting a brand new computer, and all new data is saved on the center of the hard drive to ensure that it can be accessed as quickly as possible.

win7 clean install211 How to reinstall Windows after replacing a hard drive

However, a clean install isn’t ideal for everyone. Reformatting the drive will delete all your data, programs, games, and whatever other changes you’ve made to Windows.

In any case, you’ll want to make sure you have your Windows installation disk nearby before you proceed. If you don’t have it nearby, then you’ll need to create one yourself, which can be done in step 2.

Choose a clean install if:

-You want to ‘start fresh’ with a brand new Windows operating system

-You don’t care about losing all the files on your computer (or you’ve backed them up somewhere else)

If you don’t want to do a clean install, move on to step 2. If you are willing to do a clean install, jump ahead to step 3.

Step 2) Create a system image

If you’d rather preserve your operating system’s files, folders, programs, and other information as you move to a new hard drive, then you can do that too. In fact, Windows makes it surprisingly easy to do. Go to your Windows search menu and type in “backup and restore” then click on the first result that pops up.

system image1 How to reinstall Windows after replacing a hard drive

On the left-hand side of that menu, you’ll see a link that says “Create a system image”. When you click on that link, Windows will automatically start to scan for hard drives where it can save backup data. Since your Windows installation might be over 100GB in size, it’s a good idea to connect an external hard drive if you have one.

After connecting some sort of external storage device that can store all of your Windows information, choose that storage device from the ‘Create a system image’ menu. Then, click ‘Next’ and Windows will ask which hard drives you want to backup. By default, only the hard drive that holds Windows will be highlighted, and that will be the only hard drive you need to backup if you want to preserve your Windows installation.

Windows will also prompt you to make a recovery disk at this point. Just insert a blank DVD into your system tray and allow the process to complete.

Step 3) Swap out your hard drive

At this point, you’ll want to power down your computer and replace your hard drive. This is easy to do on a desktop computer, but it can be a little more difficult (or even impossible) on laptops.

If you’re replacing a desktop hard drive, simply unhook your previous hard drive and unscrew it from the hard drive bay. Then, insert your new hard drive and plug in all the cords you just unplugged from your old hard drive. Once you’ve done that, fire up your computer and place your Windows installation disk in the CD tray.

replace hard drive1 How to reinstall Windows after replacing a hard drive

Replacing hard drives on laptops is a little trickier and the methodology changes depending on what kind of laptop you own. Reference your manufacturer’s instruction manual for specific instructions or simply search Google for other people who have done the procedure. YouTube is also a great resource for laptop hard drive replacement:

Step 4) Reinstall Windows

Now that you’ve swapped out the hard drive, power on your computer and open the disk tray. Insert the Windows installation DVD into that tray and the operating system should automatically start to install.

If you’re not doing a clean install of Windows, then insert the recovery disk you made in step 2. Make sure the external storage device you used to backup your Windows installation is connected, and Windows should automatically start to recover your previous installation.

Windows 7 screen.jpg1 How to reinstall Windows after replacing a hard drive

Allow the installation to complete and congratulations! You’ve just installed Windows on a new hard drive. If you’re upgrading from a hard drive that is several years old, then you should notice a big speed boost.

Windows will also prompt you to make a recovery disk at this point. Just insert a blank DVD into your system tray and allow the process to complete.

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