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Q: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there?
Category: Computers
Asked by: eddy05-ga
List Price: $18.00
Posted: 27 Dec 2005 20:58 PST
Expires: 26 Jan 2006 20:58 PST
Question ID: 610334
If I clone my current laptop hard drive onto a new laptop hard drive,
using a program like Acronis True Image, will this eliminate the need
to get new software for the new machine?  Will all the programs work,
just as they should?  (I use Office, Photoshop, CuteFTP, LockMyPC,
Norton AntiVirus and more.  Are there dangers to doing this?
Subject: Re: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there?
Answered By: sublime1-ga on 27 Dec 2005 22:14 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

In short, yes - assuming you successfully clone the old drive
to the new laptop's drive, the cloning process will preserve
all the program files, personal settings and your preferences
within every program, as well as those within the Windows 
operating system itself.

Cautions and pitfalls:

Laptops come with hard drives which allow for password protection.
If the drive you're cloning is password protected, make sure that
the password is removed before you clone it. Otherwise the password
might get cloned onto the new drive, and the password is dependent
on the computer in which the drive is installed. So make sure the
drive is unlocked in the old machine before it's cloned.

Microsoft XP recognizes the hardware configuration of the machine
it's installed on, and if it detects different hardware, such as
a different processor, sound card, or video processor, it may
require that you re-authenticate your copy of Windows. I didn't
keep XP for that reason, so I can't say for sure, but the worst
case scenario might be that MS wants to charge you for installing
your copy on a new machine. On the other hand, they may just give
you a new code to authenticate it on the new computer. There may
also be less-than-legal ways to get around this, but if this kind
of information exists, the GA Terms of Service prohibit me from
posting it.

If you're using a more lenient version of Windows, such as 2000,
the OS will still recognize changes in the hardware configuration
of your new system. Given the plug and play nature of Windows, it
will probably recover on first boot long enough to find and install
drivers for the new hardware, but there's a slim chance that it
won't be able to boot up to the point of initializing the plug 
play process. This isn't likely to happen as a result of such
hardware as your video or sound, but it's conceivable that there
might be a problem with the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers or some
other critical piece of hardware which Windows needs to get up,
read the drive, and initialize the plug and play process.

If bootup fails for any other than the locked drive I first spoke
of, you've lost nothing but some time, as you can always reformat
the drive and start over with a reinstall. Offhand, I'd say your
chances are very good at succeeding, with my biggest reservation
being re-authenticating Windows XP.

Please do not rate this answer until you are satisfied that  
the answer cannot be improved upon by way of a dialog  
established through the "Request for Clarification" process. 


Request for Answer Clarification by eddy05-ga on 28 Dec 2005 07:40 PST
Thanks.  These answers and comments have made me nervous, but also
wondering: I have the "image" of the original hard drive on an
external drive, made with Acronis True Image.  On the new computer I
need to install Acronis, then open the software, point it to the image
on the external drive, then request that it restore the full image of
the drive onto the new computer's drive.  Can it do that?  Operate off
of a drive at the same time it is replacing the contents of the drive
or am I missing something.  I don't know how to take drives out of
laptops, nor do I want to learn...

Clarification of Answer by sublime1-ga on 28 Dec 2005 13:14 PST

Your clarification brings up a plan which I had not anticipated.
I had thought you were familiar and comfortable with the process
of removing a laptop drive (as I really know of no other way to
clone a drive), and that you would be removing the drive from the
new laptop and slaving it to the old one in order to clone the 
new to the old.

I'm not as familiar with Acronis as I am with other cloning tools,
so I don't know that it can work in the manner you've suggested,
but it seems unlikely. Restoring an image from another drive to 
the operating drive doesn't seem plausible, since it requires
that the operating drive format itself and thus eliminate the
software it's using to restore the image. 

The method I've used is to slave the new drive to the old, which
has the cloning software on it, then run the software, which can
either restore the slaved drive from an image on the old drive,
or from the active drive itself.

The software I've used which seems the easiest is Western Digital's
Data Lifeguard, which formats and partitions the slaved drive and
somehow manages to then copy every file, including system files in
use (which are sometimes inaccessible in Windows 2000 and XP while
the system is up and running) to the new drive.

I'm not sure if Data Lifeguard will work for non-Western Digital
drives, but it's free, and seems worth a try. It's the Tools for
Windows 11 on this page:

Another tool I've used with success is DrvClonerXP, which has
a terrific and educational helpfile about the process of 
cloning, and can work from a command prompt. I'd recommend
downloading it if only for the sake of reading the helpfile
in order to learn more. It includes a tutorial on Drive
Imaging Basics for XP and instructs you on the use of
the Windows command xcopy for making clones, as well.
Here are reviews and a download from

The same author also created DrvImagerXP, which makes
images of the hard drive, while DrvClonerXP simply does
a bit-to-bit copy:

As for Acronis, I waded through the 79-page helpfile,
and it seems to me you'd want to create an image file
of your current drive across multiple CDs. You could 
then use the program on your current system to create
a Bootable Rescue Media. You can then boot your new
computer from the Rescue CD, and it will install 
Acronis into a RAM, which allows you to remove the
Rescue CD and insert image CDs from which to restore
the drive. The only limit to this method is that,
as with DrvClonerXP, the partition size of the new
drive must be equal to or larger than the partition
size from which the images were created.

I also noticed that it says it takes longer to write
a set of images directly to CD, and it might be faster
to create multiple files to your hard drive first, of
a size which will fit onto a CD, and then write them
to CDs later. 

Elsewhere, it indicates that Acronis can do what the
DrvClonerXP program does, and create a clone from 
Windows while it is running, by selecting Disk Clone.
However, you would need to slave the new drive to the
old, first, in order to use this method.

The comment by gunnis-ga about using sysprep is 
certainly worth consideration. The Acronis helpfile
mentions it, but notes that it is mainly an issue
with cloning drives onto computers that are part
of a workgroup or domain, due to the unique SIDs
(security identifiers) which Windows assigns to
each computer in a network. The main considerations
for a standalone computer would be:

"The reference and destination computers must have
 compatible HALs. For example, Advanced Programmable
 Interrupt Controller (APIC)?based MPS (multiprocessor
 systems) must use the same APIC HAL. A standard HAL
 Programmable Interrupt Controller (PIC)?based system
 is not compatible with either the APIC HAL or the MPS

 The reference and destination computers must have the
 same Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)

More on the page:;en-us;302577&sd=tech

Make sure you get the latest version for the 
operating system you're using.


Clarification of Answer by sublime1-ga on 02 Jan 2006 16:53 PST

Thanks very much for the rating and the tip!

It occurred to me that, if you're interested in migrating
programs, files, and settings without the hassle of cloning,
there's a software program that might be just the ticket:

Alohabob's PC Relocator software (comes with a cable).
A free trial is available, or you can buy it for $30:

Best regards...

eddy05-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Thank you for your very well researched answer. I've chickened out on
the whole thing and am simply reinstalling and slugging it out one
software program at a time. Too many potential issues for this novice.
Thank you again.

Subject: Re: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there?
From: ggcarol-ga on 28 Dec 2005 03:12 PST
you will have no problems as long as you put the new harddisk in a
laptop with the same motherboard.
Subject: Re: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there?
From: rhnz-ga on 28 Dec 2005 04:36 PST
On the other hand, (and this is just a comment, perhaps not typical of
what should happen) this past weekend I took a hard drive from one
computer (two laptops, same brand with similar components and both
computers in working condition prior to the exchange) and installed it
into the other computer, and the hard drive was not recognized by the
computer to which this drive was transplanted. When I removed that
(transplanted) hard drive and put it back in the original computer it
would not work either. (I thought that the hard drives would work on
either computer, but it is difficult for me to determine what failed).
Subject: Re: Can I clone my hard drive to another computer and use the software there?
From: gunnis-ga on 28 Dec 2005 10:09 PST
answer is more "NO" than "Yes"...

let me clarify this first...there is no way an image from one hard
disk will work perfectly(if it does work at all ie) on another hard

for an image to work, all the hardware on the new computer(B) should
be an EXACT copy of the old computer(the computer whose image u have
created -A)...when i say EXACT copy i mean exact in, all the
hardware configuration, hard disk size, partitions, motherboard,
processor, RAM, CD/DVD drives,... their makes - ie if u have kingston,
seagate and intel on has to be a kingston and intel on the
other too...

in short, if the two computers are not hardware clones of each other,
imaging wont work....atleast it wont work without problems...THERE
everything else is the same only the HD sizes are different, it might
work, though not without problems...

so the next q is, is there any way at all to make it work.  the answer
is microsoft sysprep.  going into sysprep now is beyond the scope of
this answer...please google and read about it on MS website.

disclaimer: i know sysprep works with ghost...i havent tried acronis..

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