How to Transfer Settings From an Old Hard Drive to a New One

By Jeff Grundy

Data is nothing more than a digital record, and well-informed entrepreneurs retain important records for as long as possible. If you store many files on your PC, you will eventually need to upgrade to a larger hard drive to hold more data. When it's time to upgrade or replace a drive that's failing, you can use tools in Windows to create a full system image of the old disk and restore it to the new one. The system image will include all of the relevant settings for your operating system and all of the applications installed on your computer.

New Drive Installation

Install the new hard drive as a secondary drive on your computer if you have not already done so, following the instructions provided in the user manual.

Boot the computer and log in to Windows. Press "Windows-R" to launch a Run box, type "compmgmt.msc" in the Open box and press "Enter." The Computer Management window opens.

Double-click "Storage" and select "Disk Management." Wait for Windows to scan the system, detect the new hard drive and display the Virtual Disk Service with all of the hard drives installed in the system. Ensure that the new hard drive appears in the Volume list, and then close the Disk Management window.

Burn System Repair Disc

Insert a blank optical disc into the CD/DVD burner drive. If Windows opens an AutoPlay window, close it.

Press "Windows-R" to open a new Run box. Type "recdisc" in the box and press "Enter."

Click "Create disc" after the "Create a System Repair Disc" window opens. Windows copies the files required for the System Repair Disc to the media and makes the disc bootable. Click "Close" when prompted and remove the disc from the burner drive.

Create Image of Old Drive

Connect the external USB hard drive to the computer.

Press "Windows-I" and then click "Control Panel." Select the "Save backup copies of your files with File History" option under the System and Security header.

Select "Create a recovery drive" in the Advanced Recovery Tools window. After the "Create a Recovery Drive" window opens, click "Next." Click "Windows 7 File Recovery" in the bottom left corner of the File History window.

Select "Create a System Image," choose the "On a hard disk" option and click "Next." Choose the drive letter for the external USB hard drive and click "Next."

Review the drives in the "The following drives will be backed up" list and ensure that both the "System Reserved (System)" and "Primary System Drive (C:) (System)" volumes appear in the list.

Click "Start Backup" to begin the image creation process. Windows creates the system image and copies it to the external hard drive. The process may take up to a few hours depending upon the amount of data you have on the old hard drive.

Copy Image to New Drive

Remove the old hard drive from the system. Set the new hard drive as the primary system drive according to the manufacturer's directions.

Boot the computer and insert the system repair disc immediately into the optical drive. If you don’t insert the disc before the computer boots and displays an error, shut down the system and restart it.

Press any key on the keyboard when the system displays the "Press any key to boot from CD" or a similar prompt. Wait a few seconds for the PC to boot and display the System Recovery Options screen.

Click "System Image Recovery," select the USB external hard drive as the recovery drive when prompted, and then click "Next."

Select "Format and Repartition Disks," and click "Advanced." Click the check boxes next to all of the options in the "Re-Image Your Computer" window to place check marks next to them. Click "OK" and "Next."

Click "Finish" and then click "Yes" when prompted. Windows formats the new hard drive, partitions it and copies the system image from the external USB drive. After Windows finishes copying the system image to the new hard drive from the USB drive, the PC reboots automatically.

Enter your administrator username and password to log in to Windows normally.


If you do not have a USB hard drive, you can use blank DVDs to create the system image. To do this, select the "On one of more DVDs" option instead of "On a hard disk" when creating the system image, and then follow the prompts.

Leave the old drive in the system and just disconnect its ribbon cable if you want to use it as the new secondary drive in the computer after copying the system image to the new drive. After you copy the system image to the new drive and boot Windows successfully, reconnect the drive and configure it as the secondary disk. Boot in to Windows, open Disk Management and format the old drive to use it as a secondary storage device.

The System Image utility saves the folder layout and partition structure just as it was on the old hard drive. Therefore, if upgrading to a larger hard drive, you must extend the "(C:)" drive partition on the new disk enable use of all its space. To extend the partition, first open Computer Management console and select "Disk Management. Right-click "Disk 0 (C:)" in the Volume list, and then select the "Extend Volume" option on the context menu. Leave the recommended values for the new partition intact and click "Extend."


Windows 8 includes the Windows 7 File Recovery option from Windows 7. The File History option in Windows 8 enables you to save backup copies of files but does not support the creation of system images.