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How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?


How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

I just ordered a new PC with Windows 8.1 because my old PC running Windows 7 died (bad motherboard), however the hard drive is OK. I thought I would be in good shape to move my data and programs, but apparently not. Does anyone have experience with software that will allow me to connect this old hard drive to the new PC and migrate all my files and programs (except the operating system) to the new PC? I would be connecting the old hard drive to the new PC using an external USB 3.0 hard drive docking station. I'm sure I'm not the first person having to migrate off a dead PC. Help! Thanks & regards,

--Submitted by: Duane M.
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In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

why cant you move the old HD into the new ? or maybe just replace the MOBO ,
connections different ?
the USB connection sounds like it should be good. comes up as a removable drive and should be
able to copy whatever you need to. may just need different cables or docking.

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You need special software to accomplish this

In reply to: migrating

You cannot just move your hard drive to the new machine, unless the new machine is essentially identical to the existing machine.

You need software that will back up your hard drive and then restore it to different hardware.

I have tried lots of it. Among those that work best are:

Paragon Hard Disk Manager

There are many others, including Acronis Trueimage, Easeus ToDo Backup, Shadow Copy Cloner, O&O Diskimage, etc.

Or you can do a new install of Windows 8.1 and use special software to migrate your programs, such as Laplink Mover.

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I tried Laplink Mover.

In reply to: You need special software to accomplish this

It failed too many times. Try it, you'll see why it's a dead end.

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In reply to: I tried Laplink Mover.

Interesting... I just did this yesterday to go from a dead XP to 8.1.
In my case I did an in-place upgrade, where 8.1 went onto the same drive with the old XP. PCMover (LapLink) found the old XP and did all the heavy lifting:

12 application programs
29,000 files
85,000 registry entries
29GB of data.

Took about an hour.

Now, since the old drive is external you might have to tell it where to find the "old" installation. But from there it should be easy. They have 24/7 phone support for this kind of stuff.

You might be able to use the Upgrade version, which is cheaper than the Pro. I got the Pro back in April when they discounted it for the XP end of life.

Good luck!

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Old PC's Programs to new PC

In reply to: PCMover

I really would like to endorse the
Laplink PCmover Pro with Image Assistant
It is quite cheap and would definately go for the Pro, rather than use the free version, recently marketed by Microsoft; any difficulties and the Laplink guys are very helpful.

I have used this a few times and very satisfactorily.
Of course if you can install programms from scratch it works on the bases of a clean slate, but that isn't always possible or desirable.
The image assistant helps to create a diskimage even from the old, dead PC's harddrive(s) which is then used for the transfer
The programs give you a kind of report what is likely to work if especially you are going from XP straight to Win7 and beyond. (XP straight to Win7+ is normally a no-no). So e.g. if you had Office 2007 on you XP machine it'd give a green tick and does in fact move it accross simply and gets it to work very successfully. Some particular software e.g. in the UK HMRC (government tax office) program which is obligatory for financial reports to them, has different versions for XP and Win7+, so needs a download and installation but will import the backup from the XP version, putting all the settings, passwords etc in, exactly as they were on the XP.
Some programs are noted as unlikely, basically the mover and image assist programs don't reckon it'll work, but, well, give it a try and see.

Having not allowed myself a good amount of time, then having had some issue with obtaining hardware it left me (and I am doing this besides my job) to build a new machine, install win7, move the programs of the old office XP accross to the new one in a couple of days and get it to function, as the secretary needed to use the new machine, XP having become unsupported.
(Slightly not part of the subject: I isolated the XP in the router from internet access but retaining access to drive on the local network, so, if necessary making it possible to go to the XP machine from the new WIN7 using remote desktop and accessible folders. (no virus risk as incoming stuff and internet is filtered by the WIN7 machine before it would get to the XP.)

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Your use of PC mover....Please give detail instruction...

In reply to: PCMover

Dear CNET andyguever:

have an old XP , ( still working), but like to upgrade to W-8.1, but maintaining the programs and data file. You did it, and please let me now more detail how to use PCMover or PC mover pro ( I dont mind the $ to buy the software but just want to make sure it

you say:

"In my case I did an in-place upgrade, where 8.1 went onto the same drive with the old XP. PCMover (LapLink) found the old XP and did all the heavy lifting:"

This part I need a detail instruction as to how to upgrade my mashine.


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Moving old data to new computer

In reply to: You need special software to accomplish this

Since you can connect with a usb cable, why not use the old hard drive as a secondary.

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It Can Be Done!

In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

I had this same problem -- my motherboard crashed but the hard drive was intact. In fact, everything was intact, so my brother and I replaced the motherboard and then dealt with the old C: drive, which still had data I needed.

The problem is that this drive also had the Win7 OS partitions that would try to boot the machine, but of course fail because it expected the old mobo. This was easily circumvented. A new C: drive was installed with the new mobo and a new build of the OS put on that. The old C: drive was relegated to a secondary drive (I had five slots for such) and taken out of the boot loop. The old C: drive came up as different drive letter and I could easily move my files (but not my applications, naturally) off the old drive to the new one and other secondary drives.

I would think, if you already have a housing with a power supply, you could do the same thing with your old drive and its files. You should consider whether or not you want to turn that drive into another internal drive, though, and delete the OS partitions so that you get that much additional space for backups and the like.

Of course, this depends on whether your new mobo has slots for additional drives and your case the space and power to house them. A smaller machine might require putting the old C: drive into a new housing and connecting it via USB.

Be prepared to spend some time at this task; you do not want to make a mistake in data migration. Make sure your internal bus drivers are up-to-date to avoid corruption. Copy over instead of cut-and-paste, and check your files to make sure they're not corrupted before you delete the originals.

Data migration from an old C: drive is both possible and relatively painless. Good luck, and let us know how it pans out.

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I replaced my motherboard

In reply to: It Can Be Done!

When my motherboard failed I replaced it with a new one. I just used the old drives. After installation of the motherboard-specific drivers from the disk provided with the new motherboard, everything worked fine.

But this guy already has a new computer and wants to move the files on his old one to his new one.

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That is not the normal outcome

In reply to: I replaced my motherboard

You were very fortunate. Windows is so tied into the hardware that a new motherboard will usually not work, unless it is an exact replacement or at least very similar.

It isn't just the video and sound that are problematic. Those can be fixed with drivers. Often the disk drive drivers do not recognize the old disk, from a Windows perspective, and Windows refuses to start. Even if you get them to work Windows may decide it is an unlicensed copy.

Some backup software will restore to different hardware. This means planning in advance for a failure but when something terrible does happen there is a good chance you can recover from it.

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In reply to: That is not the normal outcome

We had an issue with purchasing Dell Optiplex units that looked a lot like these old units we used to have so someone decided that the old drivers (which were 32-bit) would work fine in the new units which were running 64-bit. Also, the configuration of sound mixed with video required the absolute latest video drivers. So that was a disaster on someone's part.

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I did it with Vista

In reply to: That is not the normal outcome

I took the hard drive out and put it in the new system and it worked. It will probably work with Win 7. I know it won't work on older O/S than Vista because I have also tried that in the past, but it seems to work with the newer O/S. The only problem was the Visa was an OEM that came with the system and MS started warning me, but it should be good enough for an 8.1 upgrade which is pretty easy with a Win 7.

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Transfer from Old to New.

In reply to: I replaced my motherboard

If the HDD is OK and the new complete PC has room for another drive then it should be able to be installed as second drive and it should be fine for data recovery, though the programmes that do not have the Installation exe file probably will not be any good. What I have done in same circumstances with downloaded programmes is Email the supplier and explain and they will usually either send a link and or the registration codes.
If the Microsoft programmes are OEM (originally supplied on the drive) and you install a new Motherboard, unless you can get back to the original PC supplier, you will find that Microsoft won't help.
If there is no room for an extra drive install but a spare slot on the motherboard, ASTONE make a caddy that has an external SATA port on it. With a special SATA lead the caddy can be connected directly to the board which will probably be faster than USB and save a USB port.
It all worked for me, frequently.

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In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

If you are unsure of installing it in the new box, you can always get an external hard drive case from an online supplier and make the old drive into an external drive. The only concern is matching the drive type PATA SATA with the enclosure.

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New PC

Hi Duane, it is difficult to give advice without knowing the full specifications of the old and new PC.
Generally, your hard drive will be connected via SATA . If it is a laptop, just open the HDD bay on the bottom and swap the drives. You will then have your old PC back with the improved hardware of the new. You can connect the new drive with the docking station, and, either format it to wipe 8.1, and use the whole drive for storage, or, leave as is and create a new partition for storage.
If it is a new desktop the procedure is easier; open it and connect the old drive to any SATA port on the board, ( use the cable attached to it and one of the SATA power connectors from your power supply unit ). You will then be able to choose which OS to boot from at startup, usually F8 to get to the boot pop up menu. Whichever OS you choose, all of your data will be accessible. You may also install as many HDDs as you have ports for. Lots of "How To" videos are on You Tube.
Please post your specs. for any further advice.

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Dead PC

I'm always suspicious about a PC dying. I've had 2 desktops "fail" this month. In both cases the machine would not do anything when pressing the ON button. The power supply checked out on each, as did the electricity to the hard drive. So, I Jumpered the CMOS with all devices removed (keyboard, mouse, monitor), turned the machine on, then off, set the CMOS jumper back to "normal", connected my devices, and the machine worked again. Happened to business class Lenovo and home class HP.

IF you really need to get the data off the old PC, remove the drive and make it a second drive in the new PC. Look at the jumpers (Master - Slave - Cable Select) and make sure each hard drive is set correctly. Turn on the new PC, enter "Setup" just to make sure the drives are recognized by the PC, Save and Exit the Setup program, and let the machine boot. Your old drive will be there in "Computer".

There are small steps left out of this; hope you know something about BIOS and jumpering and cables, etc. Good luck.

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Not as easy as it should be

In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

Hi Duane,

This is the perfect follow up to last week's question. I was in the same straights as you just 6 months ago.
Good HD, Dead laptop. I found a few products that promised to do the migration, but they all included the OS. None would transfer the actual programs to the new system and install them, etc. etc.
Finally I took a more pragmatic approach, and 6 months later, have no regrets.
Here's what I did.

1. transfer all the data from the old HD to the new machine, you'll need a housing and USB connection to do this, but Windows has a decent enough migration product to move your data
2. transfer your personal profile to the new machine. Make sure you transfer your old desktop to the new machine, then get to the point where your old desktop is displaying. Most of your program links may be gone.(If you're feeling brave, you may try to transfer over any folders and/or file with an .exe extension that you are sure is the only file needed to run a certain program. This is not for newbies)
3. Choose the 5 or 10 programs you used to use most often, and reinstall them; there's no other way, but at least you are limiting your time to the big stuff.

Now if you come across another program you need, either use what's already on your new OS, or reinstall one at a time. You'll likely discover your are using many fewer programs than you think.

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Not an easy task

In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

Unfortunately, this seems like a logical request and you would think that it would be an easy thing to do but it is NOT, when you are talking about working with a dead computer. Transferring the data is really not much of a problem and you would simply copy your Documents, photos, video and music files from the old drive to the new drive using your USB docking station. You can also move other data such as Internet Favorites and Bookmarks from Google Chrome or Firefox, However, moving email and programs can be much more difficult and due to licensing issues maybe even impossible without purchasing new software. Most programs will need to be reinstalled from the original CD's or installation files, however some programs such as Microsoft Office may be licensed for the original computer ONLY and may not be installed on a new computer (depending on the type of License you originally purchased). Also, some programs may need to be replaced if they are not compatible with the new operating system.

I know it is too late for you at this point but for the benefit of others, your best bet might have been to simply purchase the exact same computer (USED) on ebay and install your hard drive into it and you would be off and running just as your were, in about 10 minutes. You could have also purchased a used motherboard that matches the old one as well. This assumes that your old hard drive was in working condition.

When you are talking about going between two different operating systems, it is pretty much impossible to get it all to move over without major issues and problems. Even if you could move everything you typically run into issues with software or drivers that are not compatible with the new computer or Operating system. If you happen to be going from a 32bit operating system to a 64 bit system, you can pretty much forget being able to migration any software at all.

In some cases you can install and boot to your old hard drive installed into a new computer as long as it contains a motherboard that has the same or very similar chipset and hardware. Some installations are able to update the drivers for the different hardware with relative ease but others just don't work out and you end up having to reinstall everything from scratch.

Future Thoughts - If you want to protect yourself from this kind of failure in the future you would need to backup your computer with software such as Acronis True Image Echo (expensive) which has the ability to backup and restore your entire system, EVEN to a different computer if needed. Keep in mind that a standard Image copy or clone of your hard drive is only good if you are restoring to the exact same (or very similar) computer. If for some reason your computer has to be replaced with a newer model, the Image backup will not do you much good other than to recover your data only.

Note: I have several clients that actually purchase duplicate computers so that they have a second computer in storage to simply swap a hard into in the event of a computer failure. That in combination with drive image copies and online continuous data backup leaves them fairly well protected against all types of failures.

\Wayland Computer

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Additional observation

In reply to: Not an easy task

Hi Duane

If I read between the lines correct you have a purchased ready computer such as Dell, HP, ECT. that has died and you want the programs from the old transferred to the new.
As Dana said; Can't be done do to licensing. If you bought and installed them and still have the install disks you can probably reinstall the on the new.
If what you want is the data (memories) then the docking is the way to go. Just plug it in after the new Win 8 is booted and after the drive is found explore and save what you will. You can then wipe the whole drive or just the OS part and then install as second drive .
You can even install it as is and, I believe, somebody correct me if wrong, the Win 8 or Bios will spot and setup a dual boot so you can use either on the same computer.

A couple years back I had the power supply burn out and took the MB with it. I upgraded MB, processor ect. Reassembled the computer, fired it up and Win 7 found new hardware asked for and found in its self all the drivers necessary and been purring along ever since. as a dual boot it will do the same for you.


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In reply to: Not an easy task

The drive isn't dead, just the motherboard. He can take the drive(s) out of the old and install them into the new as additional auxiliary drives. This takes, what, five minutes total? Nearly every computer made has empty drive bays and additional SATA and power connections.

Seems pretty simple to me!

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In reply to: Dana...

Isn't that what you said and I confirmed?

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Only If The Drives are the Same Type

In reply to: Dana...

SATA? PATA? SCSI? How about RAID? That would be a killer there but, true, I doubt that the old PC has RAID. But you never know.

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Maybe simple to you or I ?

In reply to: Dana...

Well, he mentioned the USB 3.0 Docking station, so I assumed he already had one and was familiar with its use, So no point in introducing another option. Also, most mid to low end desktop computers may have an extra drive bay but most do not have an extra SATA cable and even some do not even have an extra SATA power connection. The other issue with installing the old drive into the computer is that some people run into issues with the computer then trying to boot from the old hard drive depending on the BIOS settings. I find that using the USB Drive Dock is just simpler for the layman and less likely to damage their new computer or void its warranty.

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duplicate hardware

In reply to: Not an easy task

I would also make another recommendation regarding duplicate hardware. The HDD is usually the most frequent fail point. I run Win 7 on my desktop and upgraded to Win7 Pro so that I could install mirrored hard drives. The software upgrade was $70 and the drive was about $100. So unless there is a devastating lightning strike (that kills both drives), a typical drive failure is a very minor inconvenience. It takes a screwdriver and a few clicks to tell the OS to rebuild the mirror.

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Dana, Thanks, as always, for your excellent advice.

In reply to: Not an easy task

Thanks, as always, for your excellent advice and contributions to this site.
We greatly appreciated your expertise.
Ron, in Florida

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I have good news, and bad news.

In reply to: How do you migrate data and programs from a dead PC to a new one?

First off Duane, your DATA is safe. Your programs, well not so much, unless you have the installation disks, or files.

The first thing you want to do is install this hard drive as a second drive inside your computer. This way you're not fooling around with USB cables. Just remember, power off, plug out of the computer, and keep it as antistatic as possible. Just plug in the Serial ATA cable, and fasten in the drive.

When you boot up your computer, Windows will see it and give it a drive letter. What the letter is doesn't really matter, unless you're planning on keeping it in your system. It's at this time a good File Manager would come in handy. I use EF Commander (, but it's up to you.

You just want to Move, or Copy the contents of the directory Documents, from your old hard drive to your new C:\ drive Documents directory. It may take a while, but in that one move all your documents, music, videos, everything will be conveniently moved to the new drive.

As for your programs, you're going to have to reinstall them one, by one. As you reinstall them, open them, and upgrade them. If you had any data for these programs anywhere else on your old drive other than the Documents directory, you can copy it over once they are reinstalled. If you can't find the installation file, or disk for your program, contact them. Send them an email, and tell them what happened. They will have your info on file, and will in most cases send you a link to download a fresh copy of the software.

Lastly, and I can't stress this enough, get yourself a big external hard drive, and back up often. That way, you will never have to go through this again. I hope this helped.

Mr. Windows

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Big external drives fail

In reply to: I have good news, and bad news.

The sad part of big external drives is that they, too, can fail. I've gotten several calls from people in the past year asking me to get their data from a failed external drive. If the drive's power supply, often cheaply made, is what failed and the drive is still good, no problemo. If the drive failed and goes click-click-click, so much for backup.

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Use Multiple External Hard Drives For Backup

In reply to: Big external drives fail

I like to keep several external hard drives of various sizes on hand. Files that I consider to be extremely important such as photographs, work files, etc., I copy onto at least three of the drives. That way, if one of them fails, I've still got the files on another drive or two. Files that I don't really consider to be all that important but I still might want to keep for later reference/use I will burn onto CD-R's or store in miscellaneous folders on a smaller external drive.

Several years ago I had a 250 GB Western Digital external hard drive that I used quite hard. I was constantly copying, accessing and moving files to and from it and kept it hooked to the PC constantly. One day when I turned the PC on to start my day the drive made that heart-wrenching "click-click-click" noise that no one wants to hear. This being before I started my multiple hard drive backup plan I had a lot of critical information on that drive that I had to have off. I got on the Internet and searched for every data retrieval article I could find. My best friend found an article about the much scoffed at practice of freezing hard drives to retrieve data. At that point, I had nothing to lose. My data was gone so I gave it a shot.

I did everything the article said and, while the drive was still "frozen", hooked it up to the PC in hopes of being able to quickly move off the most important files first before it "thawed". It still wasn't recognized by the computer. Disappointed, but really not surprised at the outcome, I put the drive up on a shelf next to the desk so the condensation that was forming on the warming drive could dry before I packed it away to hold onto--just in case.

On a whim, before I packed it back into its original box, I thought I'd try putting it on the PC once more. The second I put the USB into the PC the drive immediately fired up and started working. You've never seen a woman move files faster than I did that night! I didn't know how much time I'd have before it stopped working for good and I wanted to save as much as possible. I managed to copy every single file off that drive onto my computer hard drive so I could back them up elsewhere.

All of this happened I'd say at least 8-10 years ago. Maybe longer. I continued using that 250GB Western Digital drive and it worked like a brand new drive right up until the day my house burned on 2nd January, 2012. I believe if I'd not lost the drive in that house fire it would have still been working. I was able to use it as much after the whole click-click-click, freeze/thaw/condensate fiasco as I did before. I don't know if I'd recommend that technique to anyone who needs to retrieve data from a clicking hard drive but it sure did give me a few more years of use out of the drive and save some files that were critical to me.

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alternate stratwgy

In reply to: Big external drives fail

I always prefer to use mirrored drives in addition to external backups. The mirrored drives protect you against mechanical failure. If one drive dies, you get a msg to check the dead drive but the computer continues with no interruption.

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Not entirely true

In reply to: I have good news, and bad news.

If the original hard drive is operational, then only those programs that are hardware-specific such as Windows that may need to be re-installed. Others should work just fine.

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