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Is it possible to swap one drive between two desktops?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 10, 2016 4:22 PM PDT


I want to be able to swap out hard drives between two Dell XPS 8700 desktops, so that I can use the same hard drive in either desktop. What specs have to match to be compatible for the hard drives to be able to boot and run in either system? I think one of the things that has to be common on both desktops is the video card? Do both desktops have to have the same exact operating system loaded in their BIOS? My current system has Windows 10 Home Edition loaded. I am contemplating purchasing a second Dell XPS 8700 desktop, but I see where some available on eBay etc. are loaded with Windows 8 via their BIOS. What do I have to do to get this accomplished? Thanks for your help with my question.

--Submitted by Ron F.

6/17/2016 UPDATE from Ron in regards to why he wants to be able to swap one hard drive between two PCs. Read it right here: http://www.cnet.com/forums/post/76be4dc5-9f94-4580-958e-f2a9fe110e45/

Post was last edited on June 17, 2016 2:57 PM PDT

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Sure - if the machines are identical ...
by Ted de Castro / June 10, 2016 6:31 PM PDT

Because all the drivers will load with the harddrive.

Anyhow - the easiest way to to get an external drive caddy - works best if you have a card in your PC that supports ESATA - but I THINK it will work with a USB caddy too. Anyhow - clone one of the hardrives - the one you favor the most - to a HD the same size using the caddy - and then put it in the caddy on the other PC and boot off of the caddy drive instead of the internal drive.

I use this technique with backups with an ESATA caddy - I make a clone backup and can then boot from it to "go back" without affecting the current normal boot setup.

Right now the internal drive is safely, happily windows 7 and one of the clones is the W10 I had installed. (yes yes - I've heard of dual boot - but have never been able to actually get that to work - although admittedly I've hardly tried).

It'll work!

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The Problem With That
by Hforman / June 12, 2016 1:42 AM PDT

If you are doing that to make a backup and then boot it up on the same hardware, that is OK. But if the OP wants to take this drive (or even a clone) and move it to another computer and boot that, it probably would not work due to activation issues. As for the hardware, you might have to be prepared to dealing with driver issues if there are any (even the slightest) differences between the two machines. It is not that the person wants to but the drive in and out of just one computer. I would just use Go To My PC from the second computer PROVIDED the new location does have Internet access and is not a cabin in the woods. Or scrape both computers and replace with a laptop/tablet.

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Not that difficult
by jimpoma / June 17, 2016 5:51 PM PDT
In reply to: The Problem With That

Some people overthink things. If the OS finds a difference in driver needs it will try to install the right driver by itself. If it can't find the correct driver it will tell you so and then you just go to the manufacturers website and download the correct driver.

It really is not rocket science. Most manufacturers use the same hardware from the same suppliers.

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No 2 machines are "identical" to Windows
by Rick75230 / June 17, 2016 7:46 PM PDT

Windows looks at serial numbers of motherboards in the BIOS, MAC addresses of network cards, etc., and calculates a "machine fingerprint". Since the combination of those hardware identifiers will always be unique, the two machines won't be "identical" to Windows.

It's also important to realize that Windows is not the only program that uses that approach. You could suddenly find that some other program will no longer run because of "too many activations". Microsoft tends to be pretty lenient -- but many smaller software vendors aren't. They don't have call centers in India, their customer service-tech support is 2 guys at the home office in Ohio. They realize you didn't "need to reinstall a graphics-editing program" (or whatever) twenty-five times because "my computer crashed, so I couldn't deactivate the program." They'll tell you there have been too many activations and you'll need to buy a new copy of the program, or that that version is no longer sold, so they can't authorize more activations.

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This is the right answer. No two machines are identical
by RVHAT / June 21, 2016 6:28 AM PDT
Yes, this is right. "Windows looks at serial numbers of motherboards in the BIOS"

I had two identical Gateway machines so I cloned one of them thinking that if either died I could boot with it. WRONG. The other machine died and it would not boot with the cloned drive. After a very long time diagnosing it, I found that, indeed, Windows does check serial numbers, etc from the motherboard.
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it works, but... SATA connectors are fragile
by verdyp / June 18, 2016 1:00 AM PDT

It works provided that Windows is activated on both machines.

Beside that, the Plug-n-Play system of Windows will autodetect the devices really available and will disable those devices when booting on a different machine.

But beware of some drivers that also install some desktop addons that are specific to some hardware components: these addons may not work or could display random errors when booting because the hardware cannot be found on one machine or another.
Typical things include: webcams, display control panels... In fact these addons are generally unneeded crapwares that you could uninstall, keeping only the base driver installed.

I can successfully extract an extractible SSD from a laptop to plug it on my desktop and boot on it.

However I would not recommend doing it frequently everyday: SATA connectors are fragile. Usually you will do that only for maintenance purpose.

But it may be helpful on a desktop to separate an installation for your games or family apps from your installation for your work and documents. But I would recommend using multiboot (selecting the boot drive from the BIOS or UEFI boot menu, so that drives will remain plugged in: it will preserve the SATA connectors).

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Clone or swap? That is a question.
by netsiu / June 10, 2016 7:11 PM PDT

Only you can answer that.
If you clone the cloned drive when inserted and turned on will recognize that it is a different motherboard, processor and all other hard parts even if they are specked the same and will uninstall and reinstall all drivers establishing the new ID to its process.
So if you swap the drive back and forth it will go through that every time.

Now. If you clone and both original and clone go to MS for updates what will MS do?

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You can
by darow1 / June 17, 2016 6:41 PM PDT

If you know what your are doing you can but if not the drive will get scrambled.

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To what ends?
by capoderra / June 10, 2016 7:28 PM PDT

Could you tell us a little bit about what it is that you are trying to accomplish by doing such a thing? Why not simply save your files to an external USB drive? you could buy whatever machine you want. It would take too much time to uninstall and reinstall constantly and damage your connections.

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Don't do it.
by si / June 10, 2016 7:56 PM PDT

Pulling the W10 OS drive out of one machine and putting it into another (even identical) machine will bork the activation. Don't do it. OEM Licenses are not transferable.

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Bull
by BCF1968 / June 17, 2016 5:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Don't do it.

I've done this without issues.

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OEM licences and transferable licences
by verdyp / June 18, 2016 1:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Don't do it.

Not everyone uses an OEM licence.

Anyway these licences are checked by Windows: if you move a drive from an activated machine to another, there will be another activation for the new license.

And both activations are kept even if only one is used at once. If you swap again, there's no reactivation needed as the activation keys and data are still there in the registry stored on the system disk.

This process is safe, and frequently used for the maintenance: you can install or repair Windows on a machine, then connect the installed disk to another one.

If you don't have a second licence for the new machine, Windows will work for one month then will work in limited mode (with no user custimization of the start menu and desktop, and a basic access to the preinstalled web browser of the system (Edge on Windows 10), and the System control panel where you'll find the activation button.

If your Windows is not activated, your user login sesssions will be limited in time (Windows will disconnect you after about one hour, closing all your desktop apps, and possibly refusing to launch some third party apps, notably those requiring a secondary background user profile). the UAC profile and other security settings will also be forced to its defaults in this mode. You may also not be able to connect to the Windows domain, or will not be able to use some remove services on your LAN, or will not be able to use some online services on the web. The solution will be to buy a second licence and activate it for the new machine to restore the full functionality.

Note that some third party apps also require their own activation based on the hardware, their licence may not work (and not all of them can keep a separate store for two licences): typically they identify your machine using the MAC adress of your Ethernet or Wifi adapter, or will attempt to use the volume id of your first hard disk (not necessarily the system disk). Some of them are identifying your BIOS number, or some internal ids of some other devices from the PCI configuration (display adapter, RAM modules, or the internal CPU id if it is readable).

There's no rule on how machines are identified: Windows preferably uses the BIOS identifier encrypted and stored in Flash memory by the OEM maker of your motherboard: this may cause sometimes issues with some machines when you upgrade your BIOS as it may invalidate your licence (with some broken BIOS flashing tools), or if your motherboard is damaged and you need to replace it (even if it's the same model), because the BIOS number will be different (even if you've kept all the rest, including CPU, RAM modules, display adapter, network adapters and disks, which all have their own hardware ids, Windows actication may be needed again, or you'll need to negociate with Microsoft that may want you to run a "Genuine Windows" activation agent to check the other components; note that these activations may be checked again to make sure that the previous machine is no longer used with that licence). Users are reselling their machine because they have bought a new one (but without a new Windows licence) and want to reuse the old licence on the new machine.

Other vendors are using various tricks to identify the machine for their own software licence, including trying to locate other installations of the same licence on your LAN (or virtual LAN if running Windows in a VM) using some broadcast to discover them, some of them will check that their licence is active because they will first connect the app to an online web service that will only accept a single active session using a given licence (you have to choose the machine or virutal machine on which you'll run the software, the second live instance may refuse to run).

Note that *some* licences bought online on the Microsoft site ARE transferable from one machine to another. They are not tied to the OEM machine identification (this is the case for licences bought from Technet or MSDN, or volume licences tied to an enterprise domain running their own licence activation subsystem installed on an company's Windows server), but these licences cannot be activated and used simultaneously (this will be checked sometimes automatically on all machines that have an internet access, or during the execution of Windows Update, with the "Genuine Windows" program which is regularly updated).

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Say it aint so.
by PaulTercier / June 10, 2016 8:21 PM PDT

Swapping boot drives between 'identical' computers under windows 10 is not likely going to work well. At some point you will end up have to re-activate windows since it will have detected it is no longer on the primary installation machine requiring a phone call to Microsoft support.
There is some important information missing.. what is your requirement to do this? You mention video cards, so I am guessing that you have an aftermarket card in your current system.... if they change substantially you will run into driver problems.

The Issues
1st issue -- legality your windows 10 home edition is licensed for one system only. annoying but a consideration.
2nd issue -- physical wear on the drive unit - they are simply not designed for swapping constantly. Even external drives made to be plugged and unplugged have a limit to the number of cycles they will withstand
3rd issue -- related to 2 but involving the wear on the case structure - they are not designed to be opened/closed constantly and will eventually fail... leaving them open can cause cooling issues since the components are designed to optimally work in the confines of the case.

If you buy a second system already loaded with Windows 8, the upgrade to windows 10 is automatic and at no charge-- currently.

Are you sharing an internet connection between the systems?
Are you otherwise placing the systems on a network?
Is your requirement to share data? programs? or something else?

after considering the above - please be aware that swapping boot drives between systems would normally only be done if one system has failed and you are trying to save your work environment intact. This is possible, I have done it with Windows 7 professional on a number of occasions ( work budgeting won't let me buy new systems and constraints on OS replacements mean I have to keep windows 7 operational). That being said the procedure is usually a 2 hour process and can require a "repair/install" of the operating system which can stretch it out much longer.

In short.. the answer is don't,
Best drive option is to use an external drive (esata or minimum USB 3.0) for data/information transfer. Don't forget that this will become your data repository and WILL need to be backed up on a regular basis.

Even better is to simply network your systems and share the required data across the network.

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Network Attatched Storage
by Therende / June 17, 2016 7:51 PM PDT
In reply to: Say it aint so.

One possibility that hasn't been mentioned is Network Attached Storage, where a device sits on the network and is mounted by several systems. This isn't going to fix the OS going south on you but it will protect your data especially if your NAS device contains a RAID array.
If you really need fault-tolerant/high-availability computing, you need to move away from Windows. There are variants of Linux that can provide a solution using standard hardware and if you really want something THAT WILL NOT FAIL, talk to HP and ask them about their 40 year old OS called openVMS (used to be called VAX/VMS back in 1977), interestingly, you could boot and run simultaneously up to 16 systems from one disk.

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It's Easier Said Than Done
by AjTrek / June 10, 2016 8:26 PM PDT

Hi Ron

If I understand your question correctly, you want to share a single hard drive (which is the MAIN HD) between two identical computers. First of all, good luck finding two IDENTICAL computers Cool .

Computers are similar to automobiles. Automobiles of a particular make and model can be identical in all aspects except one…the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A lot of the firmware baked into the electronics of today’s automobiles is serialized with a unique ID. For example, keyless entry systems are unique to the vehicle they are installed on to prevent intended or accidental entry by someone other than the owner. OK, I know…cars are stolen everyday…but let’s stay on track.

The short answer to your question is that the MAIN hard drive in today’s computers is not Plug n Play. Years ago, all that was needed was a product key and a computer running Windows. Product keys are now embedded into the hard drive and the BIOS or UEFI firmware of the computer and registered with Microsoft. If any one of those don’t match up Windows will not operate.

I’m assuming the computers you are talking about are in two different locations. Also, that you want to not just share files (via a cloud service such as OneNote) but work on the original file each time. Here are three (3) options:

Option I
Invest in an external SSD for speed, compactness and lite weight (expensive) or a conventional HD as the storage medium. The downside to this option is that when using single license programs, you pay twice or you pay an additional license fee for two computers.

Option II
Setup a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection on one computer so that you can log into it remotely via the second computer an access the programs you need. You’ll have to decide which computer to load the programs onto and that computer will have to remain on at all times.

Option III
Both computers are remotely located but share a Server where all the programs are loaded. You’ll not need a multi-user license as long as the programs are only accessed by one user (Computer) at a time. This still requires a VPN setup.

BTW there are two more solutions to consider. In fact, the virtues of the first solution (as a questioned asked) were discussed extensively by Cnet Community members a few weeks ago. The second has been discussed to “on-infinitum” which I’ll mention but not elaborate on.

The final result may have cost factors other than what you anticipated but not necessarily negative. It may also require more program research and investment of your time.

Option IV

Paid vs Rented programs. In this instance the option to “Rent” may very well be a viable solution. Yes, you’ll be paying for the program(s) for as long as you use them. However, renting is more cost effective than buying two versions of the same program in some instances.

I’m going to expand this option and add two examples of Annual Subscription programs that offer multi-seats vs a single seat. Here are three (3) examples that I use (all costs are rounded):

Microsoft Office 365
1 Seat @ $150 x 2 = $300
5 Seats @ $10 per month
ROI vs upfront cost of $298 is 30 months.
Granted 3 of the 5 seats go unused; but you can share the remaining seats with family members even if they are not in the same household.
I have all 5 seats deployed between Windows and Mac computers

Norton Internet Security
1 Seat @ $60/yr. x 2 = $120
5 Seats @ $80/yr.
ROI over 5 years = $200 savings
Granted 3 of the 5 seats go unused; but you can share the remaining seats with family members even if they are not in the same household.
I have all 5 seats deployed between Windows computers
To the “nay-sayers” Norton works fine for me Cool

NovaStor Backup
1 Seat / NA
3 Seats @ $40/yr.
ROI / NA
Granted 1 of the 3 seats go unused; but you can share the remaining seat with a family member even if they are not in the same household.
I have 2 seats deployed between Windows computers

Option V

Switch to Linux OS and/or other open-source programs. However, this is not the time to open a discuussion on open-source as it would detract from your original query.

I’m sure you’ll get more useful information on this subject and I hope you’re able to make an informed decision as to how (or not) to proceed. Good luck!

Together Everyone Achieves More = T.E.A.M.

Post was last edited on June 16, 2016 10:52 AM PDT

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Why?
by 4Denise / June 10, 2016 11:44 PM PDT

It is possible that this could be done, but you would be messing with legal issues, and that is bad. If you have OEM Windows or other software, you would be running them illegally on the machine that they were not originally activated on. If you have software that can be used on more than one machine (commercial Windows might be one), then you will still run into problems as the software "phones home" when it is being run. This is standard procedure these days.

The fact is that software is designed to so that one copy runs on one machine. Even when you have software that allows installation on more than one machine, it is designed to be installed separately on each machine. Having identical machines won't help. Each piece of hardware has its own serial number (for lack of a better term) and it is identified when the software is installed. If there is a different serial number, then the software is not authorized on that computer. This is why some people have run into trouble having to re-activate Windows or other software after upgrading a machine or replacing some parts.

In practical reality, this is probably not going to work. Theoretically, it might be possible, but you would have to have older software that does not "phone home" or verify it is still on the same machine.

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Not with Windows.
by Zouch / June 11, 2016 1:00 AM PDT

The short answer is no, you can't do it. The slightly longer answer is because there is no such thing as two identical computers. The physical components may come from the same batch but their uniqueness comes from the component serial numbers and since Windows XP, the Windows operating system knows what computer it's running on based on some of these serial numbers.

For example, if you have a machine on which the motherboard breaks down, you can replace the motherboard and rebuild your system around it. But Windows will know that the motherboard has been changed and will require reactivation. For a retail license, this may happen automatically (you can replace three of the tracked components before you need to reactivate - any subsequent replacements will require a call to Microsoft to get it reactivated). With an OEM edition of Windows, i.e. one that came with the machine from a commercial system builder, it usually won't activate because OEM editions are tied to the single machine they were first activated on. In this scenario, a call to Microsoft will be necessary and for a legitimate replacement, they will, at their discretion, give you a new activation code.

From your question, I assume your Windows copy is OEM and almost certainly one bought off Ebay will also be OEM. but even if both copies are retail, I doubt Microsoft would reactivate them for you. What you want to do is technically in violation of the End User License Agreement (EULA) and that can get you into a world of legal hurt. Don't do it.

Without knowing why you want to do this and we can only guess, I think your best option would be to buy your second machine from wherever but look for a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system and take advantage of Microsoft's free upgrade to Windows 10, whereupon, you will have two legitimate properly licensed machines. Remember, Microsoft has only committed to the free upgrade until the end of July, so get your skates on!

If you buy a straight Windows 8 machine, you will need to upgrade it to Windows 8.1 or downgrade it to Windows 7 before you qualify for the free upgrade.

And needless to say, all this also applies to any application software that carries a similar single machine license.

Be careful and good luck.

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Is the idea to access the same files on both PCs?
by Joseph DeMartino / June 11, 2016 4:43 AM PDT

If you just need to access data on both computers, surely the easiest solution is to cloud storage. Google Drive, Amazon's Cloud and MS One Drive all offer free, secure storage you can access from ANY computer. You would have to install (and possibly pay for) duplicate software on the 2nd machine, but, as others have indicated, physically swapping drives probably won't avoid this.

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Suggestions
by 4Denise / June 11, 2016 1:01 PM PDT

I access my files in the cloud, using Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive. I also may add others if my needs expand. These all have free options, and they work very well. Each one is for a different purpose. One is for work, one is for school, and one is for sharing with my friends and family.

However, if the original poster does not want to go that route, an external drive is not a bad idea. Currently, a 1 TB external hard drive by a major manufacturer is $59 on Amazon. The 2 TB and 3 TB drives are not much more. Prices have come down a lot. This is a good way to store data and move it from one computer to another.

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Here is how to do it (and how it won't work)
by Gerdd / June 11, 2016 6:33 AM PDT

Long long ago and far far away ...

... I had two friends that were eventually married and later separated (not all the fairy tales end in "happily ever after.")

But while they were together they owned two "sufficiently" identical machines with one SCSI hard drive each, but in caddies. They were running OS/2 - that is how long ago this was.

Those drives would run equally well in either system, so that if one computer failed they could continue on the other by just sticking the hard drive into that one's caddy. The catch was that you could only do that if your partner didn't need that computer at the time. (At today's prices I would have told them to have three computers, one being a standby for both of the others.)

The story ended eventually - without the disaster ever having happened - when the one computer reported problems accessing the drive and I fixed it by taking the caddy out and connecting the drive directly.

Had the disaster ever happened the ultimate problem would have been to get an identical replacement for the "fried" computer.

Today, at least with operating systems and other software needing "activation" to verify the identity of the hardware we are running on, this scheme would no longer work. It is a different story with free open source software, starting with an Linux operating system, such as Ubuntu, and free open source applications. This is a significant benefit in my mind.

Next - if I had to design a hard drive that can run on multiple computers - for whatever reason this might be useful I have no idea, but I'll speculate later ...

... if I had to design this I would use a multiboot configuration with a separate OS being installed for each machine. This could all be Windows, even the same Windows, but not the same serial number (license) - activation would see to that. I would expect, though, to have to use a boot manager from outside the Windows world. I would also expect to need a partitioning scheme to keep the OS footprints separated properly, with a common shared data partition. In such a configuration there is very little that needs to be identical between the machines - they must simply both be able to boot off that disk and access any data partitions - it is debatable if access to the other boot partition(s) coul dbe usefup or rather dangerous ...)

Now the speculation: This could be to allow the "contents" of that drive (or of "that computer") to be accessible on the other ("standby") machine at a moment's notice if the "primary" system dies. Has it occurred to you that by far the most likely component to die is actually the hard drive? It hadn't to my friends from the fairytale above, but then in their case it never came to that, because the death of the caddy cotacts was the "winning loser." The obvious answer here is - once again - the same as always: Backup!

Okay, so far, so good. In real life - i.e. in big corporate IT - we usually solve this in a slightly different way - with software and data strategies that support this kind of topology:

Have two (or more if so inclined) more or less similar systems, install the software identically on both (each has its own boot drive built in) but configure the software to access the all important data on a shared network drive. The network drive is a highly available Storage Area Network (with RAID under the cover and stuff like that.) Build or configure some mechanism that gives only one instance of each application access to the shared data (concurrent access would in many cases destroy the data for good!) Then have a manual or automatic way of detecting when one application or the whole server fails and let another (or THE other) instance take over while you repair or replace the primary, after which you could switch back. (There are lots of other complications, such as network addresses if these machines are servers, which have all been solved, but that would lead us too far for this post.)

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Tell us what problem you're trying solve
by frenzl / June 11, 2016 7:26 AM PDT

I have a desktop and a laptop that basically need to do the same things on the same data at different times: one at home and one on the road. To do this I have what I call my portable disk: a USB drive that contains all of my data and a few "portable" programs that don't require installation on the C: drive. I've been doing this for at least 10 years. It works smoothly; I just connect the disk to whatever system I'm using at the moment.
Your problem may be different. It looks like the solution you're suggesting has some issues, so I suggest you step back and share the problem you're trying to solve. Maybe the folks here can come up with a better solution.

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Not Sure Why You Want To
by Hforman / June 11, 2016 10:20 AM PDT

Most people are correct. You are not allowed to run one copy of Windows (or, legally, most other software) on more than one computer. Yes, you will have issues with activation. Here is some other things to consider:

1) Contrary to what you wrote, the OS does NOT reside on the BIOS. The BIOS is only a non-volatile copy of routines to boot your system and access some basic devices. The Operating System (Windows) is on the hard drive.
2) At the same time? NO! You cannot access one HDD from two computers at the same time with both running. The OS is not designed for that and you will corrupt the HDD! Now, if you are talking about sharing files between two machines, you can run some form of "clustering" software that supports your OS but then you still need separate drives for each machine for the OS and system files. You could only share data with this setup. Not the OS and not the system and not the programs.
3) If you don't need to run at the same time, you can always swap a drive back and forth as long as it does NOT contain the OS and any software that is copy protected by some activation scheme. You can do this with a thumb drive.
4) If you want to share files, there are many ways to do that, including "the cloud" but you need to read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of whatever site you use. For example, Google does not allow medical record data unless you have a special agreement and you can't use them for certain kinds of law enforcement data, etc. If you want, you can also create a NAS (Network-Attached Storage) which is a separate device on your network that holds files for sharing.
5) If you are looking to save money by buying one copy of the OS and only ONE copy of each item of storage, this is NOT the way to do it. Not legal/allowed and your OS won't work and you won't be able to share at the same time. Your master bit table partially resides in memory or any time you use memory for file cache and a whole host of other issues. (Paging files?).

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Something that most here are missing:
by btljooz / June 11, 2016 10:51 AM PDT

The Operating System does NOT reside in the BIOS.

The BIOS resides in the Motherboard of the computer. Learn about the BIOS here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIOS And learn about the Motherboard here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motherboard

The Operating System DOES reside ON the Hard Drive.

Now, I suspect that you want to use the same hard drive for both computers because you want to use the same version and copy of Windows on two computers. If this is the case, then the answer to your question is an unequivocal NO.

The reason that you can NOT use the exact same copy of Windows on two or more devices is that Microsoft will NOT allow it. Read Microsoft's License Terms here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Useterms/Retail/Windows/10/UseTerms_Retail_Windows_10_English.htm That is why your idea is not feasible.

I hope this clears up any confusion you may have had in this area.

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Quite right!
by Gerdd / June 11, 2016 11:44 AM PDT

It hasn't been stated here as clearly as that before - even my earlier post kind of glossed over it in order to get to more intersting bits about what IS rather than ISN'T possible.

But, yes, it is this exact reason (in addition to many others one could think of) why Microsoft invented the whole activation story. You may find this okay or not, but the fact is that in most jurisdictions on this planet it is illegal to bypass the mechanism (not just in the US, although there are some distinct differences, for instance in the EU, that Microsoft doesn't particularly advertise.)

I am not sure if you could still find motherboards that are or can be made identical including any BIOS based serial numbers (MAC addresses are usually not that big an issue) so that the code that is generated in order to determine a need for reactivation would come out the same, but that would in any event be seen as circumventing the spirit of the license as issued by Microsoft. That is why I explained that you would have to have one license for each of the two machines and install the OS twice (under multi boot software.) This is in spite of the fact that with only one drive containing both installations there is no chance of running them both at the same time - except maybe in virtual machines - but that is beyond the scope of this discussion, I believe.

At this point you might as well bite the bullet and have a boot drive in each of the machines and just move the data drive between them. Or use something other than Windows. (But I am sure that Apple has licensing conditions at least as rigid as Microsoft to stop you from doing this.)

And at the end of the day it would be safer and easier to install a separate OS on each system to cover for any small differences that will eventually creep up as components fail and need replacing.

So. After all this - I still wonder what you really wanted to do with such a configuration as this (and I am sure I am not alone ...)

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Licensing
by Hforman / June 11, 2016 12:29 PM PDT
In reply to: Quite right!

Yes, and, in addition to the OS licensing, you also have the software that you may need two copies. The configuration of the software is located in the registry which goes with the OS.

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About licensing...
by 4Denise / June 11, 2016 1:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Licensing

I have two computers for my personal use and one for family use. Because of this, I pay close attention to software licensing. Many (but not all) of the more expensive programs allow installation on two machines. Occasionally, they allow installation on three machines. It is worth looking specifically for this feature when buying software that is more than about 20 dollars. There may be specific restrictions (the most common being that only one copy of the software can be used at the same time), but if those restrictions will not be violated, then buying a version that allows for multiple installations might be well worth the money.

Free and portable programs, of course, can be installed in all machines or (in the case of portable programs) carried from one machine to another easily.

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Actually...
by 4Denise / June 11, 2016 12:52 PM PDT

It isn't a matter of missing it. You are right, of course. The operating system is not in the BIOS. It is on the hard drive. If it were in the BIOS, then the advice would be completely different. However, the advice that is being given does assume that the OS in on the hard drive. The original poster needs to understand this, but the rest of us already knew it.

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The fact that...
by btljooz / June 12, 2016 11:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Actually...

the original poster needs to understand this is precisely why I brought up the differences between the BIOS and OS and where they reside. Just by the wording of his post it is quite obvious to anyone in the know the he didn't quite grasp that difference. With all due respect of/to him, because of this lack of basic knowledge on that particular point, I'm afraid that all the technical-speak in long drawn out answers could easily be rather above his level of proficiency at this point? Maybe, down the road with more computing experience, he could be able to achieve some of what is explained here? But, that does not take away from the legal ramifications of what he is proposing and the safeguards put in place by MS to help enforce them.

In addition to which, because those answering here are also obviously more experienced and have been at it for such a long time that they are just plain used to actually doing it without having to always explain what they are doing, that makes it easier to gloss over the bare basics without intending to when addressing a 'newbie'. And this goes for ANY subject and not just computing.

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True...
by 4Denise / June 12, 2016 12:28 PM PDT
In reply to: The fact that...

However, that was not the way you originally worded it. Your point is valid. The original poster does need this explanation.

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Re: Windows 8
by Kees_B Forum moderator / June 11, 2016 12:49 PM PDT

If you buy any (second hand) PC with Windows 8, the upgrade to Windows 10 is free until July 29 2016. So that's not a good reason for what you want.

And, of course, if you move a hard disk from PC #1 to PC #2, you can't use PC #1. So with 2 identical PC's and one hard disk, you would always have 1 working PC and one not working PC. That kind of defeats the idea of having 2 PC's.

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