How to copy your operating system from one hard drive to another

At first sight, this article may look very complicated. I can assure you it is not. Read it through carefully a couple of times, then follow the steps exactly as shown.

A number of contributors have posted regarding limited-capacity main drives, (i.e. ones containing the operating system but with less than about 40 GB), but who do not want simply to replace the drive with a larger one with all the problems of having to reinstall the operating system and all their programs. For the purposes of this article it is assumed that the operating system drive is the C: drive. One answer is to purchase a second larger drive (they are cheap now) and clone the original C: drive to the new drive (usually D:) or, if users already have a larger D: drive, clone the C: drive to the existing D: drive and make that the boot drive, either by changing the BIOS so that the machine boots from the D: drive, or (the preferred method), changing the drive configuration so that the D: drive becomes the C: drive and vice versa. I found a product called XXCLONE that is published by Pixelab of Naperville, Illinois, USA that is designed to help do what we are trying to achieve here. Pixelab offer a freeware version that allows us to perform the volume-cloning operation we are interested in here. Whilst their Pro version supports various backup modes for repeated operations using an incremental backup for greater efficiency, the freeware version is all we need for now.

To clone your C: drive follow the steps below:

Step 1. If you already have a larger D: drive in use, back up all important information on the drive D: to DVDs, CDs, or floppies as all existing data on the drive will be lost. If installing a new drive, set the jumper(s) to slave (see step 24 below) and format it using the NTFS file system using Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools/ Computer Management/ Disc Management. If your new drive (or your existing D: drive if you already have one) is very big, you may want to consider partitioning it. For details of how to format and partition a drive see How to format a Hard Drive partion in Windows XP

Step 2. Download and unzip the XXCLONE Freeware package from Pixelab. When you unzip the file, you will find an installation program (named something like xcfwinst_0580.exe) that will unpack all the necessary files.

Step 3. Run xcfwinst_0580.exe from the folder you unzipped to.

Step 4. Run XXClone from Start/All programs/XXClone or the desktop icon.

Step 5. Make sure the source and target volumes are your C: and D: drives respectively. Select the box for Backup the entire volume by copying all the files from scratch. (see the screenshot below)

Step 6. Click the Advanced tab. You will then get the following screen.


Step 7. Select Use the alternative wallpaper on Target Desktop. This can be very useful as it is allows you to see that you have booted to the correct drive as you will see later.

Step 8. Click on the Cool Tools tab. You will see the following screen.

Step 9. Click on the Make Bootable button. This opens up another window.

Step 10. Tick the three boxes Write MBR, Write Boot Sector and Write BOOT.INI. Then click Start.

Note that you are given one last chance to stop.

Step 11. Click on Yes

Step 12. When XXClone has initialized the drive you will get the following screen.

Select Exit. You will then be returned to this screen

Step 13. Select Make QBD. This is a Quick Bootable Disc (floppy), and whilst not essential can save the bother of altering the BIOS as we shall see later. You will then get the following screen.

Step 14. Press Start and the required files will be copied to your floppy. When finished you will see

Step 15. Press Exit and you will be returned to the main screen.

Step 16. Press Start and you will get one last chance to stop the procedure.

Step 17. Press Yes. When the procedure is finished (be patient, it may take some time) you will see the following screen,

Step 18. Press OK.

Step 19. When XXClone has finished, exit from the program. You now have two options: boot directly from the new cloned drive, or make the cloned drive your main drive. (Go directly to Step 24.)

Option 1. Boot directly from the cloned drive (D:)

Step 20. To boot directly from the new drive there are two ways you can do this, provided you created a QBD.

As the instructions for changing the BIOS setting vary depending on the make of BIOS it is advised that you check the manual for your motherboard.

Save your settings and exit from the BIOS editor. Your machine should now reboot from the cloned drive
Whichever method you used you should now get a screen like this.

The XXClone background shows that you have successfully booted into the cloned drive.

Step 21. Click OK in the small box which will then close.

Step 22. Click on the dskmgnt icon in the top right of the main screen and you will see the following screen. You may need to maximize it to see all the details. It should look like this:

Check that the correct drive letter has been assigned to the new drive. Disk 1 should now be your C: drive.

Step 23. Reformat your new D: drive to remove all operating system files. Alternatively, you may keep this as a backup in case you should need to restore your C: drive in the future. XXClone is a powerful backup tool and although the free version does not allow incremental backups, it is worth periodically cloning your main drive to your D: drive if space permits. As HDDs are so cheap now, it may be worth replacing the D: drive with a larger one to match the capacity of the new C: drive. As a further safety precaution it is worth investing in an external drive. That way, it is possible to maintain two clones and alternate between cloning to them. That way, if there is a problem e.g. power failure, (and it does happen) whilst cloning you still have another clone to fall back on. Worst case scenarios are rare but they do happen.

Option 2. Make the cloned drive the main drive (C:)

Step 24. To make the cloned drive the main drive, switch off your machine and remove both drives.

Step 25. Check the jumper(s) located between the power socket and IDE cable socket. There should be three or four sets of two pins with a jumper across two of the pins or, with some drives two jumpers across different pairs of pins, depending on whether they are master or slave. The pins should be named as master, slave or cable select. The labeling is often on the PCB or a label rather than by the pins so you’ll have to look around for it. If not refer to your manual. Reverse the jumpers so that the slave becomes the master and the master becomes the slave. If they are both set to cable select, set the jumper for your old D: drive to master and your old C: drive to slave.

Step 26. Replace the drives the opposite way to what they were. I.e. put your old D: drive where your old C: drive was. The actual order isn’t important, but it makes connecting the cable easier.

Step 27. Connect your power cables (yellow lead to the outside) and your IDE cable. If each drive had it’s own cable, the one from the Primary IDE controller should go to the C: drive, but usually one cable supports both your hard drives and the other supports your optical (DVD or CD) drives). If only one cable supplies both hard drives it will have two plugs, (in addition to the one that plugs into the the controller slot) one at the end and one a bit further up the cable. Plug the one at the end into your new C: drive and the other into your D: drive. If they are coloured, it is usual for the motherboard plug to be blue, the master (at the other end) to be black and the slave to be grey.

Step 28. If you changed your boot order in BIOS change it back so that HDD 0 is the second device. Remove the QBD if it is still in the floppy drive!

Step 29. Cross your fingers and switch on your machine. It should now boot to your new C: drive

Step 30. Reformat your D: drive to get rid of all operating system files, or, if you want to keep this as a backup, follow the instructions in Step 23.

Don’t forget to backup your important files

I am indebted to members and staff of TSF for their many helpful comments and suggestions. I am particularly grateful to Kan Yabumoto of Pixelab, Inc. for checking the accuracy of this article and for his suggested improvements.

© 2006 John Wafford

  • Sunilswl

     search command not working in windows xp

  • Sunilswl

     search command not working in windows xp

    • Anonymous

       Do you mean the Search bar at the top of the articles page, or the Search bar in XP itself?

    • Anonymous

       Do you mean the Search bar at the top of the articles page, or the Search bar in XP itself?

  • Sunilswl

     search command not working in windows xp

  • Korbi06

    does this thing work for other OS except windows?

  • Unfortunately, no. It’s Windows only.

  • Greg

    With the hard drive swapping section, how do you do this with SATA hard drives?

    • Apologies for not replying before.
      Unlike PATA drives, SATA drives can’t be configured as master and slave. Instead, use the Quick Boot Disc option, or swap the location of your drives so that the the OS you want to check is in port 0.

  • Its nice and amazing information about  transferring  data i try this and i follow your suggacting because i have a old HD and i want to find  my impotent data.

  • tiredofitall2

    How does this work with Windows 7? I tried it and had a couple of blips for some reason.