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Using old HDD from crashed PC in new build -- or at least salvaging my old data

Last response: in Storage
November 30, 2013 5:39:50 PM

My old PC recently died and to replace it I'm attempting to build my own for the first time (since I'd been meaning to learn anyway) and am getting hung up on how to recover my old data. Apologies for the post's length, and many thanks for any answers in advance!

Background: On my old comp, once a week I ran Windows Backup to an external drive. The internal drive isn't damaged. I purchased that PC from Dell a few years ago, with Vista pre-installed. A couple years later I upgraded to Windows 7 via digital purchase, I don't have the install CD =(.

1) From what I've read, it's possible to reuse an old HDD in a new PC build if you have the OS install (as opposed to repair) CD or so long as your copy of Windows is not an OEM copy. I'm confused as to whether my OS would be an OEM version or not, since I had later upgraded?

2) I understand that I'd likely have to reinstall my programs on the new comp, but what if I want to get at, say, my old game saves? When I look at the backups made bye Windows Backup utility, they are in large compressed files...How can I access individual files like game saves or word docs?

3) Is this a viable scenario: I buy a fresh HDD for the new build and install a new copy of Windows 7. Then I connect my external hard drive that has my "Windows Backup" backups from my old computer. Would I be able to "restore from this drive" to the new computer and basically get my old desktop environment, games, data, etc. that way? Or it still wouldn't work because it'd be a new copy of Windows 7 I'd be trying to "restore" to?

4) One more scenario...I install a newly purchased copy of Windows 7 on a new drive (possibly SSD) in the new build. Then I add my old internal HDD just as if it were an extra mechanical drive for data storage for the new build. But it's already got all my old stuff on there...including my old Windows installation(?). What happens then? Everything explodes in fireworks? Can I just delete the old OS off of there but keep the rest of my data?

Thanks again for any advice!
November 30, 2013 7:32:25 PM

Hi there,

There are a number of options available to you, you can use the original HDD from your old computer, but you will more than likely have to reload the OS as the system drivers and such that were associated with your old system will not be the same as the ones required for your new system, so it would not be advisable to just whack the drive in and try to load from it.
I would recommend getting a new drive to be the primary drive and install a new operating system on that drive, you can then use tools that are available for free from Microsoft or use the Easy Transfer tool that is built into windows 7 to access the old drive, that is now connected to your system as a secondary drive and migrate your settings across that way. You would also be able to retrieve any saved game files from the game directories etc... just by copying and pasting them into the new directories if you chose to reinstall the games, or like many games, it would be possible to copy the entire game installation from your old drive to your new drive, or continue to run them from the old drive... at most the only issue you may encounter is needing to run the installer, point to the old directory and it will update any files that are missing, corrupted or unavailable.

I would personal recommend a SSD if you are looking to replace the primary drive, but if you are going to do that, you want to only install the OS and maybe a couple of critical applications on the SSD, as they tend to last a lot longer if they are not in constant use and things like games don't really get a major performance boost from the SSD.