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A hard drive has reported that it might fail- Help backing up and transfering all my data.

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May 28, 2014 6:02:54 PM

Hello,


One older Dell PC is showing SMART error messages that the hard drive is about to fail. The hard drive is reporting a SMART event with unexpected shut downs. These messages started appearing 3 months ago. I already got a new hard drive and would like to know the easiest way to backup and transfer all my files with cookies, temp files, stored passwords, etc. I don't want to lose anything. Just want to keep everything as it is right now.

What's the easiest way to do this?


Thanks a lot.


a b G Storage
May 28, 2014 6:10:54 PM

If you want to have everything exactly as it is there's the option of cloning the hard drive with software like Acronis or Norton Ghost
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May 28, 2014 6:23:59 PM

SchizTech said:
If you want to have everything exactly as it is there's the option of cloning the hard drive with software like Acronis or Norton Ghost


There's no way to do it within windows 7 or the recovery DVDs?
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a b G Storage
May 28, 2014 6:30:36 PM

The recovery disks would install a copy of the factory installation - it would bring it back exactly it was as you first started it. Anything you did since then wouldn't be retained. What I understand from your OP if I read it right is that you want to retain all of that. There's no cloning utility in the Windows installer.
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May 28, 2014 7:48:28 PM

Just choose a cloning tool to help you finish all things in several clicks.
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May 28, 2014 8:57:57 PM

So using a cloning tool will "extract" the key and registration information from Windows 7?
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Best solution

a c 357 G Storage
May 28, 2014 10:13:10 PM

Using a cloning tool is the best way to solve this problem now, when you get a warning and BEFORE the HDD actually fails. Most cloning software you might get will be something you install on your C: drive and run from there under Windows as an application like any other. What it does is copy absolutely EVERYTHING from your old troubled HDD to a new one you have to buy and install. I see you already have one for this. The normal default operations of a cloner will be to make sure the clone copy has all the key files in the right places so you can boot and run from it just as you always did with your old drive.

So where do you get this cloning utility? Several HDD makers have free utilities you can download from their website. The trick is, since they are giving it to you as an inducement to buy THEIR HDD, the customize them so that they will make a clone TO a drive only they made, but they don't care at all who made the old failing drive. So, if you bought your new HDD from Seagate, get their package called Disk Wizard. If you bought from WD, get their Acronis True Image WD Edition. Other makers may a have similar packages. It happens those two appear to be customized versions of Acronis True Image. OR, you can find free versions or buy a version of a third party utility like Acronis True Image.

Now, a few hints.
1. You must install the software on your existing C: drive and use it under Windows, for most cases. You also need to have your new empty HDD installed in your machine. BUT you do NOT need to Partition or Format or Initialize it - that work will be done for you by the utility.

2. Any new empty HDD needs to have two steps of preparation done before any data can be put on it. The cloning utility will do this job, but it helps to understand a bit of this. For this reason, I recommend that you READ the manual for the cloning utility, especially the part that deals with cloning work. (Some of these do LOTS more than this job if you want.) The two steps are to Create on the HDD a Partition, which is just a specified region of the HDD that will be used as one "disk", and then to Format that Partition, which really means just to write a few files to it that install the File System. For your purpose, the Partition created must be a Bootable Primary Partition, and the File system installed should be NTFS.

3. When you start up the cloning utility, the first step is to specify which unit is the Source - this must be your old failing HDD - and which is the Destination. That last one MUST be your new empty HDD unit, because anything on the DESTINATION HDD will be wiped out. You don't care if it wipes out an empty new drive! So be sure you set these correctly.

4. The utility will analyse for a bit and present you with proposed settings for doing the work. In my experience, almost all of these are correct, but one often is wrong in my view. For that reason I suggest you do NOT simply hit OK. You have the option to change these if you want to. The one I don't like is how the size of the Partition on the new HDD is set. If you have only one Partition on your old HDD, many of these utilities will propose that the new Partition on the new HDD should be the same size as the old one. Well, most often you are moving to a LARGER HDD and want ALL of it to be in the new Partition. So you need to NOT approve the proposed settings and use the menu system (this is why I said read the manual) to set it to the max you can get on that new HDD.

IF you have more than one Partition on your old HDD this sizing thing gets a little more complicated. If that is NOT your situation, skip to the next paragraph. BUT if this is your situation, what the cloner usually proposes is what's called "proportional sizing". It proposes to create on the new HDD the same number of Partitions as the old HDD had, using up all the new HDD unit's space and making their sizes in the same proportions as the old ones. For example, if your old HDD had 2 Partitions of 80 GB and 700 GB and you have a new 2TB unit, it would propose new Partitions of maybe 190 GB and 1670 GB. But usually the small Partition on the old HDD contains just your OS, or maybe a set of system backups files, and it does not need to be any bigger that it is now. So you can set the NEW HDD's Partition sizes to what you think is right - like, keep the small one at the old size and use the entire rest of the drive for the second Partition.

Other than Partition size, you MIGHT want to think about what type of Format operation you want. Most will default to proposing a Full Format. This operation writes to and reads back from EVERY Sector of the new HDD to test it, marking off any faulty Sectors so thy are never used. Because this is the entire drive it's processing, that can take many hours on a large drive, so you need patience to let it work. I think it's a good idea to do this just to be extra cautious. But some people figure the odds of having a Bad Sector on a brand new HDD is REALLY small, and opt to do a Quick Format which skips all the testing and completes the job in a short time like 15 minutes. (HOWEVER, we're only talking about the Partitioning and Formatting steps here. The copying of all the data from old drive to new still will take more hours.)

Once you have adjusted any of these settings (Partition sizes and maybe Format style), most other settings are already OK and you don't need to change. THEN you can approve the settings and let the utility do the whole job. It will take many hours, so be patient and do something else.

5. AFTER the cloning job is done, here's what I suggest. Shut down and disconnect power. Open the case. Disconnect both power and data cables from the old HDD. Take the data cable that went to it, and connect it to the data port of the new HDD (you'll have to remove the data cable already on that new HDD). That way the new HDD is now connected to the SAME mobo port that the old HDD was, and when you boot up, the BIOS will find a good bootable drive just where it always was. Everything will be exactly as it was before, except probably your C: drive will be a different size with more Free Space. What to do with the old troubled HDD? Leave it inside the case for now, or remove it and put it on a shelf. Don't do anything with it for now - it is a complete backup of your system before you cloned it. AFTER a while when you are SURE you are not missing anything, you can try to fix it and use it for something, or just destroy it.
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May 29, 2014 10:20:12 AM

Paperdoc said:
Using a cloning tool is the best way to solve this problem now, when you get a warning and BEFORE the HDD actually fails. Most cloning software you might get will be something you install on your C: drive and run from there under Windows as an application like any other. What it does is copy absolutely EVERYTHING from your old troubled HDD to a new one you have to buy and install. I see you already have one for this. The normal default operations of a cloner will be to make sure the clone copy has all the key files in the right places so you can boot and run from it just as you always did with your old drive.

So where do you get this cloning utility? Several HDD makers have free utilities you can download from their website. The trick is, since they are giving it to you as an inducement to buy THEIR HDD, the customize them so that they will make a clone TO a drive only they made, but they don't care at all who made the old failing drive. So, if you bought your new HDD from Seagate, get their package called Disk Wizard. If you bought from WD, get their Acronis True Image WD Edition. Other makers may a have similar packages. It happens those two appear to be customized versions of Acronis True Image. OR, you can find free versions or buy a version of a third party utility like Acronis True Image.

Now, a few hints.
1. You must install the software on your existing C: drive and use it under Windows, for most cases. You also need to have your new empty HDD installed in your machine. BUT you do NOT need to Partition or Format or Initialize it - that work will be done for you by the utility.

2. Any new empty HDD needs to have two steps of preparation done before any data can be put on it. The cloning utility will do this job, but it helps to understand a bit of this. For this reason, I recommend that you READ the manual for the cloning utility, especially the part that deals with cloning work. (Some of these do LOTS more than this job if you want.) The two steps are to Create on the HDD a Partition, which is just a specified region of the HDD that will be used as one "disk", and then to Format that Partition, which really means just to write a few files to it that install the File System. For your purpose, the Partition created must be a Bootable Primary Partition, and the File system installed should be NTFS.

3. When you start up the cloning utility, the first step is to specify which unit is the Source - this must be your old failing HDD - and which is the Destination. That last one MUST be your new empty HDD unit, because anything on the DESTINATION HDD will be wiped out. You don't care if it wipes out an empty new drive! So be sure you set these correctly.

4. The utility will analyse for a bit and present you with proposed settings for doing the work. In my experience, almost all of these are correct, but one often is wrong in my view. For that reason I suggest you do NOT simply hit OK. You have the option to change these if you want to. The one I don't like is how the size of the Partition on the new HDD is set. If you have only one Partition on your old HDD, many of these utilities will propose that the new Partition on the new HDD should be the same size as the old one. Well, most often you are moving to a LARGER HDD and want ALL of it to be in the new Partition. So you need to NOT approve the proposed settings and use the menu system (this is why I said read the manual) to set it to the max you can get on that new HDD.

IF you have more than one Partition on your old HDD this sizing thing gets a little more complicated. If that is NOT your situation, skip to the next paragraph. BUT if this is your situation, what the cloner usually proposes is what's called "proportional sizing". It proposes to create on the new HDD the same number of Partitions as the old HDD had, using up all the new HDD unit's space and making their sizes in the same proportions as the old ones. For example, if your old HDD had 2 Partitions of 80 GB and 700 GB and you have a new 2TB unit, it would propose new Partitions of maybe 190 GB and 1670 GB. But usually the small Partition on the old HDD contains just your OS, or maybe a set of system backups files, and it does not need to be any bigger that it is now. So you can set the NEW HDD's Partition sizes to what you think is right - like, keep the small one at the old size and use the entire rest of the drive for the second Partition.

Other than Partition size, you MIGHT want to think about what type of Format operation you want. Most will default to proposing a Full Format. This operation writes to and reads back from EVERY Sector of the new HDD to test it, marking off any faulty Sectors so thy are never used. Because this is the entire drive it's processing, that can take many hours on a large drive, so you need patience to let it work. I think it's a good idea to do this just to be extra cautious. But some people figure the odds of having a Bad Sector on a brand new HDD is REALLY small, and opt to do a Quick Format which skips all the testing and completes the job in a short time like 15 minutes. (HOWEVER, we're only talking about the Partitioning and Formatting steps here. The copying of all the data from old drive to new still will take more hours.)

Once you have adjusted any of these settings (Partition sizes and maybe Format style), most other settings are already OK and you don't need to change. THEN you can approve the settings and let the utility do the whole job. It will take many hours, so be patient and do something else.

5. AFTER the cloning job is done, here's what I suggest. Shut down and disconnect power. Open the case. Disconnect both power and data cables from the old HDD. Take the data cable that went to it, and connect it to the data port of the new HDD (you'll have to remove the data cable already on that new HDD). That way the new HDD is now connected to the SAME mobo port that the old HDD was, and when you boot up, the BIOS will find a good bootable drive just where it always was. Everything will be exactly as it was before, except probably your C: drive will be a different size with more Free Space. What to do with the old troubled HDD? Leave it inside the case for now, or remove it and put it on a shelf. Don't do anything with it for now - it is a complete backup of your system before you cloned it. AFTER a while when you are SURE you are not missing anything, you can try to fix it and use it for something, or just destroy it.



Wow, thank you so much for the detailed post!

Since the new HD is a Western Digital I'm going to download the Acronis True Image WD Edition. Do you think it matters if I get the paid version of the free version is more than enough?

Again, thank you! :) 
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a c 357 G Storage
May 29, 2014 5:28:39 PM

The free version is more than enough. In fact, as I indicated, if you read the manual you'll find it does a LOT of useful tasks when you need them. Cloning is just one of them.
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