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Reinstall without an optical drive

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  • Laptops
  • Optical Media
  • Windows 7
Last response: in Windows 7
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January 24, 2011 4:52:40 PM

I'm looking to get a new laptop in the near future, and having a slim form-factor is one of my important criteria. Thus, laptops without optical drives are pretty attractive for my purposes. With that said, I have a SSD that I would like to put in the new system and simply reinstall Windows 7. However, I do not have a USB optical drive and do not plan on buying one. What I do have is a desktop machine that I could easily attach the SSD to, install the new copy of Windows with it, and then drop it in the laptop.

My questions are:
-First of all, would this strategy even work?
-Would I be able to use this copy of Windows 7 on the SSD destined for the laptop without screwing up the copy I currently have installed on the desktop machine?
-I'm aware I would have to reinstall all the drivers and such, but aside from that would there be any complications with installing the OS on one machine and then using the hard drive on another?

I hope I explained my potential strategy well enough, but if not I can certainly try to explain better if needed. Any other strategies are also welcome. Thanks in advance for the replies.

More about : reinstall optical drive

a c 572 D Laptop
a b $ Windows 7
January 24, 2011 5:42:37 PM

It might work out better for you to use a USB Thumb drive.
How To: Install Windows 7/Vista From USB Drive - Detailed 100% Working Guide
Your 'copy' of Win7 is probably on a hidden partition of the HDD in your new laptop. You could image that partition and copy it onto a USB thumb drive, install the SSD and boot from the USB drive to install Win7.
And you'd have a backup copy of the OS for any future reinstall needs.

You can get an external USB housing for the original HDD and use that to backup files as well. Rosewill RX81U-AT-25A Rigid aluminum 2.5" SATA to USB 2.0 Ext. Enclosure
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January 24, 2011 11:44:01 PM

Ok, thanks for the suggestion. I imagine that an external hard drive could serve the same purpose as the thumb drive in this instance?

Would it be possible for my original strategy to work out though? I would rather do an installation straight from the disc onto the SSD if possible.
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Best solution

a c 572 D Laptop
a b $ Windows 7
January 25, 2011 9:52:02 AM

You could use the laptop re-installation software to install Win7 on the SSD while attached to the desktop. There would be a few extra hoops to jump through.
An install onto the SSD while attached to your hard drive will have the install process inspecting your system hardware and installing drivers for that desktop system. And since there is a primary boot device already in the system the master boot record MBR will be modified and will still reside on the desktops HDD. You'd essentially have a dual boot setup when you finished. I think you can fix the MBR with either an FDISK or BOOTSEC command. Check to see what switchs you'd need to use.
This is just a guess - but I'm think the SSD will fail to boot with the desktop drivers installed. You might be able to boot to Safe Mode (minimal drivers loaded) but its also possible that will fail. And you'd be missing a boot device and installation media to try a repair install. Personally, I'd work hard to avoid doing things this way. Especially if you have other options.

One of those other options would be to create/clone an .ISO image of the laptop HDD's default install and then burn that ISO image onto the SSD. I use Macrium Reflect Free to keep a current ISO image backup every 90 days or so. You can do the work with your SSD & laptop HDD attached to your desktop system.

Using the laptop HDD via external USB could work. You'd still have the laptop HDD's MBR to work around if you boot from the external HDD. Check the laptops system recovery commands / options to make sure you can write to the SSD instead of just back to the HDD.

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January 25, 2011 7:12:17 PM

Wow, thank you for the thorough response. That's exactly what I was wondering.
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January 25, 2011 7:12:35 PM

Best answer selected by burnley14.
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