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After cloning (ghosting) hard drive to new drive, can you switch back?

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July 31, 2010 2:04:15 AM

If you ghost your current hard drive to a new drive and replace the old drive with the new one, can you switch back to the old one whenever you need (or want) to? I read a thread on another board where someone specifically said this was possible as long as you don't have both drives connected at the same time:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=1600419

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It seems like this would be similar to having one hard drive partitioned with two different operating systems on it, where you can switch between them at will - except instead of switching the partition that loads at startup, you physically switch the drives themselves. Is that right?

(I don't mean doing this regularly since you wouldn't want to keep digging into your computer all the time to swap cables around, I just mean as a once-in-a-while fallback in case something happens to one of the drives.)

If this is possible, then I have another question. I have Windows XP SP2 on my current drive. If I ghost this drive to a new one and install the new drive and it boots okay, can I upgrade the new drive to SP3? Or will that make it so I can't switch back to the original HD that still has SP2 on it?

This page indicates that it would still be possible to switch back:

http://ask-leo.com/if_i_replace_my_hard_drive_will_i_lo...

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"If at some point in the future you decide you don't like Windows 7, you could then simply swap your hard drives back."


If this is true, how would installing new hardware affect it? I guess if you installed new hardware using the newer drive and then switched back to the old one, Windows XP would just install the drivers for the hardware like it normally does when it finds a new device, right?

And lastly, if you did what I said and kept using the old hard drive, could you use the new drive in an external USB enclosure? Or can a bootable disk not be used as an external drive? Or, would it cause the disk to not be bootable anymore?
a b G Storage
July 31, 2010 12:06:52 PM

Should be just fine. They are 2 independent HDs at that point - the first one was just a source. Think of using a photocopier - 2 copies, just showing the same thing. You should be able to install XP sp3 just fine on one - think of it as scribbling on the photocopy, the original is still the same as it was.

I don't see any issue with it being in the external enclosure, either.
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July 31, 2010 8:13:25 PM

gtvr said:
Should be just fine. They are 2 independent HDs at that point - the first one was just a source. Think of using a photocopier - 2 copies, just showing the same thing. You should be able to install XP sp3 just fine on one - think of it as scribbling on the photocopy, the original is still the same as it was.


Thank you gtvr! That makes sense! Now I'm just worried about what happens if I have to do a fresh install of XP on the new drive if the clone fails - would that invalidate the original install on the old hard drive so that I couldn't go back to it anymore?

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I don't see any issue with it being in the external enclosure, either.
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Really? So even after I did that and used it as an external hard drive, I could still take it back out of the enclosure, put it back in the computer, and it would still be able to boot off of it?
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a b G Storage
August 1, 2010 1:27:12 AM

I don't see why not. There's just some files on the HD that allow it to be recognized as bootable, if you don't deliberately delete/modify them, it should work just fine.
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