Getting Windows Functional on Legacy HDD in New Build

My relatively ancient Dell XPS 600 died (fried mb) while powered up, but inactive. The XPS had 3 identical 250 GB Maxtor SATA 150 HDDs. When the mb died, my OS (Windows 7 Professional x64) and all software and data were on the boot drive. The other two drives were configured as RAID 1 (nVidia) and used for backup.

I've just finished building my dream replacement system (sans new HDDs for now) with the intent of reusing my legacy boot drive with data intact, and repurposing the legacy RAID drives as separate, non-RAID drives moving my data from the boot drive to one of the repurposed drives and using the other as my backup drive. Later, I intended to replace the legacy boot drive with an SSD, and the legacy drives then being used for data and backup with a pair of much larger hybrid drives.

While my build looks great, I haven't been able to get Windows on the legacy boot drive up and running. The mb (Asus P9X79 Deluxe) recognizes the boot drive and Windows boots to Startup Repair (not unexpected, given the combination of mb failure in-session on the old PC and completely different hardware). Startup Repair grinds away for an hour or so and then gives up. I tried booting from the Windows 7 DVD and selecting System Repair, but get the exact same results. I do not have access to any other desktop PCs, and my backups on the legacy RAID drives are essentially worthless, unless I invest in relatively expensive RAID recovery software, so it's essential I do nothing to compromise the data on my legacy boot drive.

If I do a clean install of Windows 7 on my legacy boot drive, all my data shouldl be preserved and moved to a windows.old directory, but due to lack of usable backup, I have zero tolerance for anything going wrong in the process.

While troubleshooting and verifying that the Windows install disk correctly recognized my legacy boot drive, I entered Windows 7 custom install to the point of selecting the drive for the install. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 Consumer Preview gave me the same results: both recognized 2 of the 3 legacy drives (again not suprising), but noting that Windows could not be installed to either drive. The reason: "The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed to GPT disks."

Any suggestions on how to proceed?

My best guess is to break down and buy a new drive and install Windows to the new drive. Then, assuming Windows can access the legacy boot drive (no reason why not, correct?), temporarily move data from the legacy boot drive to the new drive, reformat the legacy drives, move my data from the boot drive to my newly formatted data drive, and set up one of the remaining legacy drives for backup.
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  1. dsopocy said:
    "The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed to GPT disks."

    That's quite a surprise to me, but I've never had an EFI board.

    I suggest that you

    1) Download any bootable tool that will do partition work. EASEUS Partition Master, the bootable Parted Magic distro, anything you already use.

    2) Attach only one of the two disks that you are scratching and boot to the partition tool.

    3) Use the tool to delete any partitions on the drive, and then re-initialize it as an MBR drive. If you don't know GPT from MBR, they are two ways of setting up a drive's partition table. MBR has been around for ages, is limited to 2.2 GiB, and writes an old-style boot record. GPT - ehh, I don't know, check Wikipedia.

    4) Still with only that drive attached, install Win7.

    5) Then boot to Win7, attach your old drive, and read all the files on it.


    Some pieces of unasked-for advice:

    6) Those drives are old. Buy newer ones if you can; they will be faster. Of course, buy an 80 GB or larger SSD for your system drive if money permits.

    7) RAID1 for backups is fine, but internal backups are not safe. They can be destroyed along with the originals by malware, exploding power supplies, rain, cats, and three-year-olds banging the computer on the wall.

    8) What you were trying to do probably violates the license terms. If the OS came pre-installed on the old Dell, it may not be transferred to a new machine.

    Have fun, and good luck!
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