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Storage & Data Center Solutions

How to upgrade to a larger hard drive

Corinda Farley bought a new hard drive for her old computer. How does she get Windows, her programs, and her files onto the new drive?

You can't simply remove your old hard drive, then install a new one, and expect Windows to boot. You need to bring everything, including Windows itself, to the new drive. That's not a difficult task, but it's not an intuitive one, either.

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com.]

First, you need to connect the new drive to the PC, without losing the old one. If your PC has an extra bay (likely in a desktop, unlikely in a laptop), and you feel comfortable working inside a PC, you can install the new drive as a secondary drive. Just make sure that the BIOS remains set to boot from the old drive.

However, if you don't have a spare bay, or if you're not comfortable inside a PC, you can temporarily turn the new drive into an external one. For this, you'll need either a SATA-USB adapter or a SATA-USB enclosure. Either can be bought for less than $20.

What's the difference? An enclosure is basically an adapter in a case. It gives you the option of turning an internal drive more or less permanently into an external one. In other words, it provides a use for the old drive when you're done.

Once you've got the connection, you need software that can clone one drive to the other. I recommend EaseUS Todo Backup Free. It's intuitive. In addition to cloning, it does file and image backups, making it a good all-around tool. And, as the name implies, it's free.

Once you've installed and launched the program, click Clone in the left pane. Then click Disk clone and follow the wizard.

You didn't buy a bigger drive so you could keep the small partitions. So on the wizard's last page, before you click Proceed, resize the partitions on the target drive (the new one), taking advantage of the larger space.

Cloning a drive over a USB connection can take hours. After you click Proceed, take a long break. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Watch a movie.

When it's done, shut down the PC and swap the drives. Then boot it to make sure that everything works. That first boot will be a bit slow as Windows adjusts to the new hardware. After that, it should be smooth sailing.

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