I ran across a request for technical support on Facebook today. It seems that there is still a shortage of technical nerds in the outlying provinces of the country. This is understandable to me. Why would you live away from decent healthcare and a wide variety of shopping opportunities? It’s cheaper to live out in the boonies for very good reasons. It pays one to understand what the tradeoffs are for that relaxed country living.
There are no computer outlets in Rotan, or pretty much anywhere USA that can be navigated by referencing the one stoplight in town. This means that if you want your computer upgraded you will have to DIY it or you will have to go somewhere USA that features more than one strip mall. I’m a cheapskate even if I do pay through the nose to be near places that can do stuff for me, so I tend to DIY most things before calling someone to fix the mess I’ve made.
In this particular instance, the person was inquiring about getting their programs and data onto a new system. I’ve done this countless times with my own data and with other people’s data. It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, find everything that came with your old system. This is the justification on my part for keeping every stray bit of garbage that ships with my computer systems and other technical doodads. There is an entire garage full of useless empty boxes that can attest to this tendency of mine.
Hopefully you’ve tossed all the installation media that came with the original system into the empty shipping box, along with every other program you installed over the years that you’ve used that system.
Without the original installation media, it will be hard to make the programs work if you transfer to a new hard drive or a new windows installation. My suggestion would be to track down the programs you know you will need to re-install, first. Then make a decent backup. There are several pay systems out there that will back up you data for you, but you can also DIY that yourself with a series of DVD’s, or just get a separate backup drive and make a backup on that drive (this is something everyone should be periodically doing, and virtually no one does. Until it is too late) make a backup before proceeding further.
Crack the case open on both systems and see if the drive cables are the same type. If they are, then try to move the old drive to the new system. There may be some fiddly BIOS settings you will need to do in order to boot to the other drive, so you will probably have to get into the BIOS at startup to make that work. There should be a visible prompt on the screen advising you of how to get into the BIOS. Nearly every computer does this.
If the old drive boots in the new system, you are golden. No worries. You can reformat the new hard drive that came with the system and use it for data storage. Like backing up, putting your personal data on a separate drive from the operating system is just good computer hygiene. If the OS craps out on a separate drive (the most frequent problem) you can just reformat that drive and reinstall the OS without disturbing your personal data. Be careful to reformat the right drive! Can’t tell you the number of times that error has been made. Even I have done it.
If the old drive doesn’t boot in the new system, or if it is a different type of hard drive, then you are going to have to re-install the programs yourself or pay someone to do it for you. At least you will have the media to install from because you found the media before starting this process. Then you do the opposite of what I described above, and remove the old OS folders from your data drive, placing your data where you can find it again somewhere else on that drive.
The process is not easy. I will not say that four letter word willingly on any subject. However, it is doable by anyone with the patience it takes to carefully go through the steps I’ve outlined above. I hate dealing with hardware myself. I’m always convinced I’ve just made another expensive paperweight every time I crack open a case. The number of times that has been true has been less than double digits, and I’ve cracked open somewhere near a hundred different computer cases over the years.