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Replacing your Win2000 primary hard drive

Jun 5, 2002

I recently spent a lot of time beating my head in against a problem with my wife's Win2000 PC. The hard drive in it started making all sorts of nasty clunking sounds which is a good indication that the drive is going to die soon. So we went out and purchased another hard drive to replace the original one.

Adding a second hard drive to Windows is not that difficult. The instructions included with the new hard drive are quite clear and I've done it several times before. However, the goal with this task was not to add a drive, but to replace the existing one. On the surface, it's a simple task. 1) Add the new drive as a second drive. 2) Copy over all of the files from the original drive. 3) Remove the first drive and boot from the second.

It's a good outline, but the problem is that MS Windows will lock a lot of critical files while it's running and those file won't be copied, thus the new hard drive won't boot correctly. So, after many hours of banging my head against the wall, this is what finally worked for me:

  1. Install the new hard drive as a second drive. Instructions on how to do this should come with the new hard drive.
  2. Copy all of the files from the bad drive to the new drive. The xcopy command is a good choice to do this. Run 'help' to view all of the options to xcopy. You'll want to suppress errors so the copy will skip over any locked files. While this does the grunt work of copying over the vast majority of your files, it does not produce a bootable Win2000 drive. Those locked files are vital.
  3. Next, run the backup program to preserve your Start menu and other program settings. Mark the entire c:\WINDWOWS directory, or whichever directory name you installed Win2000 into, to be backed up. Mark your "My Documents" and any other "My something" directories. Also mark the registry for backup. This is called "Server Settings" or something like that. It's the bottom checkbox after all of your drive partitions are listed. Finally tell the backup to be to a file on your new hard drive rather than to any tape drive or other removable drives that you might have. You can enable compression if you'd like, but frankly it doesn't matter much. Personally, I'd leave it off because the backup will be faster that way.

    The reason that you're doing this additional backup is that you'll need to reinstall Win2000 on the new, second drive. While this will straighten out the locked files problem, it will also wipe the "Start Menu" of any programs that you happen to have installed, as well as your "My Documents" directory. It will also reinstall any older versions of the Win2000 files you might have updated through service patches or what not.

  4. Remove your first hard drive and reconfigure the second drive to act as the primary drive. All this should require is changing the jumpers from slave to master.
  5. Attempt to reboot your machine. See? I told you that the missing locked files would prevent it from booting up correctly. Fortunately you can boot the computer from your Win2000 system CDROM. Fire that up and choose to reinstall Win2000 in the same directory as before. It'll give you a couple of warnings about overwriting the "My Documents" and start menu, but you're prepared for that already.
  6. After Win2000 is done reinstalling, fire up the backup program again and restore the files. This will put your Start Menu and "My Documents" directories back together again correctly. You might have to reinstall a couple of device drivers at this point, but the vast majority of the programs will be working again correctly.
  7. Crack open a refreshing beverage of your choice and relax now that your PC is up and running again with a new primary hard drive. All of those clunking noises should be a thing of the past. That is until the next drive crashes...


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to drop Rene an email at rene@astutecomputing.com. If you would like assistance in setting up this kind of feature on your website, please contact us for a quote.


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