How to Copy One Hard Drive to Another

Want to copy one hard drive to another? How you do it depends on your system configuration and what files you're looking to copy. If you need to copy your hard drive contents, keep these considerations in mind.

Think About Your System Configuration
The easiest way to copy a hard drive is to hook up an external hard drive through a USB port. With a USB drive, you simply plug in the external drive and it's ready to go. Just drag the image of your hard drive over to the icon for the external drive, and everything will be copied. There's just one major drawback: it takes a long time. Depending on how much data you've got on your hard drive, it could be more than 24 hours before the copying process completes. Make sure that your external hard drive has more storage space than your internal drive, otherwise you won't be able to copy everything.

If you're copying an internal hard drive, you need to think about which device is the master hard drive and which one is the slave so that your computer will boot properly. Unless you've got an operating system installed on your new hard drive, you'll need to leave your old hard drive as the master and insert the new drive as the slave. Consult your hard drive manual to determine how to configure the drives. From there, you can copy the old hard drive and then switch the new one to master.

Manual Copying
The question of how to copy hard drive to hard drive becomes a lot simpler when you're only copying important files. If you need to copy documents, photos or music files from one hard drive to another, you can do it manually. Simply select the files you want to copy, right-click with your mouse and then choose copy. Once you've copied the files, go to your destination folder on your other hard drive, right-click again and click paste. The files copy over automatically. You can also do this by right-clicking on the files you want to send and selecting the Send To option. From there, you can specify the other hard drive.

You Need Software to Copy Programs
Unlike music files and photos, you need special software to correctly copy old hard drive programs. This doesn't apply if you're backing up the entire contents of your hard drive, but it does come into play if you only want to save certain pieces of software.

Programs contain links to the System Registry and references to hidden files, which do not transfer when you simply copy and paste the program files. Acronis and Ghost are two of the most popular disc-cloning programs, and both of these can perform a complete hard drive backup by copying these hidden elements from one hard drive to another. 

Check for Included Software
Some external hard drives come with software already installed that enables you to copy the contents of your hard drive. These external hard drives are designed to backup your computer, and they make it easy to copy the entire contents of your hard drive with the click of a button.

With an external hard drive that has backup software pre-installed, you don't need anything else to help you copy one hard drive to another. However, not all software that comes with external hard drives is designed to backup your system, so make sure you understand what your software does instead of automatically assuming it's a backup program.

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