hard drive

Copy data files from an old hard drive to a new system

Question: My dell 8400 tower went down, replaced power supply and ..nothing. How can I get everything off the hard drive, install into another tower, or take it somewhere to download to external drive?

Answer: From what you've described, it sounds like your motherboard is probably fried. Since the Dell 8400 series run an old Pentium 4 processor, it's probably not worth bothering with trying to replace the motherboard and you're better off trying to get the data off the hard drive and replace the system altogether.

You have a couple options for doing this. You can hook up the hard drive as a slave drive in your new system, or you can use an IDE adapter that plugs into a USB port and treats your hard drive like an external USB drive.

Either way you'll need to remove the hard drive from your old system, which is easy to do. Remove the screws from the outer casing (some cases let you slide the side off without removing screws) and locate the hard drive. There will be a flat thin cable about 2 inches wide connecting it to the motherboard. Remove the screws holding the hard drive to your case (usually 2 on each side) and then remove all cables and power cords going into the hard drive.

IDE Adapter

The easiest way to get data from your old hard drive onto another desktop system or laptop is to connect it using an IDE adapter. The adapter will connect your hard drive with your other system's USB port, and will let you copy files over just like it was a USB flash drive.

Why is my hard drive still fragmented after running Windows defrag?

Question: I ran defrag on my Windows XP box to hopefully speed things up, but it still left quite a few files that are fragmented. What gives?

Answer: Defragging your hard drive should be like giving your car an oil change and dropping a can of octane booster into your gas tank. It should speed things up and make your system run smoother.

What gives is that the built-in Windows defrag program completely sucks. It's slow and doesn't do a very thorough job, as you've seen first hand.

The story gets worse with Vista, and the built-in defrag utility doesn't even show the graph anymore, so you can't even see how many files are still fragmented. I guess Microsoft decided it would be better to not even show people how ineffective the defragmentation program is!

You'll get much better results from a third party defrag program like Diskeeper, and better system performance too.

Diskeeper just released their 2009 version, and you can download a free 30-day trial to see what a fully defragmented hard drive really feels like. I ran it on my 160GB hard drive that's half full, and it took less than 30 minutes to defrag it - much faster than the hours it can take for Window's defrag utility to run.

I like that you can see a graph of the files on your system, so you can visualize the defragmentation of your hard drive. Here's a screen shot of my hard drive after running Diskeeper 2009, showing blue for files that have been defragmented and red for files that are still fragmented (you'll have to look hard for any red lines):

Wondering what file fragmentation means, and if it can affect your system's performance?

How to copy the contents of one hard drive to another

Question: I have a computer with a 20GB drive and would like to install a 80GB drive that I have, as the 20GB drive has under 1GB remaining. Can I use imagining software to copy all Programs, files, and folders (including system files) from the old drive to this bigger drive, and make it be the startup drive? What would be the best software for me to use?

Answer: Yes, you can copy the contents of one hard drive to another, as long as the drive you're copying to is as large or larger than the old drive, and as long as you have the right software. You can even copy installed programs and the operating system over to the new drive, so you don't need to spend money on another Windows license or worry about re-installing programs.

Both hard drives will need to be connected to your motherboard using a standard IDE cable. Two hard drives can be connected with the same IDE cable - just make sure that the old drive (master) is connected to the first available connector slot, and the new drive (slave) is connected to the middle slot on the cable.

You'll need a software program to copy over the old hard drive's contents to the new hard drive, also known as "ghosting" or "disk imaging".

I'll discuss 2 disk imaging programs in this article - one that's both a ghosting program and a backup program, and another lighter-weight solution that only handles disk copying (and is more affordable too).

Norton Ghost

Norton Ghost is a well known and trusted program that will duplicate your old drive directly to another drive.

Norton's step-by-step wizards make it easy to copy the contents of your old drive to your new hard drive, even if you're not super technical or very good with computers.

How to copy programs, files, and settings to your new PC

There are a couple easy ways to transfer your software programs from one hard drive to another, or from one computer to another - and without breaking the bank.

Let's say you recently purchased a new computer or laptop, and you'd like to move or copy the installed applications from the old computer to the new one.

Or maybe you purchased a second hard drive that's bigger and faster than your current hard drive, and you'd like to move programs from the old hard drive to the new one.

1. Laplink PCmover is a migration utility that moves programs, files, and settings from your old PC to your new PC.

The Best Selling PC Migration Utility.Windows writes certain keys to your computer's registry when you install a program, and makes associations with other modules and/or installed programs. It's almost impossible to manually transfer these settings to another computer, which is what PCmover does automatically.

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