Install New, Larger Hard Drive

Dear Computer Lady,

My Computer is about five years old and runs WindowsXP. It runs well thankfully but the 2TB Harddrive is almost full.

I can’t afford a new machine and besides I’m not sure I want windows7 yet.

I’ve been thinking that the best way to fix this issue would be to get a larger Harddrive and move everything to the new drive and make that my new C drive, but I’m not sure of the steps required. I can not afford to lose my current files.So I would please need the steps to do so.

Thank you as always for the help, Phil in Boston


Dear Phil,

It is possible to install a new, larger hard drive in your computer, and create a mirror image of the old drive on the new one, then run the computer from the new, imaged drive.

I have done this before, and it has worked well, however, I have a couple of concerns about your computer. First is the fact that your old computer has completely filled a 2TB hard drive. That is a lot of space and unless you are storing tens of thousands of photos, or hours and hours of video, I would suspect that some kind of problem is causing your drive to fill up. There are viruses that create tons of junk files that fill up a hard drive, or perhaps the drive is old and developing bad sectors and the remaining good sectors are running out of free space.

Next is the fact that your computer is 5 years old. The average computer gets replaced every 5 years, so in computer years, yours is nearing the end of its life. If you install a new, larger hard drive, you still have 5 year old hardware in the rest of the computer, and while it could run for another 5 years, any one of those 5 year old parts could go in the coming weeks or months.

In addition to purchasing a new hard drive, you would also have to either purchase drive imaging software, or hire a computer shop to transfer your files from the old drive to the new one. Since you want to be able to boot the computer from this new, larger drive, you need to do more than just copy the files, you need to make and image. Both Nero and Roxio have programs that will help you with this


Save the Stress - Get Back On Track

No matter what you decide to do, it is wise to backup your files. You never know when a computer hard drive will crash, and when it does, your files that you can’t afford to lose will be gone. You might be able to get them back with a data recovery service, but that will cost you thousands of dollars. Be sure to back up your files now, before disaster strikes!

My ideal solution for your situation would be to purchase a larger hard drive, install Windows XP on it (a clean install, not a copy of windows on your old drive) and then copy your files over to the new drive. This will speed up your computer, and correct any problems caused by software rot. This will give you the longest possible life for your older computer.


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    • ron007
    • September 2, 2011

    I generally agree with what the Lady has said.

    A 5 year old computer is getting a little long in the tooth. That being said, if you are still satisfied with it, don’t bother replacing it until it dies. However her point about a 5 year old HD is a good one. That is very much in the danger zone. But 5 years ago, 2TB disks would have been HUGELY expensive, so how old is it really?

    First thing to do is RUN out and buy a couple of 2tb external USB drives (cost around $150, maybe less). Do a Full Image Copy Backup IMMEDIATELY! (Use maximum compression) Just in case the HD crashes, you won’t lose everything.

    Next, it is time to do some housekeeping. As the Lady said, no “normal” person is going to use 2TB of files on a regular basis unless they have a huge Video or Audio or Photo library / business. Search the internet for a “duplicate file Finder” utility. These things read through the drive and identify potentially duplicate files. You have to verify that they really are duplicate, then delete the “extras”.

    Next you want to identify files that you can archive. Files that you want to keep, but don’t use regularly. You can use a tool like SpaceSnifer or TreeSize or WinDirStat to help you identify the largest files and folders. These tools present the file and folder sizes graphically to make it easy to find the large ones. Start moving the unused files to the external USB drive. If you use a tool like DriveImageXML to archive unused files you can use file compression and still be able to extract them easily.

    Next, run the check disk utility to see if there are any HD problems. If the utility creates temp CHK files, review them and in most cases you can simply delete them because the are unusable fragment. That has the potential to free up a lot of space.

    Next, run a disk defragmentation tool. After 5 years, your disk is bound to be severely fragmented. This may free up a little space (don’t expect much) but it also has the potential to speed up your disk access by reducing fragments. And reducing fragments will reduce wear and tear on the HD, slightly reducing the chance of failure.

    The simplest fix for you is to just install a new (2 tb?) internal drive and use it as a D: drive. It is very easy to do. Or you can work with an external USB drive.

    I would also strongly suggest you consider repartitioning your HD. A better strategy than “everything in C:” is to use C: for Windows and applications and a D: partition for data. That way, if you have to re-install Windows, you can do it without affecting your personal data files. Much easier and Much safer! Actually, I agree with the Lady’s suggestion. After you do everything else (ESPECIALLY the backups) I think you’ll find that re-installing windows will fix a lot of little errors, issues, problems that have crept into your computer. Windows is notorious for “software rot”. Over time it “goes bad”. I’ve read many people who suggest that you re-install windows every 6 to 12 months!

    If you have 2TB (or close to it) of personal files, you should have a good periodic backup strategy in place. Since you have so many files, I suspect you place a high (personal if not also monetary) value on them. Periodic backups to capture new files as they are created will minimize your data loss when the HD or computer INEVITABLY dies. A good strategy is Monthly full image copy with weekly “Incremental” backups in between if you are creating many new files.

    • binaryman
    • September 9, 2011

    Hi ComputerLady

    I use Directory Report to find where all my space is going
    It has a classic look which is easy to use
    Unlike the confusing colored treemap of WinDirStat
    It is also faster than WinDirStat

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