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Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to Transfer your Complete Windows 7 Installation to a New Computer

Windows 7 System Preparation Tool is a powerful, native Windows tool. When for instance used in Audit Mode, it lets you to freely configure Windows 7 to be then deployed to other computers as hardware independent image.

In this tutorial we use System Preparation Tool (sysprep) to prepare your Windows 7 installation to be moved to a new computer, keeping all your installed applications, program settings and user profiles intact. You can use this method when you buy a new PC and want to transfer your existing setup completely, without the need to reinstall everything, or when you want to make major hardware changes like change the motherboard or GPU, which would usually cause Windows to stop booting normally.

Using this method causes Windows 7 to lose all activation information, and it needs to be reactivated afterwards. If your Windows 7 is an OEM version, you might not be able to reactivate afterwards, at least not without phone activation option.

With today's hardware evolution, most of us are upgrading the hardware more often than operating system. Upgrading hardware can be painfully slow process if we need to reinstall the operating system and all our installed applications, plus transfer program settings and user profiles.

Using sysprep makes this easy. Changing the mother board or an old GPU to a new GPU quite often causes Windows 7 boot issues. This fact is usually painful, because you will then have to reinstall the OS and all applications and transfers user profiles from a backup location.

Same issue arises when you buy a new computer with completely different hardware setup compared to the old one, or when you try to restore a system image to different hardware setup. Normally this would include a complete re installation of Windows 7 and all applications.

Why not use sysprep to avoid reinstalling? Here are the different scenarios where you can use it.


Changing hardware components but keeping old hard disk(s)

1.   Before installing new hardware, boot Windows 7 normally

3.   Type to Command Prompt: C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe, and hit Enter

4.   In sysprep dialog that opens, choose System Cleanup Action as Enter System Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE), select Generalize, and select Shutdown Options Shutdown. Click OK

5.   Sysprep generalizes now your Windows 7 setup and shuts down your computer. Do not run any other programs during this phase!

6.   Switch the main power of your PC off and install the new hardware OR dismount the hard disk(s) and mount it (them) to a new computer

7.   Boot the PC from sysprep generalized hard disk. You will notice Windows booting as if it was the first boot after installation, installing default drivers and updating registry. One or two reboots are needed, depending on your system specifications

8.   When Windows finally boots up, you will need to enter all information as if this really was a new, fresh installation

9.   Because your old user profiles already exist, Windows does not accept your normal username, but instead you have to create a new temporary user. I use username Test for this purpose

10.  When login screen appears, choose your old user account to login

11.  Windows boots now to default OOBE first boot desktop, with default 800*600 resolutions and default theme. All your installed applications are there, as well as your old user profiles and folders. Windows has installed the default drivers for your setup; you can update them if needed

12.  Go to Control Panel > User Accounts and delete the temporary user account (in this case Test) that you just created


Change the hard disk(s) or move Windows 7 setup to a new computer using third party imaging software

1.   Follow steps 1 through 5 above (method 1)

2.   Boot PC with an imaging CD/DVD (Paragon, Macrium etc.)

3.   Create an image of your system

4.   Turn PC off, change the hard disk(s) and reboot with imaging application, restoring the image OR boot the new computer with imaging software and restore the image

5.   Continue from step 7 above (method 1)


Change the hard disk(s) or move Windows 7 setup to a new computer using Windows Seven's native Backup and Restore

1.   Follow steps 1 through 5 above (method 1)

2.   Change the hardware components you want to, letting the old Hard Disk be still mounted as system disk OR if transferring to a new computer, mount the old HD to the new computer as system (boot) disk

3.   Boot computer normally, continuing from step 7 above (method 1)

4.   Launch Windows Seven Backup and Restore create a complete system image. This tutorial shows you how: Backup Complete Computer - Create an Image Backup

5.   Shut down the computer, dismount the HD and mount the new one

6.   Boot from Windows 7 installation DVD, choosing Repair > Restore an image, using the image you created in previous step. This tutorial shows you how (from Step Two / 7): System Image Recovery

7.   When image is restored, boot your computer normally

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