Can I copy a Windows installation or recovery files from one computer to install the operating system on another?

Tom September 29, 2011

Is it possible to copy the original recovery files or partition of a computer and use it to install Windows for another computer with different specifications?

  1. Mike
    October 2, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I would love to give you an definite answer but there really isn't one ~ it may or may not work. If I had to I would say No, it isn't.

    It depends on whether the recovery files are generic or customized installations, hard disk images of a preinstalled system and if it's an open format or brand specific recovery system and image type.

    As far as I know HP has both brand and model specific recovery kits therefor I don't think this will work. In that particular case I would suggest to order the HP Recovery Kit for your model.

  2. Tommy Kogwuonye
    October 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    So is it possible to copy the said recovery files from one laptop of different make to use in installing windows 7 in another different laptop but of the same company make? Say from HP Pavilion DV6 and copy to HP Compaq Presario.

    October 1, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Hello, this is a partial answer with regards to moving your operating system to a new computer/harddrive as is.  I am not sure about the recovery partition though.

    It is a paid program that delivers what it promises.  As you know, before doing/implementing any changes like the one you are planning, it is strongly recommended to make backups.

  4. Williams1167
    October 1, 2011 at 2:54 am

    If I may, this is more of a question than comment asked but not directly answered.  I only have the hard disk from my old laptop & when plugged into a usb port shows the os.  Can I, and if so, HOW, copy it onto disk to be used to install on my other laptop hard disk that had to be completely wiped clean?

    • Bruce Epper
      October 1, 2011 at 3:13 am

      The question you are asking is not the same question originally posed here.  Either way, the only real answer is "it depends."  You can try the steps in the posting referenced by Jeff.  If the drive is going back into the same laptop, it should work.  If it is going into another one, it might work, but then again, it might not.

  5. Mike
    September 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    The suggested method is using the Automated System Recovery to restore Windows XP to a new system via the ASR floppy disk.

    As for OEM recovery files I agree with Bruce that they are most likely modified to meet the specific system and hardware of your current computer. Also in most newer system the recovery system is embedded to the recovery partition and boot menu and you are most likely not capable to transfer and use it on a different system.

    Having that said it is also a legal question. Systems that ship with Windows usually come with an OEM licence which is bound to the hardware and the licencing doesn't allow you to transfer it to a new computer.
    Of course if you have another valid licence for the new computer you are allowed to use the existing installation media.

  6. Bruce Epper
    September 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Most OEM systems that ship with a recovery disk or partition will not install on another dissimilar system due to the fact that the OEM typically modifies the installation for their hardware, strips out device drivers that will not be used on that particular system, adds custom drivers for the hardware on that system, and the OEM product key is locked to the motherboard and CPU on that system.  That is why when you have a motherboard failure on an OEM system, you must replace the motherboard with the same make and model in order to reinstall the system from the recovery partition.

  7. Sonny Bass
    September 30, 2011 at 11:58 am

    EaseUs Todo backup free claims to be able to restore to dissimilar hardware. I have not tried this function myself. It is highly rated.

  8. Sonny Bass
    September 30, 2011 at 11:58 am

    EaseUs Todo backup free claims to be able to restore to dissimilar hardware. I have not tried this function myself. It is highly rated.

  9. Jeff Fabish
    September 30, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Yes, but it's a lengthy process. See How to copy a Windows installation.

    • Bruce Epper
      September 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      The link you provided shows a way to move an active Windows installation to another hard drive.  In most cases this will not work with dissimilar hardware and means absolutely nothing with regard to the recovery partition in the original question.  Most hard drive manufacturers ship new drives with software that will accomplish the same thing with much less pain for the end user.

      • Mike
        September 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

        The biggest limitation is the Hardware Abstract Layer
        Both, the source and the target system need to use the same HAL drivers. For example you cannot move from an ACPI uniprocessor to an ACPI multiprocessor (Single-Core to Multi-Core ACPI) or to any other HAL. 
        The only exceptions of that rule is moving from an ACPI multiprocessor to ACPI uniprocessor or from an MPS multiprocessor to an MPS uniprocessor.

        If that is not the case you will have to change this using the UPTOMP Tool

        For an up and running Windows XP installation there are two additional limitations:1. You cannot move an installation from an SATA controller in IDE-Mode to an AHCI/RAID configured controller.
        2. You cannot move an installation from an SATA controller in AHCI/RAID mode of manufacturer ABC to another AHCI/RAID controller of manufacturer XYZ

        Again, there are work-arounds by manually installing and activating the necessary controller drivers but anyone who has ever tried to switch from IDE-Mode to AHCI/RAID mode even on the same controller will know that this is a longshot.

        For Windows 7 there shouldn't be any limitations in that regard since it does include the necessary AHCI/RAID drivers for most controllers.

        The two issues you will face are missing device drivers and your Windows Activation will be reset and must be re-validated.

        One of the biggest problems and why most people don't attempt doing this is because of drive lettering and hardware GUIDs. 
        For example if you clone your installation to a new drive the hard disks GUID will change. This causes Windows to assign a different drive letter to the new drive which obviously leads to major problems while booting Windows.
        Even if you move the old Hard Drive to the new system there are possibilities of a drive letter change e.g. if the drive is no longer on the same master/slave channel.

        Solving such a problem would require a lot of manual editing to the Windows registry in regions a user should usually not touch. In most cases you will hear or read from people to perform a repair installation of Windows after moving hardware because this will address any changes in GUIDs and take care of all the drive lettering.

        In conclusion it is very much possible to move a working installation but as Jeff said it is a lengthy process and in most cases cause more problems and headaches then doing a reinstallation and migrating your user to the new system.

        • beneaththebs
          October 1, 2011 at 2:28 am

          you provide all of the can'ts and won't of the process, which in it's necessity is quite useful, however, can you provide the info thats useful to accomplish the job (lengthy or not) for copying the os from one hard drive to install it to another?  In most cases, the question at hand is usually the task that is trying to be achieved.  It is only when that task is completed that one can move on to the worries of the next, such as you describe and if it is an issue at all. I am not trying to be sarcastic in anyway, however, when people are trying to learn what you obviously already know, they learn best when not overwhelmed w/ info that may not only be useless or apply to what they are attempting to accomplish. The only thing more overwhelming, frustrating, & annoying is when the answer provided is not one specific to the question asked. The lengthy process of the task at hand is now more time consuming & wasted having had to read useless info & then resume the search yet again for the answer to the asked question. So please consider & pass this tidbit of info before the next time someone's search for knowledge turns into a personal exhibition of computer intellect & wit. 

        • Mike
          October 1, 2011 at 8:40 am

          Jeff outlined the steps on how to copy an existing installation onto a new system. I simply contributed the technical limitations and how to solve a few of the occurring problems.

          As for your question:
          You can either copy and existing installation from one Hard Drive to another (e.g. using xcopy in Windows, dd in UNIX or some cloning software) or you can install an operating system from an installation media.

          Using an existing installation as the source for a new installation is a task not intended to be done. 

          The following explanation will not solve your problem posted in the other comment since it requires booting up the existing (source) installation.

          You will first have to create an installation media from the existing installation using the Windows XP Deployment Tools or the Windows Automated Installation Kit for Vista respectively Windows 7. For a Debian based Linux distribution you should look intoRemastersys.

          Sysprep Windows XP ~ if you downloaded the Deployment Tools you can skip the part with the CDCapturing and Deploying Windows 7

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