How to Move a Full Operating System From an Old PC to a New One
Buying a new computer is exciting. It’s blazingly fast, junk-free, and packed with the latest hardware.
But that’s where the excitement ends. Once you power it up for the first time, you’ll quickly realize you’ve taken on a mammoth task. It can take days – if not weeks – to get it set up exactly the way you want. You probably have masses of apps, files, and settings, all of which need to be painstakingly reviewed, moved, and reconfigured.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of doing everything manually, why not try and move your entire operating system (OS) from your old PC to your new PC?
In this article, I’m going to explain how to use Macrium Reflect to clone and move your OS. At the end, I’ll offer a couple of alternative methods for moving files without touching the OS itself.
The Problem With Cloning
Macrium Reflect relies on a principle called cloning. It’s the methodology of choice whether you’re moving to a new PC or merely upgrading to a larger hard drive.
If you’re running Linux, the process is painless. But on Windows, you’re more likely to experience problems.
There are no guarantees that your cloned copy will work successfully on a new machine. Often, the drivers for your new and old hardware won’t match. In the best case, certain parts of your new machine won’t function. In the worst case, your computer won’t boot, and you’ll see a “blue screen of death.”
Of course, you could use the installation disc or even the problematic device’s website to find the new drivers and fix the problems, but it can be a time consuming and frustrating process.
Make a Clone Using Macrium Reflect
With the warning out of the way, here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how to use Macrium Reflect to clone your Windows 10 OS.
Create a Clone
Firstly, you need to grab a copy of the free app from Macrium’s website. Make sure you select Home Use, or you’ll only be able to download a trial of the premium version of the app. The app is almost 1 GB, so the download and installation process might take a while.
When you run the app, you’ll see a list of all the drives connected to your computer. Highlight the drive you want to clone. You can ignore the rest of the interface. In my case, I’ve highlighted the C: drive; it’s where my copy of Windows is installed.
Next, look below the list of drives. You will see an option called Clone this disk…. Click on it to begin the cloning process.
On the following screen, you need to choose your destination disk. You can send your clone to either an external or internal drive, but remember the entire contents of the drive will be deleted.
Drag-and-drop the drive partitions from the disk you want to clone onto your destination disk. Make sure the partitions are in exactly the same order on both disks. You can adjust the size of the partitions to make them fit by clicking on Cloned Partition Properties.
When you’re happy, click Next > Finish to start making your clone.
Restore a Clone
Creating the clone is only half the challenge. Now you need to install the clone on your new PC.
Before proceeding, you need to disable Windows 10’s Secure Boot. It will let you boot your computer from the external hard drive that contains your new clone.
To turn it off, enter your machine’s BIOS menu . It’s typically accessible by pressing a specific key during the boot sequence. The exact key changes from manufacturer to manufacturer. You should find the Secure Boot setting in the Security, Boot, or Authentication tab.
Next, restart your machine and boot from the external USB drive. Again, you might need to enter your computer’s BIOS menu to achieve this.
Your computer should now run the cloned version of Windows 10. Once it’s loaded, reopen Macrium and repeat the cloning steps. This time, you want to clone your USB drive onto your computer’s C: drive.
Let the process complete, turn off your machine, unplug the USB drive, and reboot your computer. You should now have an exact replica of your old machine’s OS on your shiny new PC.
If cloning doesn’t work and your computer refuses to boot, don’t panic. Just perform a clean installation of your OS and your new computer will be good as, um, new.
On a different machine, go to the Windows 10 download site and click Create Windows 10 installation media > Download tool now. Save the image to a USB stick with at least 5 GB of space. Put the USB into your new computer, restart it, and follow the on-screen instructions.
If the cloning was unsuccessful but your machine still boots, you can use the new Windows 10 Fresh Start tool to install a fresh copy of the OS. Head to Settings > Update and security > Recovery > Get Started. Your computer will ask you which files you want to keep, then install a new copy of Windows.
Transfer Your Files
If cloning your OS sounds like too much hassle or too risky, there are other ways to aid your move to a new computer. Rather than moving Windows in its entirety, you just can move your apps and files instead.
Because Microsoft has killed Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 10, you’ll need to use a third-party tool. The Microsoft-approved option is Laplink’s PCmover Express – but it’ll cost you $29.95. It seems excessive considering Windows Easy Transfer was free. The Express version only moves files, settings, and user profiles. You’ll need to pay $44.95 for the Pro version if you want to move apps as well.
Nonetheless, it’s extremely fast and easy to use. Install a copy of the app on both your computers, then follow the transfer wizard to move the stuff you care about and leave behind the junk you no longer need.
If you don’t want to pay the fee, you could use a cloud service, a data cable, or you could even manually connect your old hard drive to your new computer. We’ve covered some of the alternative methods in an article elsewhere on the site. Alternatively, you could use a tool like the portable CloneApp [Broken URL Removed] — we’ve covered it in an article on upgrading to Windows 10 — to back up all your Windows app settings.
Have You Successfully Cloned Windows 10?
In this article, I’ve shown you how to use Macrium Reflect to clone and move your copy of Windows 10 from an old PC to a new one. I’ve also introduced you to a few alternative methods in case cloning is unsuccessful.
Now I want to hear your cloning stories. Have any of you managed to successfully clone Windows 10 and move it to a new machine? Did you use Macrium or a different app? What problems did you encounter?
As always, you can leave all your input in the comments section below. And remember to share the article on social media to continue the conversation elsewhere.
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