The last couple issues of Langa List has included the problem of removing the OS from an old drive, leaving your other files. I thought it was a good resource to have around.

I saved this article as a HTML file and put a bookmark to it. That way I can find it easily.
1) Reusing An Old Drive In A New PC The item "Delete Just the OS Files; Leave The Rest" ( ) brought this related mail, which also lets us touch on the subject of reusing an older hard drive in a newer system:

I just built myself an Athlon 64 system to replace my "old" Athlon Tbird system

I'm running WinXP Pro on both systems. I'd like to take the hard drive out of the older system and put it in as an extra drive on the new system.

In doing so, I'd like to get rid of the OS on the older drive. How can I do that short of just deleting the c:\WINNT and Windows folders? ---Jack Lavelle

You don't say whether or not you want to retain the other files on that drive, but I'll assume you do--- and that's why you don't want to just reformat to clear the drive. I'll also assume that these are conventional, standard IDE drives.

First, you want to make sure the data on the old drive is safe: You need a good backup, of course. (This way, even if something goes wrong and you do have to reformat the old drive, you won't lose anything.)

If you don't have a practical way to back up the whole drive to CD or DVD or whatnot, you might want to use your local network, or a temporary lash-up, or a "direct cable" connection so you can use the "Files and Settings Transfer Wizard" to grab files and folders off the old drive and make at least a temporary copy on the new drive. (See references at the end of this item for more info.) Normal networking functions--- copy/paste from one system to the other--- will let you move whatever the Wizard doesn't.

Once the old drive is backed up, you can power down that system and remove the drive. What you do next depends on how the new system is configured, but in short, you have to figure out where the old drive will connect. The physical part is easy: If there's an empty drive bay in your system, the drive simply bolts or snaps in place. (Again, see references at the end of this item.) The real issue is how you get the data from the drive to the system, and back again. A system builder, like Jack, probably already knows the following, but let's include it for completeness:

Typical systems provide data connectors for four mass-storage devices--- some combination of hard drives, CD drives, etc. There usually are two separate connectors on the motherboard; these used to be called "primary" and "secondary" but that implied a prioritization that really didn't exist, so most vendors now simply label the connectors IDE1 and IDE2. Each connector accepts one cable that in turn can attach to two devices at the same time. Traditionally, one of the two devices is called the "master" device and the other a "slave," although this terminology is fading due to a lawsuit claiming that this language is racially and historically insensitive. (I'm not making this up.) So, some vendors are recycling the older connector terminology and calling the devices on each cable "primary" and "secondary;" although you may run into the older master/slave terminology on your hardware. Thus, using this newer terminology, the four available device connections would be IDE1 Primary, IDE1 Secondary, IDE2 Primary, IDE2 Secondary.
In general, you may do better to put devices with similar speeds and throughputs on the same cable: EG, if you have two hard drives and two CD drives, put the hard drives on one cable, and the CDs on the other. Then, set the faster of each pair of devices to be that cable's primary, and the slower one that cable's secondary. (This is only a broad rule of thumb, but it usually works OK.)

You normally set a device to be primary or secondary via small switches or "jumpers" on the back of the drive. But some drives use "cable select" which is kind of an automatic way to handle the primary/secondary assignments. If both devices on a cable are set to employ "cable select" mode, it should work OK, but I prefer to do things the older, more certain way and physically set one drive to be primary, and the other to be secondary. This also helps in cases like the one we're discussing, where an old, bootable drive will be installed next to a new bootable drive. Setting the new drive to primary, and the old drive to secondary, will help ensure that the system boots from the correct (new) drive.

How do you set the drive priority? Many drives show you where the settings are and how they can be set via paste-on labels or engraved pictograms right on the drive housing. But not all do. In that case, visit the drive maker's site: All the major drive vendors have online information showing you how to set up their drives in a variety of configurations.

Once both drives are in the new system, and you've booted to the new drive, you can then use your new XP installation to access the contents of the old drive, which will be "D:" or another letter, higher than that of the boot drive, which is usually C:. (Historical aside: Early PCs came with only audio cassette data storage, and/or one floppy, which--- being first--- was called the A: drive. As data needs grew, PCs got a second floppy, B:. Much later, when hard drives arrived, it was natural to assign them the next letter, C:. Today, PCs may not have any floppies, but hard drives still usually get called C:, a vestigial remnant of the early days of computing.)

You then can do whatever you want with the old drive, although it might be wise to remove or rename the system folders, just to avoid any possible confusion between the old and the new setups. In any case, you're free to shuffle the data around; move, resize, add or subtract partitions, etc, as discussed in .

And yes, in XP, the \Windows and/or \Winnt folders, plus the \Program Files folder, are where most of the OS and installed software lives, along with some boot files in the C:\ folder itself. Removing or renaming these files effectively neuters XP, rendering it unable to function, while preserving the rest of the disk structure and contents.