How can I move a hard drive from one computer to another?

by on February 23, 2009

Q: I have 2 computers and I want to combine into one.

I’ve formatted and reinstalled Windows XP on one and formatted the other. I want to take the hard drive out of the one with Windows XP and put it in the one without as the master, and change the one that’s already in it to be the slave. I have no experience with building so any guidence would be much appreciated.

3 Responses to “How can I move a hard drive from one computer to another?”
    Picked as best answer

    First, be aware that putting a Windows XP that was installed in one computer into another computer will probably cause technical problems; you should reinstall Windows XP again once the hard drive is in the computer of your choice. And it is probably illegal (and maybe prevented by the manufacturer) to use your Windows XP in a different computer than the one with which it came (unless yours is a retail copy of Windows XP).

    In desktop computers, there are basically two kinds of hard drive connections. Both of these are “idiot proof”, which means that it is almost impossible to connect the wrong kind of cable, etc:

    The older of the two is called IDE (sometimes called PATA or ATA). Within IDE, there are two methods for configuring the hard drives (assuming that the hard drives a sharing a cable to your computer’s motherboard). The first is the master/slave that you mention. In this configuration, one hard drive is master and the other needs to be slave. The second is called cable select; both hard drives will need to be in cable select mode and you may need a special cable to connect to your motherboard. Some motherboards require master/slave, others require cable select, and others don’t care — allowing you to do whichever you choose. There should be a diagram on EACH hard drive explaining which “jumper” settings are for master, which for slave, and which for cable select for that particular hard drive. Once you’ve set jumper settings, secure the hard drives in your computer case, connect power cables from your computer’s power supply, and connect data cables from your hard drives to the motherboard.

    The newer technology is called SATA. This technology does not use master/slave or cable select. If your computer’s motherboard supports SATA, all you have to do is secure the hard drives in your computer case, connect power from your computers power supply to the hard drives, connect SATA data cables from the hard drives to the appropriate places on your motherboard, and enjoy!

    If you want to use an IDE hard drive and an SATA hard drive, put the IDE in either master or cable select (depends on your computer), and just connect the SATA as described above.

    As you can see, this is going to be a process of experimentation for you. But once you’ve done the procedure, you’ll be on your way to being a computer geek! 😉

    PS: There are other considerations besides hard drives when building a computer, such as graphics card, getting RAM into fast dual-channel mode, and installation of CD/DVD drives.

    Does this information help?


    yeah this helped loads, I managed to sort it all thanks!


    Hi tomddl,

    I’m glad to have helped! Feel free to post at Ask A Geek whenever you have technology-related questions that need solving.