Just recently I had a laptop whose hard drive was dying. It had bad sectors on it. At first I was not sure the hard drive was bad and I was just thinking the computer needed a tune-up and needed to remove McAfee. But when Windows 7 was still slow after all that, then I figured out it was a bad hard drive. The computer still booted, and so I thought I could clone the hard drive and everything will be okay. Must of my programs for cloning/imaging drives don’t play well with bad sectors and the one I had that did work around that was painfully slow. So what to do.

Without boring you with all the time I invested, here is how I eventually copied the hard drive.

  1. Clone the entire drive with Clonezilla, just be sure you set the option in expert mode to continue even when it encounters bad sectors (-rescue). Also, uncheck the option to reinstall the GRUB boot loader. This step is probably optional, but it gives the new drive the same partition structure as the old one.
  2. Attempt to boot the healthy new drive. If it is successful, you don’t need to do anything else.
  3. If you are unable to boot the new drive then install Windows on the largest partition. Be sure you do not activate Windows.
  4. Connect both drives to another computer and use the xcopy command in the command prompt to copy all the files on the Windows partition from the bad drive to the healthy drive. You will need to open the command prompt as an Administrator. For example: xcopy o:\ n:\ /e /c /i /g /h /r /t /k /x /y /b (those were all the flags I used). Replace o: with the bad old drive letter and n: with the new drive letter.
  5. Check to make sure everything in Windows works, especially Windows Update and Internet Explorer.
  6. If Windows Update does not work, you will have to do an in-place upgrade. Just run the corresponding Windows DVD and when it prompts you to upgrade or install Windows, choose upgrade and go from there.

After all that, I got a Windows that as close to the one from the old hard drive as I could make it.