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Windows relocation: How to change computers without reconfiguration

You just can't get around it: at some point every PC is too old, too slow, defective or no longer stylish enough, and then it will just be replaced. Sometimes an additional device is needed, for example because the 17-inch notebook is great for the sofa, but a much lighter device is preferred when traveling. If Windows should then run equally on the old and the new PC, you can either use the pre-installed Windows or take the opportunity to restart with a clean, fresh installation.

But you first have to feel at home again, i.e. install and configure the necessary applications, adjust the system settings and transfer your own files. And given the effort involved, you would quickly want to be able to simply transfer the old installation completely to the new PC instead. This is also associated with effort, but in most cases it is much less.

Three possible relocation scenarios

There are three different ways to move about, each with their own advantages. The alternatives in short:

  • Rebuilding the hard disk.
  • Moving with a conventional imager.
  • Moving with our backup script c’t-WIMage.

The fastest way is to remodel the plate. As long as the old disk fits into the new PC, ideally a sufficiently sized and fast SSD and a few other requirements are met (more on that later), the matter is settled in a few minutes.

Moving with the imager is also very quick and is the right way to go if the disk does not fit in the new PC or should not be used for other reasons. But here, too, there are some requirements to be met. Both quick ways have in common that the move often works without any problems, but unfortunately not always, and then there is the risk of wasting hours or even more time trying to find solutions to problems that seem inexplicable at first glance. Sometimes even intimate knowledge of partitioning and the boot mechanisms of modern Windows PCs is required.

If you don't want to deal with something like that, you can take the third option: Moving with c't-WIMage requires a few preparatory mouse clicks in advance and moving takes longer, but you spend most of the time waiting instead of solving problems, because c 't-WIMage automatically bypasses various hurdles that you might otherwise have to overcome on foot. What you can also do: First take one of the two fast paths, and if problems arise, switch to the third.

Another article will help you decide which of the three approaches is right for you. First of all, this article deals with a few requirements that must be met in order for a move to be successful (which should be the case most of the time). In addition, it is about the right preparations for the move, which should be done regardless of the path chosen later, so that everything works smoothly and, above all, without risk. One more word about Windows 7: The two fast moving methods work the same in themselves, but the universal via c't-WIMage unfortunately not (Windows 7 lacks some technical requirements for it). However, you should think twice about moving to new hardware because the driver supply for the old-fashioned operating system has lately decreased significantly. In addition, the support for Windows 7 does not even run for a year: On January 14, 2020 there will be free security updates for the last time. If you want to stay true to the Windows world, you should either disconnect Windows 7 from the network or upgrade to a higher version by then at the latest. The switch to Windows 10 is still free of charge, and then all moving routes are open again.