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Windows 7: Installing Windows 7 Upgrade to secondary hard drive

05 Nov 2009   #1

Windows 7 Pro
Installing Windows 7 Upgrade to secondary hard drive

Hello all. I have a bit of a strange question about installing the Windows 7 upgrade. I'll try to keep it as simple as I can.


1: I currently have Windows XP SP3 Home Edition installed (and activated) on my 160GB WD Caviar Blue hard drive, which has 8MB cache. It's getting a bit full now.

2. This hard drive is one of the few remnants of a Dell machine I bought a few years ago. Surprisingly, the restore disk still works and activates, even though I've changed the motherboard and a number of other things over the years. My last reinstall was about a year ago, and I had no problems reactivating whatsoever - I didn't even need to phone Microsoft. However I doubt it'll install and activate on a new hard drive - particularly as I've also changed the DVD drive since my last activation (as the old one broke), literally the only things remaining from the old system would be the RAM and the processor.

2: I have purchased a 500GB WD Caviar Blue with 16MB Cache

3: I intend to buy Windows 7 Pro Upgrade from TheUltimateSteal for 30. I'm a student, but will be graduating soon, so it seems sensible to take advantage of this offer while I can.

4. Clearly I can install Windows 7 in the normal way onto my current drive and use the 500GB drive for backing up my files, which I'll do if that's the only option.

5. However, if I did that I would not be taking full advantage of the extra cache of the new drive. It would be nice if I could use that for my primary installation to speed things up a bit.

So here's my question:

If I start the upgrade process having booted from the 160GB drive, but during installation select my 500GB drive as the target for the installation, will Windows 7 install and activate correctly? Will it recognise the pre-existing installation, even though it was on a different drive?

If not, then:

If I install my Dell restore disk on the new drive, and don't activate Windows (which presumably I won't be able to), and then run the Windows 7 upgrade on THAT drive, will Windows 7 install and activate correctly?

Basically, is there a legitimate way of installing a Windows 7 Upgrade onto the 500GB drive, on the basis of there currently being a valid XP installation on the 160GB drive?

I have no intention of continuing to use XP after the upgrade, if I am able to install and activate Windows 7 to the new drive, then this will serve only as a backup for my files.

Has anybody tried something similar and succeeded/failed?

I've already read the tutorials on here about doing a clean install of Windows 7. I'd like to avoid dodgy workarounds, as I'd rather not run into problems further down the line when it comes to updates and that sort of thing.

I'd appreciate any information anybody has. Thanks!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64

Welcome to Seven Forums.

I appreciate your concern to keep you installation legitimate, and also agree that it is the best approach.

Due to the requirement to have a previous, XP or Vista, Windows OS installed and activated and the fact that you can't do an upgrade install from XP to Win7 the upgrade version has to allow for a clean install.

MS EULA states that you must own a previous activated version of Windows to use the Upgrade version and after the Win7 installation you are not allowed to use the previous OS, as it's tied to the upgrade now.

Now, understanding all of this, we have reports that you can do a clean install of Win7 upgrade version onto a new HD. The installer will identify your XP and allow you to install onto the new HD.

First, backup your XP HD before you start the installation in case the worst happens.

Dual booting with XP and Win7 is easy to set up, but very difficult to remove XP from the boot manager. We have seen a lot of issues that are not easy to solve.
I recommend to delete the XP partition during the installation, then install Win7 on the new HD.

Get all your personal files out of the XP partition first.

If you download an ISO file, burn it at x2 speed we have seen a lot of burning errors.
The best way to install it is from a USB memory key, check this tutorial Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool for the procedure.

I would recommend to install the new HD, initialize and partition it, mark the partition you want to install Win7 on as 'Active'.
With both HDs connected, insert your Win7 upgrade DVD or USB key, restart the computer and boot from the installation media.

For reference Clean Install with a Upgrade Windows 7 Version, using option one.

Additional reference Clean Installation with Windows 7

When you get to step 7&8 in the Clean Installation with Windows 7 tutorial above, in the Drive options (advanced), Delete the XP partition (this will delete everything), then select the new HD partition you want to install Win7 on and continue the installation.

This will give you a clean legal Win7 install and no dual boot that will be difficult to get out of later.

Let us know if you have any questions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #3

Windows 7 Pro

Hi, thanks for replying, but I'm not sure I fully understand your answer.

I should say that I don't want a dual boot system - I want the 500GB drive to become my primary drive, running Windows 7.

I don't understand all this business about partitions (as my name suggests im a noob).

Will either one of the options I listed work, or do I need to do something different? If so, what (in layman's terms)

If wiping the previous XP installation is a must, how do I create a partition to store the files in that I wish to save? I don't have any other storage large enough to hold them.

As for the installation media, I'll be ordering the 9 "disc kit" with the ISO download and booting from that.

If anybody can give me an idiot-proof step by step explanation of how I can go about doing what I'd like to do I'd be very grateful!
My System SpecsSystem Spec

05 Nov 2009   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult x64 - SP1/ Windows 8 Pro x64

The text that's in blue are links to tutorials, just click on them and it will take you to the Seven Forums page with information.

These tutorials are very easy to follow, step by step, with clear instructions.

A partition is when your hard drive is divided into smaller sections. These sections are like separate hard drives. You can keep the operating system separated from your personal files.

To learn more about partitions click here <Partition or Volume - Create New>, and use method one.

Yes you can do the install like you mentioned.

Go back to my previous post and click on the blue text, read through the tutorials and reply here if you have any questions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #5

Windows 7 Pro

Thanks Dave.

With regards to backing data up-

All I want to save is the My Documents folder, which is about 70GB.

Are you saying I should create a backup partition on the new drive and shove that in there, or create a single 500GB partition and use the windows.old thing in the installation to back the files up?

These two drives are the only large storage devices i have - next largest thing is my 2GB memory stick, which obviously is too small.


If I do create a partition for backing up my data on the 500GB drive (say 70-80GB), will I be able to delete it after the installation, or would that require reformatting the drive?

When you say I should backup my XP drive, do you mean the important data on it that I want, or do you mean clone the drive to preserve the installation, should Win7 fail?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #6

Windows 7 Pro

Or another crazy and novel idea:

Given all this talk of partitioning is making my head spin, what if i did this:
  • Wiped my 120GB ipod, and set it up as a portable hard drive (easily done)
  • Copy all my important data onto there as data storage
  • Installed windows7 as discussed, making sure to delete the XP partition
  • Boot up in Windows 7, with fingers firmly crossed (would I need to swap the drive cables around?)
  • Install itunes
  • Copy all that data back onto the new drive
  • Rebuild my itunes library and restore my iPod

My only concern is what happens if Windows 7 wants to be awkward, as I'll have deleted XP.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit


With respect to the 500 GB drive--you have to decide if you want one partition or 2 partitions on it. You can do it either way and it isn't a big deal one way or the other. A lot of people choose 2, with the second partition being strictly for personal data. Those people typically don't keep personal data on C. Decide on this issue before you begin the installation. If you choose to do 2 partitions, the typical recommendation would be to make one of 60 or 80 GB for Windows 7 and programs, with the remaining 420 to 440 GB for the second partition to hold data. In that case, C would be 60 or 80 GB, and D would be 420 or 440 GB.

I assume you have been using a single partition on your existing 160 GB drive and you can certainly do the same going forward, with the entire 500 GB drive having just one partition.

You can start the installation from your current operating system, or you can start it by booting from your Windows 7 disc.

If you want a "clean install" to the 500 GB drive, you would choose Custom Installation when it is offered, and then "drive options/advanced" a few screens later when you come to the choices about where to put Windows 7.

After you choose "drive options/advanced", you will see the choices to delete existing partitions and to make new ones on the 500 GB drive. Don't delete or alter the 160 GB drive in any way. You could even disconnect it before you begin. You would make either one or two new partitions on the 500 GB drive at this point, depending on what you decided. If you make 2 new partitions, you would then choose the smaller one as the place to put Windows 7.

In your case, you have to be careful to NOT choose your existing old drive as the destination for Windows 7.

After the installation, you can access your original hard drive and simply copy all of the files you need from it over to the new 500 GB drive.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #8

Windows 7 Pro

Thanks ignatzatsonic, but what about the dual boot issues mentioned above?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #9

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, 64-bit


Unless you have a particular reason to want to dual boot and keep your old operating system around, why dual boot?? Just go with Windows 7 and be done with it.

Dual boot can be complicated to undo if you decide after the fact that you want to get rid of it and use Windows 7 only.

Is there a particular reason you want to dual boot?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Nov 2009   #10

Windows 7 Professional 64bit / Windows 7 Professional 64bit

dual booting and deleting a dual boot is easy when you use easy BCD...
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Installing Windows 7 Upgrade to secondary hard drive

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