It’s always exciting to get a new computer – it almost always looks better than the old one and the hardware upgrade should be easy to notice (otherwise it wouldn’t be worth the money). However, once you realize your awesome new rig has none of your apps, files, settings, and whatnot you’ll probably wish you knew how to move Windows to another computer.
If the idea of migrating your full Windows OS between your old and new PC sounds appealing, you should know it’s possible. However, there are some issues and risks you need to be aware of before deciding if it’s worth the effort.
Potential issues of cloning Windows OS
To move Windows to another PC, we’re going to use a tool called Macrium Reflect. What this tool does is it clones the entire operating system, in other words, it makes an exact copy which includes all the settings, apps, files and the system itself.
The cloned copy may or may not work properly on the new PC. In most cases, the old hardware drivers don’t match the new ones. This means the cloned OS couldn’t work at all, or you might just get errors and even blue screens.
You might be able to fix this by manually installing the correct drivers, but that’s not guaranteed to work either.
Furthermore, you could experience Windows activation problems. Even if you have a Microsoft account with an activated copy of Windows 10 you would need to first remove it from the old PC and then activate it on the new one. Microsoft only lets us use one activated copy per account at the same time.
How to move Windows to another computer
To begin with, you’ll need to download and install Macrium Reflect, which you can do by visiting the link below:
The app is not free but it does have a free 30-day trial so you will be able to clone your OS without having to purchase it. It’s a pretty big app so the download and installation might take a while.
Macrium Reflect will automatically display all your computer’s drives. Select the drive you want to clone. In most cases the system drive has the C: letter assigned, which is also our situation. Below the drives, you will see some options one of them being “Clone this disk…”. Click on it.
Now you will need to select the disk where the clone should be sent. It can be an internal or an external drive but keep in mind that whatever you have currently stored on it will be deleted during the cloning process.
Then, you just need to drag and drop the drive partitions from the disk you want to clone over the destination disk. You will also need to make sure the partitions are in the same order on both disks. Furthermore, if you click on Cloned Partition Properties you can tweak the size of the partition so they fit.
Once you’re finished setting the cloning process click Next and then Finish and the app will start creating the clone.
Now that you’ve created the clone, it’s time to install it on your new computer. Before anything else, you need to disable Windows 10’s Secure Boot since this will allow you to boot your computer from an external hard drive. In this case, it will be the drive that contains your cloned OS.
To disable Secure Boot you need to enter your computer’s BIOS menu. The specific key that needs to be pressed during the boot sequence varies from one manufacturer to another but this information can be easily found via Google.
The Secure Boot setting should be located in the Security, Boot, or Authentication tab. After you disable it, restart the PC and boot from the external drive where your clone is located. You might need to enter BIOS again to select the drive.
At this point, your PC should be running the cloned Windows 10. Assuming everything is working properly, you should open Macrium Reflect and clone the OS again as described above but this time select your computer’s C drive as the destination.
After the cloning process is finished, turn off the PC, remove the external drive and reboot. This time your computer should boot the cloned OS but the one that was just copied to its internal C: drive.
What if cloning doesn’t work?
As I already mentioned, cloning doesn’t always work, mainly because of hardware incompatibilities between the old and new machine but there can be other causes as well. If cloning didn’t prove to be a viable solution for you, a clean install is always a reliable alternative.
Installing a fresh copy of Windows 10 is a straightforward process. Visit the Windows 10 download page and select Create Windows 10 installation media -> Download tool now. Save the image on an external USB stick or hard drive that has at least 5 GB of free space. Then, plug it into the new PC, reboot it and follow the on-screen instructions.
If the cloning was unsuccessful but your machine still boots, you can use the new Windows 10 Fresh Start tool to install a fresh copy of the OS. Head to Settings > Update and security > Recovery > Get Started. Your computer will ask you which files you want to keep, then install a new copy of Windows.
You will need to reinstall apps of course, but at least your new PC will be working properly, as it should.