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Home      Articles and Pages      Save Money by Upgrading Your Own Hard Drive Without Reinstalling the OS, Software or Data
Running short on hard drive space, but don't want to reinstall all of your software? Maybe you don't have all of the original installation discs or the license keys aren't handy, or maybe you just like your computer the way it is and you are used to the layout. Changing hard drives used to be time consuming, expensive and difficult to adjust to. It required that you back up all of your data files, physically swap out the hard drive and then install the operating system and applications from scratch.  Then you still had to restore your data files and tweak the theme or background settings, and it never quite seemed to look the same.
Hard drive cloning software came along a few years back, and changed the way that hard drive upgrades were performed. Hard drive manufacturers such as Seagate or Western Digital offered bundled software that allowed you to clone the exising hard drive onto a new one, and keep all of the software and settings intact. The trouble was that the software often only worked with specific drives by the particular manufacturer, so you couldn't use it to install a used drive or one that came without any software.
Drive duplication software is available from the manufacturer's websites for their brand of drives. You can find Seagate DiscWizard software and Western Digital's Acronis True Image WD Edition Software drive cloning software on their websites for free download. Or you can buy Acronis professional backup and drive cloning software, which is the software used for the Seagate and Western Digital applications. My recommendation is the Acronis software itself, as it is packed with additional features including real-time backup, backup to the cloud and bare-metal restoration abilities to different hardware. Acronis makes versions that run on almost any client or server, including advanced versions that can back up active database servers such as Microsoft Exchange Server or Microsoft SQL Server, without the need to close down the database.
Acronis® Backup & Recovery 11 helps organizations of all sizes address disaster recovery and data protection needs across their physical, virtual and cloud environments using jusy one solution. Affordable and easy-to-use from anywhere on the network, it offers high-end features and the fastest backup and recovery times for entire systems, applications and files. At the heart of the product is a disk-imaging engine that provides a unified platform upon which all backup and data protection processes take place. 
Hard drives come in a wide range of sizes, and the capacity is increasing all the time. The price per GB of storage space is also always going down, making huge hard drives very affordable. New hard drives are packed with technology that wasn't available just a few years ago, increasing the performance and reliability of hard disk storage systems to levels that used to be available only in RAID arrays on servers.
The first step in replacing an aging hard drive is to perform a full backup of the drive, or at least the important data that it contains. Hard drive cloning is a great technology, but it puts a lot of stress on the old hard drive and that can cause a weak drive to catastrophically fail, leaving your data lost and occasionally beyond any chance of recovery. While you should always keep a current backup handy, it is well-known that people are often lazy when it comes to backups, partly because it is so easy to rely on the hardware these days that it rarely requires attention. I like using the free online 2 GB backup available from Mozy, or even better is the MozyPro backup solution, with unlimited capacity and low monthly fees based upon your actual use.
The next step is to determine what the current hard drive size is and how much free space you still have left on it. You can usually do this directly from the "Computer" or "My Computer" application, found under the "Start" menu. You will also want to see which type of physical connection is being used to wire the hard drive to the system. Typical systems use the SATA interface and older systems often still use the ATA or IDE configuration. Some systems may also use SCSI. It is important to replace the hard drive with another drive that uses the same interface for the easiest procedure, but drives that use different interfaces can be installed in most computers by using a simple hard drive controller card, often installed into an empty PCI or PCIe slot.
You will then want to purchase a hard drive, connect the drive to the system using a USB hard drive adapter cable and perform the hard drive cloning operation. Then you can power down the computer, swap the new drive in where the old drive was, and power it back on with more free space and much better performance, not to mention a perfectly good replacement drive with a full instant backup already installed.
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Norm is a 30-year veteran of the IT world and genuine computer guru, offering local businesses a single point of contact for all of their computer-related needs.  TQF.US is Dell Partner Direct authorized and offers professional sales, support and installation of products from Dell, Microsoft, Intel and other top brands.
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