Dysan removable hard disk pack

New Operating System? New Hard Drive.

by John McGehee on December 22, 2010

When hard disks were expensive, it was standard practice to erase and reuse your existing hard disk when reinstalling your operating system.  This no longer makes sense.  When reinstalling your computer’s operating system, get a new hard drive, and set aside the existing one.  You get a nice hardware upgrade, and no matter what happens during the installation, you still have your old system exactly as it was.

In fact, whenever you overwrite a hard disk for any reason, consider whether a new, blank disk might be better.  It’s so simple and inexpensive. Put the old drive in an external USB hard drive enclosure, and all kinds of great stuff happens:

  • You need to back up your files somewhere. Just leave them where they are.
  • You can be bold and install however you like.  Even if you fail completely, you still have your old system safely set aside.  This peace of mind is my favorite reason to get a new hard drive.
  • The computer can be instantly returned to its original state by simply reinstalling the old hard drive
  • Your computer gets a larger (and maybe faster) hard drive. If you’re going to upgrade your hard drive, this is the time.
  • Periodic replacement of mechanical systems like a hard drive is useful preventative maintenance
  • When you no longer need the files in the old drive, you can reformat it and use it for any other purpose

This isn’t just win-win. It’s win-win-win-win-win-win. All for about $60.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

TomKat December 22, 2010 at 16:39

Great minds think alike. I am in the process of putting a bigger driven on my Win-Vista laptop PLUS going to Win7 and I put the current drive into a USB enclosure until the process is done. Then I can copy.

John, if I want to boot from the USB-enclosed old drive, how do you do this?


John McGehee December 27, 2010 at 19:03

Thanks for reading, Tom.

Specify a “temporary boot drive” upon startup. On my computers, you press F12 to get a menu that offers you a choice of drives to boot. The BIOS usually says which key does this in the initial splash screen.

Further, most every BIOS allows you to specify a “permanent” boot order.

I was not successful at booting from a GRUB dual boot disk in a USB enclosure.

John McGehee January 12, 2011 at 09:06

You know what, TomKat. I believe it’s possible, but I deleted the claim that you can boot from the USB drive.

Neither my dual boot Linux drive nor my Windows 7 drive would boot as USB disks. Worse, Windows 7 acted really weird when I put the drive back inside the machine to use it normally. It may have had something to do with how the hardware changed, and therefore Windows 7 thought that I was using a single license on multiple computers.

Aggy April 14, 2011 at 18:44

Thanks a lot – your answer solved all my problems after several days struggling

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