Moving windows

My son had the fastest computer, with a PCI Express slot. I had the slightly slower computer, with an AGP slot. I needed to install a graphics card that would let me run two DVI-D displays, and the only AGP cards I could find were quite expensive, so I decided to swap computers. (The fast computer was originally supposed to replace the shared family computer, but I didn’t finish installing/upgrading it before my son took it over :).

To make matters more complicated, my desktop had IDE drives and his had SATA drives. A simple drive swap wasn’t going to work; his SATA motherboard only had one IDE connector, and it was already full with two CD/DVD drives. I was going to have to swap the OS images between the two harddrives. I had recently read about Clonezilla, and decided to try it. I started by testing cloning to a VirtualBox VM, to make sure I could use the image after cloning. VirtualBox lets me attach disk images as either IDE or SATA, which definitely helped my testing.

My capsule review is that Clonezilla works well and is very flexible, but way too complicated. Fortunately I’m a sophisticated Linux guy, so the complexity wasn’t a barrier, but I wouldn’t recommend it to my father-in-law, for example. I’m loving VirtualBox, btw; I run it on a server, so I can’t use the fancy GUI for configuration, but the command line is adequate and the ability to use remote desktop to access the console is excellent.

The other item that saved me was Changing a Motherboard or Moving a Hard Drive with XP Installed. There are three basic options described there: 1) use the Windows Upgrade procedure before swapping, 2) perform a Repair after the swap, and 3) fiddle with the disk controller drivers in the Device Manager before the swap. My Windows disks don’t have the Upgrade option, so that was out. I then tried the Repair option, but it took over 3 hours (after the 90 minutes of image copying); way too slow (and I would have needed to re-install SP3 and other patches later, too!).

Fortunately, option 3 worked perfectly for me. I’ve reproduced it here:

Before you swap out the current motherboard go to device manager and select the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller and select your current storage controller. Right click, select update driver and select install from a list or specific location. Click don’t search I will choose the driver to install and select the standard dual channel IDE controller.

This will prevent the inaccessible boot device blue screen.

With this method, booting the first time with the new motherboard should be done in Safe mode. XP will install the drivers it needs and you can install the new motherboard drivers. I would suggest accessing the motherboard web site to get the latest drivers and bios updates rather than use the CD media included with the MB. The CD is usually a couple of revisions behind the latest updates.

Both images worked perfectly (and quickly!) after this tweak. I was able to boot both OS images on the new systems, install all of the appropriate drivers for the new hardware, clean up the device manager, and now everything is as good as new. We’ve been running with swapped hardware for a couple of weeks now with no apparent problems.

Alas, after all this, we discovered that the on-board graphics on my old desktop were too slow to run a couple of his games; because that machine was originally intended as a business class machine, it had crappy graphics (worse than our other 5+ year old desktop!). So I’ve had to buy a graphics card for him anyway, but I was still able to save. I found him an older AGP card (with DVI-I, VGA, and TV-out instead of Dual DVI-I).

posted at 9:17 am on Thursday, May 28, 2009 in Personal | Comments Off on Moving windows

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