Being a nerd makes things complicated

My computer wouldn’t turn on one evening, and after opening it up and poking around I figured out the problem was the graphics card. Once I removed it from the computer, it turned on. Ostensibly I’m blaming my son, since he dropped a remote behind the computer and it might have been the cause of the damage. Realistically, the computer is five years old, the graphics card is two, and I may have been overloading my power supply with the new card.

I got excited about the prospects of building a computer from scratch, but found a computer for about half the price it would cost to build one. ¬†When it arrived, however, I couldn’t just turn it on and use it. I wanted to move my SSD from the old computer to the new, and I wanted to save all my data. And this where I make things difficult for myself.

My plan was to backup the SSD and install Windows 8.1 on that drive. Then I would copy backed up files to the new computer’s drive. Then I would reinstall Windows 7 on the old computer, since it would then be missing its operating systems. Things did not go to plan.

The first wrinkle was that I couldn’t find a flash drive to place the Windows 8 installer on. I went to the store and got the cheapest and smallest flash drive I could find (an 8gb sandisk). They had screwed something up on these drives so that they appeared as fixed hard drives and not removable drives, so Microsoft wouldn’t allow me to place the installer on them. I had to use a third party installer to create my install media.

Then I was worried that I couldn’t find a sticker with the Windows 8 license on it. So I had to use the Belarc Advisor to extract that, just in case I needed it. However, I wasn’t ever asked for it, so I’m not sure how Windows 8 handles activation. Windows 7 is kind enough to wait until you’ve wiped your drive and its too late to go back.

I opened up the new computer case and found that they didn’t have any empty hard drive bays. This really surprised my, since my old case seemed to have three spots for placing things, and it’s really common for people to use SSDs now. I read online that hobbyists often use velcro to attach the drive somewhere safe in the case. On the plus side, the computer came with 8GB of ram, and I was expecting 4 2Gb cards, but it came with a single 8GB card. I transfered a RAM upgrade over to bring it to 10GB.

Trying to get the system to boot from my drive was a huge pain as well. I finally turned secure boot completely off, and then ran into problems figuring out which drive was booting. I think there is still an MBR floating around the drive that I need to be careful with.

The part of my plan that I hadn’t thought through was the copying forward of data. I tried to use the drive enclosure that I had, but it was a SCUSI enclosure instead of SATA so it wouldn’t work. Finally I just plugged the drive into the new computer and did the copy with the case off.

3 Drives

Finally I installed Windows 7 back on the old computer. This went smoothly, especially since you can install Windows on a drive without erasing it.

It would have been a lot easier to just use my new computer that way it came…

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