Question Can I swap non-OS internal HDD to new HDD without cloning?


Dec 2, 2010
I have 4 SSDs, with one that has the system OS, and 3 HDDs. My older HDD drive is starting to act up and being that it's nearly full, I'd hate to lose all my data, about 8TB worth. I purchased another HDD to replace it with, and was wondering if I could essentially clone the old drive to the new one without using a cloning software. The contents of the old drive are 90% games, and maybe 10% regular software. The OS is on a separate SSD so no system files would be moved, as well as the drive letter would be changed to the same as the old drive. Is there a simple process for this, or should I just use a clone software? If so, any recommendations?

The objective is simply to make it so nothing happened, and so I can run the same games from the new drive without reinstalling them or running into registry errors.
Since you say the drive is nearly full, I'd actually recommend cloning it. Select the sector-by-sector cloning method. That will ignore the file structure and just copy the drive data sequentially from beginning to end. That will be a lot faster than copying the files one at a time. HDD sequential read/write speeds are typically 100+ MB/s, while copying files individually can slow down to below 1 MB/s for small files. So sector-by-sector cloning tends to be faster for drives which are mostly full (or have lots of small files). With a mostly-empty drive, a sector-by-sector clone wastes a lot of time copying empty sectors, so can be slower than copying. The only caveat I can think of is if your files are badly fragmented, you may want to do a slower file-by-file copy since the process will defragment your files.

Macrium Reflect or MiniTools Partition Wizard are free and have cloning tools you should be able to use.

You could simply copy everything to the new drive (drag the folders in the root directory from the dying drive to your new drive). Then remove the dying drive, and change the drive letter of the replacement drive to match the dying drive. You might have to change the drive letter after a clone as well. Right-click This PC -> Manage -> Disk Management -> right-click the new drive -> Change drive letter and paths.

The only issue with copying (other than speed of the copy) is that some of the timestamps will reflect the date/time the copy was made, overwriting the date/time the file was originally created. If the timestamps are important, you'll need to use a more sophisticated copying program like Robocopy or a clone of the Unix rsync tool. Cloning the drive will preserve timestamps too.
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