Question How to format a drive without losing data.

Feb 20, 2021
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Okay, so I have many components from laptops I have disnantled. I want to use the drives in a full tower build I want to put together, and some I don't care if the data gets wiped, but there are 2 drives though from my gaming laptop that the motherboard recently failed on that I don't. One has my windows installation that I want to have as the boot drive and the other that has all of my main files on that I don't want wiped. I have a Chromebook that I would gladly use to connect the drives to a dock, backup the files, and format it to then transfer them back onto the wiped and formatted drive (I did this when I upgraded my hdd to an ssd in my laptop, but with that the laptop was working before I upgraded, so I backed up the files to my ehdd directly from the drive while on the laptop, but I can't do that in this case. I'm sorry for and spelling or grammatical errors, I'm on mobile.

I hope you all can help.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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Okay, so I have many components from laptops I have disnantled. I want to use the drives in a full tower build I want to put together, and some I don't care if the data gets wiped, but there are 2 drives though from my gaming laptop that the motherboard recently failed on that I don't. One has my windows installation that I want to have as the boot drive and the other that has all of my main files on that I don't want wiped. I have a Chromebook that I would gladly use to connect the drives to a dock, backup the files, and format it to then transfer them back onto the wiped and formatted drive (I did this when I upgraded my hdd to an ssd in my laptop, but with that the laptop was working before I upgraded, so I backed up the files to my ehdd directly from the drive while on the laptop, but I can't do that in this case. I'm sorry for and spelling or grammatical errors, I'm on mobile.

I hope you all can help.
"2 drives though from my gaming laptop that the motherboard recently failed on that I don't. One has my windows installation that I want to have as the boot drive "

A drive+OS from a laptop is not going to simply boot up and work properly in a whole different desktop.
A windows install is not modular like that.

Also, you cannot "format" a drive and retain the data on it. Unless you copy that data to something else.
 

zotn_dre

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May 3, 2010
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Are they laptop SATA drives ? Just purchase a SATA to USB convertor and check them/format them on another computer/laptop ?

https://www.amazon.com/BENFEI-Drive-Adapter-Cable-Compatible/dp/B07F7WDZGT/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=sata+to+usb&qid=1613835210&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFZWjQ3U0JSRllZT1QmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTA4MjExOTBHV0cxWDZSOEtMVlEmZW5jcnlwdGVkQWRJZD1BMDI0NjYzNDNWUkUxSUkyT0FBNEwmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl

Please note this will only work for 'laptop' SATA drives (2.5 ") and not for desktop SATA drives (3.5 "), for those you'll need another convertor with additional power supply.
 

Paperdoc

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As USAF said, you cannot use a drive from an old laptop to be the boot drive on the new system - the old Windows OS is fully customized already for the hardware the laptop had. You will HAVE TO completely Install a new Windows on the boot drive of the new tower. Then you also will have to Install all fresh application software. THEN you can copy to that (or elsewhere) user-generated files from other drives.

Now, if you do want to use that one drive as your boot device, you can do that, but the process will completely wipe the drive and all your old files will be lost. So DO what you have done before. COPY all of the files from that drive to another. Later you can use that copy to re-copy those to their final destinations. For this purpose, instead of a slow copy-and-paste process, you might consider making a CLONE of that drive to another unit that has NO data you want to keep. After you finish copying old files from the clone to their final spots, you can wipe that clone unit and re-use it as an empty data drive.

Just a NOTE on this. When you go to Install Windows on the boot drive, it is best to have NO other drive unit in the machine. This trick is to avoid a "feature" of Windows Install that has caused problems for people down the road. Doing it this way forces Windows to place its hidden backup copies of critical files on the same drive unit so they can always be found IF that drive is working. (The default Install process is to place those backups on a second drive if present, but then that second drive ALSO MUST be in your machine to allow it to work.)

Here's an optional step. Once you have the old laptop boot drive cloned or copied and are ready to do the Install, consider this. The Install process will wipe out any record of its old data and "clean" all its old junk so it can't be found or cause any problem. But it will not actually wipe all the old data, and it will not test every part of the drive for errors to fix. Just to be cautious in re-using an old drive like that, I prefer to do a Zero Fill operation on that one drive before doing the Install. This operation writes zeros to EVERY Sector of the disk so all the old data is gone. But more importantly, that operation causes the HDD itself to do a test of every Sector as it works. Any faulty Sector will be detected and marked for "never use this one", and replaced from the HDD's stock of spare unused Sectors. When the process is done, not only will it have no data, but it also will appear to Windows to have NO faulty Sectors, like a perfectly new HDD. Now, that takes a long time to do the entire disk - hours! And it DESTROYS all data on that unit, so you must be VERY SURE when you do that, that is is being done ONLY on the particular old HDD you WANT to clean up!

For the second drive that is not to be used as the boot device but HAS files you want to keep, just wait until the tower has its boot drive all set up, then install that other drive (and any others) and you will "see" them with all their data available.
 
Feb 20, 2021
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Sorry it took so long to get back, the boot drive is an m.2 nvme ssd with windows 10, and I found an adapter my friend had that can use every storage device except m.2 (3.5 2.5 and all the way to micro sd) how would you move all the downloaded media to an external drive to be extremely easily moved back. I don't remember all of the install locations on the drive. I would be fine with doing a fresh install and moving all the files back onto the drive after the fact.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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Sorry it took so long to get back, the boot drive is an m.2 nvme ssd with windows 10, and I found an adapter my friend had that can use every storage device except m.2 (3.5 2.5 and all the way to micro sd) how would you move all the downloaded media to an external drive to be extremely easily moved back. I don't remember all of the install locations on the drive. I would be fine with doing a fresh install and moving all the files back onto the drive after the fact.
You're the only one who knows where those files may be.

And to be clear, this is just "media files", correct? Not installed applications.
 

Karadjgne

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You can't keep windows. The pc your tower will be is going to be vastly different to the laptop the windows is on now. Power settings, sleep, hibernation, registry etc will not even be similar, and thats not including the hardware changes. You'll need a clean windows install.
 

USAFRet

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Is there an easy way to back up the downloaded files and move them back onto the drive?
We're (at least me) still are unsure of exactly what you have, and what you want the end state to be.

You have a bunch of drives resurrected out of old systems and laptops?
And you wish to recover some data from them, and copy to a currently working desktop?

If otherwise, please clarify.
 
Feb 20, 2021
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The desktop is not working yet I'm waiting for the parts to ship. (And the gpu prices to go down). I want to try to keep the data from my nvme ssd that I downloaded (discord minecraft etc) and move it back if I need to do a fresh install of windows (its windows 10 pro, and I don't know if there's a way to keep that if I don't still have the code) after I do that I'd like to install my sata ssd and move everything I have backed up from it back onto it (there are some files that rely on some of the installs on the nvme boot drive) the other drives I have I'll just do a full wipe. Im only worried about my nvme ssd and my sata ssd continuind to work together (mostly because it will take a while to reindtall everything. My wifi is at a solid 7kbs DSL) If anything else needs clarification please ask.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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The desktop is not working yet I'm waiting for the parts to ship. (And the gpu prices to go down). I want to try to keep the data from my nvme ssd that I downloaded (discord minecraft etc) and move it back if I need to do a fresh install of windows (its windows 10 pro, and I don't know if there's a way to keep that if I don't still have the code) after I do that I'd like to install my sata ssd and move everything I have backed up from it back onto it (there are some files that rely on some of the installs on the nvme boot drive) the other drives I have I'll just do a full wipe. Im only worried about my nvme ssd and my sata ssd continuind to work together (mostly because it will take a while to reindtall everything. My wifi is at a solid 7kbs DSL) If anything else needs clarification please ask.
Bottom line - Your new upcoming desktop needs its own fresh OS install.
And this includes ALL of the applications.

You might be able to transfer the OS license. But NOT the install on the drive.
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/20530/windows-10-reactivating-after-hardware-change
 

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