Can We Move A Windows Installation To Another Computer?

If you have recently bought (or built) a new computer, you may wonder if does it possible to transfer the current Windows operating system (OS) from the old computer to a new one? If you are asking to move your Linux OS, it’s easy to do like eat cakes. On Linux, when you boot it up, all drivers will load with the bootup process. That’s the reason Linux is more portable than Windows. It can load from a CD/DVD disc or a USB drive.

But, Windows OS doesn’t work like that. When we install a new Windows OS on a computer, it ties the system with the hardware of the computer. When you move the OS to a new computer, you will encounter some serious problems. Errors also occur when you replace the hardware without replacing appropriate drivers.

Problems When You Move A Windows Installation

Micrsoft Windows

If you try to copy or, clone your hard drive from the old computer and use on your new computer, then Windows OS will not boot properly. When you do a new installation of Windows on a computer, it will check and use appropriate drivers (or ask us to install) for the computer’s motherboard, processor, and graphics card. These drivers will allow Windows OS to communicate with the hardware.

When you move the Windows OS to another computer with different hardware, it can’t boot up properly because it does not know how to handle these new devices. You also can’t bring the hard drive and plug to the another computer to boot up. It doesn’t work. You will face some kinds of the blue screen of death errors.

How About The Windows License?

If you own a computer with an “Original Equipment Manufacturer” Windows license, you may lose the license when moving to another computer. Many people get Windows OS pre-installed on their computer when they buy it. This pre-installed comes with an OEM license, and it’s lock with the computer’s hardware where it’s installed on, for the first time. Microsoft does not want any user to move these OEM Windows licenses to another computer.

But if you buy a retail copy of Windows OS and then install it on your computer, there is no problem at all. Just deactivate the current Windows product key and use on another computer.

It’s Possible To Move A Windows Installation, But Complicated

With the above information, you may think that it’s not possible to move a Windows installation to another computer. You can do that, but it’s complicated. You need to do some more tweaks, not only moving the Windows OS.

There is a tool called “System Preparation” (aka sysprep) that is made by Microsoft. This tool is designed for PC manufacturers or large organizations to create a Windows image and then deploy it on a lot of different computers. It was using to install a customized version of Windows on PCs before selling them, or use a Windows image with different settings and software to install on different PCs.

System Preparation Tool

According to Microsoft, before transferring a Windows image, you must run “sysprep /generalize” command to deletes unique information from your Windows installation. By that, you will able to reuse that Windows image on different computers.

However, it’s not designed for regular users to clone or move Windows OS from a computer to another one. Some users have tried to use “sysprep /generalize” before moving their Windows OS to a new computer. It can work, but as we mentioned above, Microsoft does not support this. So there are many things could go wrong.

Moving Windows OS To An Another Computer With Acronis Universal Restore

Acronis Universal Restore

There is another tool from Acronis named Acronis Universal Restore. Typically, this tool will replace the current HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and the HDD controller drivers in your existing Windows installation. It will deactivate Windows, and you have to activation it again after moving the Windows OS. If you have a retail copy of Windows, just enter the activation key and then activate your Windows again. If your computer comes pre-loaded with an OEM Windows license, Microsoft surely will not let you reactivate it.


You can try to use System Preparation, Acronis Universal Restore, or any other methods to move your existing Windows OS to another computer, and may get success. However, we would suggest you do a clean install instead of moving your current Windows OS.

If this is about getting important files from an unbootable computer, just insert the hard drive into another computer and copy the file out of it.

See Also: How To Fix This Copy Of Windows Is Not Genuine Error.

If the current Windows installation is valuable to you, you can try to convert it to a virtual machine image and boot it in a virtual machine on another computer.

If the exact configuration of that Windows system is so important to you, you might want to consider converting the Windows installation on that computer to a virtual machine image, allowing you to boot that image in a virtual machine on other PCs.