When duplicating a hard drive, I prefer to use imaging software, such as Symantec’s Ghost, and a CD-R or CD-RW drive. But what if these resources aren’t available and the computer is a stand-alone machine? With a properly designed floppy and the right cables, you can copy all the data on one hard drive to another with little trouble. However, this process only works with FAT16 and FAT32 drives.

The scenario
Assume you have a computer with a single 10-GB hard drive. This drive contains a single partition and a Windows 98 installation. You need to replace this drive with a new 20-GB hard drive, but you don’t want to lose any of the files or settings. In short, you need a way to copy all the data from the old 10-GB drive to the new 20-GB drive so you can then just swap them out.

Create a bootable floppy
First, you must create a bootable floppy disk that contains all the necessary programs to prepare the new 20-GB drive and to copy the data. From within a DOS, Windows 3x, or 9x environment, insert a floppy disk into the computer and enter the following commands at a command prompt:

These commands assume a standard Windows 9x/ installation where C: is the drive letter of the current hard disk. You may need to modify the above commands to reflect the drive letter of your current hard disk and the actual location of FDISK, FORMAT, and XCOPY. The disk you’ve created is a bootable floppy disk that you’ll use for the file transfer process.

Defrag the old drive and connect the new drive
Fully defragment the existing hard drive, and then shut down Windows. Once you’ve powered off the machine, unplug it and use the jumpers on the two hard drives to configure the old hard drive as the master—if it wasn’t already the master—and the new hard drive as a slave. Once you’ve set the jumpers, use the IDE cable to daisy chain the two drives together. Attach a power cable to each drive and plug in the system. Then, boot the system from the disk that you created.

Partition and format the new drive
When the PC boots, use FDISK to create a partition on the new hard disk. Be sure to use option five to change disks so you don’t accidentally create a partition on the old disk. While this scenario involves a hard drive with only a single partition, the process will work just as well on a multipartition hard drive. You’ll need to create an equal number of partitions on the new drive as on the old drive. I recommend making the new partitions slightly larger than the old partitions to allow for future growth and to provide for a margin of error during the copy process.

Once you’ve created the new partition(s), reboot the system using the floppy disk. Use the FORMAT D: /S (assuming that D: is the drive letter of the new hard disk) command to format the new drive. If the new drive has multiple partitions, you’ll need to format each of those as well. When the format process completes, it’s time to begin the file transfer process.

Transfer the files
Assuming that your old hard drive is C: and your new hard drive is D:, you’d transfer the files by using the following command:
XCOPY C:\*.* D: /S /E /V /C /H /R

When the copy process completes, unplug the PC and remove your old hard drive. Set the jumpers on the new hard drive to make it the master. Then, boot the machine once again from the floppy disk. Use the FDISK command to make the partition active. You should then be able to boot the system normally using the new hard disk.