Bootcamp 487: Moving to a New Pc Part 3

Keep abreast of the latest issues in computer technology with Rick Maybury

The absolute quickest and simplest method of transferring data from one PC to another is to 'slave' the old drive. Depending on your level of expertise it should only take around fifteen to twenty minutes and when you next boot up your new PC all of your old files will be accessible, ready to be used or copied to your new hard drive.

It really is that easy, however, I wouldn't recommend trying it if you are uncomfortable about poking around inside your PCs or you have any doubts about your DIY skills. If so you should wait for the next two episodes of Boot Camp, which will be looking at totally non-invasive data transfer methods using removable media and cables.

It's virtually impossible to get an electric shock from a desktop PC; mains voltages are safely contained inside an earthed metal box and none of the cables emerging from the box carry more than 12 volts. Nevertheless you should unplug both PCs from the mains before you open the lids, we don't want any accidents, do we? Electronic components are remarkably robust but there is a very small chance you could damage something through a static discharge from your body or clothing. Although the risk is very low it doesn't hurt to briefly touch a nearby radiator, metal water pipe or earthed metal appliance, before you open up your PC. If you are really worried you can buy anti-static wrist straps from PC Suppliers and Maplin Electronics for a few pounds

Start by opening up your old PC, on most models there will be only one hard drive and it will normally have two cables plugged into the back of it, one for the power supply with four coloured wires (red, two black and yellow). The other one will be a flat 'ribbon' connector that carries the data. Gently remove both plugs, they may be a little stiff, so don't tug on the cables or you may damage them. Tuck the cables out of the way and remove the four mounting screws - two each side. Avoid touching the connectors or the circuit boards on the underside; hold it by the sides and once the screws are out slide the drive out from its 'bay'.

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Next set the drive to 'slave' mode. On most hard drives there will be a printed label showing the positions of the 'jumpers' for Master, Slave and Cable Select (CS). The jumpers are small connectors that bridge sets of pins and they're normally located on the rear of the drive. Your old drive should be in Master mode, so you can use the current positions for orientation and reference. Use a small pair of tweezers or thin long-nosed pliers to change the jumper(s) to the Slave setting.

Now you can remove the cover from your new PC and locate a spare hard drive bay. If you are very lucky you will see a spare set of data and power cables nearby, though nowadays most new PCs now use SATA type drives, which use much smaller data cables. It's not a problem, though, and most motherboards have at least one 'legacy' ATA/IDE socket that you can use. If you don't have a spare ribbon cable you can borrow the one from your old PC (see also this week's Top Tip).

It's a good idea to do a dry run first and fit the old drive into it's new home. If you have to move cables out of the way do it carefully so as not to loosen any connections. One you are happy with the fitting plug in the data and power cables. Note that both plugs are 'keyed', so they only fit one way around. The plugs should seat fairly easily so do not press too hard and be especially careful not to bend the pins on the data cable socket. If you are using the data cable from your old PC don't forget to connect the other end to the IDE socket on the motherboard..

Fit the drive mounting screws and give all of the nearby cables and connectors a final check to make sure you haven't dislodged anything. Refit the case lid and switch on. Windows will boot up as normal and your old drive will be recognised and automatically assigned the next available drive letter. If so you can get on with the job of transferring your data using My Computer or Windows Explorer. If the drive doesn't show up in Explorer then here's a few troubleshooting tips.

Switch off, disconnect form the mains, open the lid and double-check the power and data cables. If everything looks okay put the lid back on and boot into the PC's BIOS program. (Refer to the user or motherboard manual for the correct combination of keys to press at start-up). Run the drive setup/configuration utility and check that it has been recognised. On some BIOS there may be a 'switch' to enable the IDE connector. If the drive still isn't found then there is a problem with the data or power connections or the drive is faulty.


Conductive pad, attached to a strap that fits around the user's wrist, attached to a resistor and a wire that clips onto a metal radiator or water pipe, designed to safely dissipate static charges


Basic Input Output System: diagnostic and configuration program stored in a microchip memory on the PC motherboard that checks the PC hardware before the operating system is loaded


Special type of data cable used by some PC manufacturers that automatically selects Master or Slave mode

SATA drives use a different type of power connector that will not fit ATA/IDE drives, however, most PC power supplies have at least one spare older-style 4-pin power connector as these are still widely used by CD and DVD drives. In the unlikely event a spare connector isn't available you can use a SATA to IDE power adaptor lead. These can be obtained from PC suppliers and typically cost around £2 - £3.

Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at

Bootcamp 487: Moving to a New Pc Part 3 1

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