A while back, I helped a user easily clone his 320GB Windows 7 system to a 1TB hard drive using Symantec’s BESR 2010. Everything went smoothly except for one big issue that I didn’t find out until now. After the cloning process, Windows 7 was still using the old drive (320GB) as the boot device. While my C: in Computer showed it as using my 1TB drive, I couldn’t detach the old hard drive from the system because it was required to boot the system. Only now when the same user wants to upgrade his hard drive again (to 2TB) did I notice the issue. Basically, disconnecting the old hard drive from the system did allow me to boot from the new 1TB drive after some tweaking but I get the dreaded light blue screen telling me that my copy of Windows 7 is not genuine. I can’t do anything at all as nothing loads up. After some digging around, I noticed that many users had the exact same problem after cloning their Windows 7 system to a larger hard drive. It didn’t matter what method/software they used for the cloning process. The only way to continue using their system was to leave both drives attached to the system, which defeats the purpose of upgrading to a bigger hard drive as most users want to either sell the old hard drive after the upgrade or use it as a secondary storage unit.
As for my situation, it didn’t take me long to realize that the heart of the problem lies in the misconfiguration of the drive letters. When both hard drives were attached and the system was working, the boot drive (old) was assigned the letter G while my 1TB (new) drive was assigned C. Obviously your letter mappings may be different from mine. If I remove the old drive and booted from the 1TB drive, I found out that the drive would now be assigned the letter G. I found this out by opening a command prompt within Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc while in the Windows Not Genuine screen. The problem here is that I can’t just switch the letters because Windows doesn’t allow you to do that to the drive with Windows installed on, which in this case is G. Normally, you could head over to Disk Management and assign a different drive letter to a drive/volume with the exception I mentioned above. Therefore, I was in a dilemma. In order to clone the drive again to the 2TB, I needed to be able to detach the old drive and solely boot off of the new drive. But this wasn’t possible since Windows 7 keeps telling me that it was not genuine every time! Reformatting is not a good solution as the user had already saved a ton of files to the 1TB drive and so it would be a huge waste of time if we had to back every piece of data up again and reinstall the operating system from scratch directly on the 1TB hard drive. Therefore, I had to find a solution to allow me to boot directly off of the 1TB drive without relying on the old drive.You may be wondering why the pictures in the screen shots don’t match the drive configurations I mentioned above. This is because I am documenting this process on my second attempt to clone his 1TB to a new 2TB drive. Therefore, you can think of the 1TB drive in the picture as being the 320GB and the 2TB as being the 1TB drive. Hope that makes sense. No matter the case though, the problem that crops up is the same: I cannot detach the old drive and boot solely off of the new drive without experiencing the Windows not genuine message. After a little digging, I’m reading that some users believe that this problem could have been avoided if after directly cloning the drive, we boot off of the new drive only when the old one has been disconnected. Once you boot even once with both drives connected, you will/might encounter the not genuine message and disconnecting the old drive then will not work. Of course, if you are reading this article, it’s probably a little too late for that! This message serves nothing more than a reminder for the next time you clone a hard drive.
The SolutionUPDATE: 09/18/12 – Thanks to user Boonta’s comment, we now have a reasoning as to why this problem occurred in the first place. The reason stems from cloning to a drive that has already been allocated with a partition and assigned an existing drive letter, hence the drive letter mix up afterwards. The solution is to then delete any partition on the destination disk and have all its space unallocated. When cloning, simply choose the unallocated disk as the destination but whatever you do, DO NOT assign a drive letter to this disk or partition. Once the clone process has completed, you can then safely remove the old drive and boot directly from the clone. If a problem still occurs, use either a Windows install disc or repair disc to perform a ‘startup repair’ twice. You should then be able to log back into Windows from your cloned drive without encountering the ‘not genuine’ blue screen! I’m surprised product vendors do not make light of this issue because many users actually partition and assign a drive letter to their disk when or before cloning. Because the drive letter C is already in use, they will have to assign it something else and that is where the problem stems from. If you do not wish to repeat the cloning process, you can still follow through with this article and fix the drive letter mix up.
So after cloning the drive, you’ll be tempted to just yank the old hard drive out and be done with it. Once the computer with the newly cloned hard drive is booted up, you’ll be greeted with the same Windows log-on prompt as usual. You would think the everything is in place until it reverts to the Windows Classic theme showing you nothing but a light blue background with a message on the bottom right corner telling you that Windows 7 is not genuine.
You open the task manager and open up the command prompt. You instantly notice that your drive letter is anything but the C: drive.
The solution to this problem is simple. We have to switch whatever drive letter your new hard drive is using back to drive letter C:. To perform this procedure, we have to boot into Safe Mode and work with the registry. If you haven’t already, leave only the new hard drive plugged in to your system. Boot it up and continuously tap F8. You’ll soon be presented with the boot options menu. Select Safe Mode from this list. Log in as usual. Wait a bit and you’ll be presented with a completely black desktop with the words Safe Mode on all four corners.
Now, bring up tasks manager again by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Go to File –> New Task. Type in ‘regedit’ and hit OK to launch the registry editor.
If changing drive letters via the Registry seems too daunting, user John in the comments section recommends using the Paragon Rescue Kit boot disc. It’s a free download and registration for a serial key is free (give a fake email if you want). At a high level, you create the rescue disc, boot from it, choose to boot to the Normal recovery environment, select the Boot Corrector option, choose “Search for Windows installation to correct”, select the “Correct drive letters in the System Registry option and finally, click on the Edit Letters button. Using the Paragon Rescue Kit basically provides the same fix as detailed below but you get the benefit of a more intuitive graphical interface as seen here. Please let me know if you need more help!
Now you’ll want to make a complete backup of your registry data by going to File –> Export. Give the backup a name and save it to your hard drive. In my example, it would be S:backup.reg. Once the backup has been made, we can proceed to change our drive letters. Navigate to:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - SYSTEM - MountedDevices
Once there, you should see a lot of files. Scroll down the list until you see the files begin with “DosDevicesX:” where X is a drive letter in use by your system. As you probably could have guessed already, it is here where we get to switch the drive letter our new hard drive is currently using back to C:. First, find “DosDevicesC:”, right click on it and select Rename from the menu. Change the letter C (don’t change anything else) to another letter that’s not already in use. For me, I’ll switch it to drive letter P.
Now that the driver letter C is freed up, we can make the switch. Right click on the entry letter that represents your current hard drive letter and select Rename. In my situation, this entry is “DosDevicesS:”. This time rename the letter to C. That’s it! Entries you make in the registry is live so no need to save the changes as it’s already saved once you have changed the values and hit OK. Close out of the registry and reboot your computer. Once again, make sure that only your newly cloned hard drive is attached. If everything went correctly, you should boot into your desktop! You should be presented with another Windows Genuine message. Go ahead and activate it. It should proceed without any hiccups. Here, you can see in Disk Management that I only have my 2TB hard drive attached and that it has changed from being letter S: to C:. All is good!
The Finishing Touch
Now that we have solved the issue with the letter configuration, we can safely reformat the old drive. If you are planning to either sell the old drive or simply give it away to a friend, please safely delete your data by scrambling it so that it cannot be recovered by whoever will be using it next. Even if you don’t think you have any sensitive or private data stored on the drive, you can never be too sure. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Do no think that simply reformatting the drive will delete the data on the drive. As shown here, it is very easy for even computer novices to use free third-party tools to recover data that the original user “thought” was deleted.
Once you are sure everything is working as expected, reconnect your old hard drive and reboot the computer. When you head into Computer, you’ll see that your old hard drive will now have a different drive letter. This drive letter should be the one we have changed in the registry just earlier. In my case, it is now using drive letter P. Head over to Disk Management when you are ready to reformat.
Right click on the disk that you want to reformat (old drive) and choose the Format option from the context menu. Be sure to heed the warning that all data on this drive will be gone. Give it a appropriate volume name, select a file system (NTFS should be fine), leave the allocation unit size to its default, and decide whether you want to perform a quick format or not. It’s usually better to perform a full format but it will take a much longer time to complete then when compared to a quick format, especially if the hard drive is big in capacity. Once the format has completed, head back over to Computer and you should now be able to use your old drive as a secondary storage unit! If you want to perform a secure wipe of the drive, now is the time to do it.