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Don asked: “I run an elderly desktop using Windows 8 Pro, which I like very much. My hard drive has started making some noises that make me very nervous but I don’t want to change my OS. I’m wondering if it will be worthwhile to get an external hard drive and transfer all of my information and use that external drive as the boot drive and sort of bypass the internal drive.”
Don, strange noises coming from your hard drive are a bad sign. Back up now. It looks like something is up and you may not be able to back up later.
As for booting from an external drive, you have a desktop, odds are you can install a second drive internally and boot from it. Installing the drive internally won’t be too hard, and you’ll get better performance out of it.
Now, whether you install it internally or externally, you will still have to look for a way to put Windows 8 Pro on it. Your operating system lives on the drive that’s dying right now, and it’s only a matter of time before you lose it. There is software that will clone a hard drive onto another one and that includes user data and operating system.
On the free side, you can try Clonezilla, but there are also plenty of paid products including popular ones like Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image.
But Don, whatever you do, back up your data now while you still can. Hard drivers aren’t supposed to be making new strange noises