So let me tackle what you're asking in order
Question 1 -
after/if I copy everything in system reserved to the reformated HD, can it run by itself like a computer?
Yes, and No.... I know that does not help much. Meaning assuming the old HD and the new HD are the same type. Right now there are two types of Hard Drives out there. HDD (Hard Disk Drives, and SSD (Solid-state drives). Knowing which one you have right now can be a huge factor in knowing what you can do when something goes down. Also, using the recovery to make a backup is not a good idea, unless you have a good knowledge level of windows header and recovery functions.
Go to this site HDDGURU.com and NewEGG.com for more info on Hard Drives and what you should know.
Question 2 -
if no, what then will be the minimum that I must copy to the reformated HD to make it an operatable HD?
Answer: In short, nothing at all. Again I'll explain. As long as your HD runs and is not physically broken, then almost any computer will recognize and run it. (think of a thumb drive /USB stick). Windows runs it even if its blank. What you are trying to do is Clone your Drives to another HD and use that encase your current HD breaks? Correct?
While that sounds good, now days you do not need to do that. That is what the Recovery Drive is for. Meaning if the Recovery Dive is a separate drive in your computer then when your primary HD goes out, you will insert the blank one and your OS will start a recovery program that fixes it. Or ask for the Recovery Disk (cd/DVD) to boot it and reload the OS.
In this process you will loose all your files. but your computer will run.
So unless your old HD is physically broken its a operable HD right now, and you can load a copy of Windows 7 on it or Linux or whatever and on and on.
I think you want a cloned HD. There are a bunch of programs like Norton Ghost, or Clonezilla out there, that will do it.
I love Clonezilla, but it is not a simple tool to use. If you want to try it go to Clonezilla.org WARNING!!!! If you are not good with the info displayed at the clonezilla site DO NOT USE IT. If you mess it up it will Delete your whole computer.
I like it because its freeware, and does a great job.
Here is some more info on Cloning and Backups
Here is a List of GOOD programs for Free for Cloning a HD to a HD
Unless your stuck on that I wouldn't do this.
It seems that you want to have a backup drive for when your HD goes down. There are two things to consider here.
- Recovering the OS, and booting
- Restoring your files and folders.
So you might know how to do this. But first off I would box to place your old HD in, that takes it from SATA or PATA etc (ribbon cable) to USB cable. You can find them at Best Buy or a site like New Egg.
From there plug in your old HD and reformat it (assuming you have nothing you want on it currently). This will create a big blank external HD. Or you can buy a external HDD with 1TB on it for less than $50 US now days.
Run windows Backup and Recovery and make the System Image and System Restore disks and do a backup.
Now I know you said the current HD in your new system is bigger than your old HD, but during a backup the backup will only take the files not the whole HD space.
Meaning if your old HD is 300GB and your new one is 500GB (with only 150GB used) then when you do a backup to your old HD it will only take at most 150GB.
- There is a process to take a big backup and compact it to a smaller drive using Clonezilla, but I wouldn't do this if you're not versed in imaging and backups and command line functions.
So here is a link to give you better understand of my above craziness on Backups and Restoring Windows by Microsoft.
Overall, trying to use the recovery drive to make a backup to a old HD and it work, can be done. But its very complicated and will not get you back any of your saved files, or pics, music etc. You can either make a Hard Drive Clone, or Do a backup, system Image, and Recovery Disk in Windows.
Hope this helps and did confuse you.
Edited by czarboom, 03 July 2014 - 02:17 AM.