Buying a hard drive with Windows pre-installed

Is it worth buying a hard drive with Windows pre-installed?

It is often seen on places like ebay, hard drives for sale with Windows already pre-installed on it, but is it legit and is it worth it?

The idea may sound nice, but there are there really any big advantages to it? On the whole, we would say NO.


  • It will in theory save the job of installing Windows on the machine.


  • There is a good chance that it from a technical point of view it may crash or not boot properly.

When Windows is installed, it is configured for the machine that the hard drive was plugged into at the time and all the drivers etc were set up for that machine as well as being optimized for it. Unless the machine initially used when installing it on to the hard drive is virtually the same as the one you will be putting it into, there is always the chance that it will not have compatible drivers installed and therefore cause it to crash or run with problems. Therefore, you would only end up having to reinstalled Windows again anyway to your machine.

  • Having a hard drive with Windows on it does not mean you have a valid Windows licence.

Although your system may be running Windows, for full features it still requires a valid Windows licence so it is very likely that your pre-installed Windows will not have a licence with it, and even then if it does it is most likely the case that the licence is for another machine. Therefore you would more than likely not be able to activate your machine with it and would end up having to purchase a new licence key. Suddenly, that “cheaper” option of a pre-installed windows is not cheap anymore!

What can happen?

For a start, chances are that you are paying more money for a pre-installed Windows drive than you would be for a blank hard drive. The cost of the Windows software itself is free – as it is readily available to download from Microsoft so you are paying extra for something that does not cost anything and is likely to cause issues leading to having to reinstall the whole thing anyway.

It is the Windows licence that costs the money, not the software itself so if the drive does not have a Windows licence then you to have a full licensed copy of Windows then you would have to spend extra and buy it anyway.

If the drive does apparantly have an activated copy of windows, they there is also a very high chance that when you use it on your machine, unless it is virtually identical hardware to the machine that the drive was in when it was installed on to then it will most likely not activate on yours. You will therefore end up having to buy a new licence either way.

However, if the machine that you are putting the hard drive into already has a licence for the same version of Windows and you have the licence key available then you may be able to activate it using your original licence for that machine. Although this would still not stop any potential issues such as crashing, driver problems which may stop the machine working or cause problems further down the line.

What do you recommend that I do?

Our advice is simple, unless you like taking risks we do not recommend using a hard drive in a machine that had Windows pre-installed by another machine unless your machine is exactly the same spec. Chances are there will be issues somewhere along the line if not straight away.

When Windows installs, it installs and configures Windows to suit the machine that it is in so it can work properly with all the correct drivers etc and so a clean install is always the best route to take.

With regards to licencing, if you want to be running the full features of an activated copy of Windows we recommend either purchasing a legitimate licence for that machine. Or, as stated previously, if that machine has already had the same version of Windows running on it previously before the hard drive change then it should be possible to do a clean install of the same version of Windows and continue using that same licence at no extra cost.

We are always available to perform clean installs of Windows on new drives with all the correct drivers, no bloated software and all updates fully up to date for you. Please contact us for details.