We have a server that was built by the guy before me (so I am told), so I can't provide any model information.
We have Windows XP on it. We use this server for many things, but one thing that will be affected by downtime is our clock-in system. Over the time that the server is down, users won't be able to clock in, and managers will have to input times manually.
I obviously have to update to Windows 7. I have a brand new hard drive and a copy of Windows 7 ready to go, but I want to do this with minimal downtime. My plan was to put the new hard drive in, and then just install the windows 7 on the new hard drive and use that as the boot drive, so i don't have to reinstall any other programs, and so I don't have to do a restore with our backup utility. However this would require me to turn off the computer, and since we have employees clocking in at all hours I would like to avoid that.
We were going to use Windows Server 2012 but we didn't want to spend the money and really don't need any of the additional functionality, we only use this for clocking in and to store scanned documents.
What are some other ways I could install an OS with minimal downtime? Would it be possible for me to install it while the computer is on by just putting the Win7 disc in and installing it to the new volume, and then just doing a quick restart and booting from that drive?
We have Windows XP on it. We use this server for many thingsAlright, you're doing it wrong. Very, very, very wrong. First, don't run a server with a client OS if you can possibly avoid it, and second it's best practice to limit your servers to a single role/application. In response to your question, the way to do this is to buy new hardware, install an OS, configure it, and swap it out. For the two use-cases you mention, and the fact that it's running XP you can probably pick up a PLC or cheap desktop/server to replace it for a couple hundred bucks.
However this would require me to turn off the computer, and since we have employees clocking in at all hours I would like to avoid that.- It seems like it was a pretty critical system, surely you had some kind of plan that dealt with what would happen if that system failed? Shouldn't building a new system basically follow the same procedure?