How to Migrate to an SSD Without Reinstalling Windows

Solid state drive is one of the best desktop upgrades. And it’s not that hard: physically install it, plug in the proper cables, and reinstall Windows from scratch .

But you might not want to go about tweaking Windows (again), copying all of your important files and folders from your favorite backup location, and reinstalling all of your apps. We feel you.

There is another option you can try when upgrading to a new SSD: cloning your old hard drive to a new one. It’s (reasonably) quick and easy to do, and you can set it up to run overnight if you don’t want to wait and watch. When you wake up and switch your system to a new solid state drive, everything will be exactly as you left it. (In theory.)

Before we start … make sure you have a large enough disk

There is one important fact to keep in mind when cloning such disks. Your new SSD should be large enough to hold everything from your old primary hard drive. Otherwise, cloning will not work.

To free up space, you can delete files you no longer need or re-download them. You can also install a new version of Windows on a new SSD, make it the primary boot drive (via the motherboard BIOS), and use the old hard drive as additional storage for less important files, games, movies, etc. In the end, you are not be sure to have everything on a new SSD.

With a laptop, things are more complicated.

If you’re replacing your laptop’s drive with a new SSD, this whole process gets a little more complicated as you probably only have room for one drive (unless your laptop has a spare M.2 SSD slot). To clone your primary drive to a new SSD, you can take a USB to SATA adapter, an external docking station, or one of these fancy gadgets .

The cloning process can take a reasonable to long amount of time depending on your USB connection and your laptop’s disk size. The wait is well worth the wait, though: Swapping out your old mechanical hard drive for a new solid state drive is one of the best performance improvements you can give your laptop.

Step one: take Macrium Reflect (free version)

We will be using theMacrium Reflect app to clone your hard drive to a new SSD. If you double-click the installer, you see a screen that looks like a download tool rather than a typical app installer. It is right. I’m not sure why Macrium Software is going this route instead of just offering the entire app to download, but that’s it.

You do not need to change any of the parameters on this screen. Just click the “Download” button and follow all instructions when it’s complete. After downloading Macrium Reflect and assuming your new SSD is connected to your desktop or laptop, you will see a screen that looks something like this:

For the purposes of this article, I will erase my F: \ drive (“Tiny Game Drive”) and pretend to clone my main C: \ drive onto it. (I accidentally deleted my screenshot where F: \ was blank, so let’s play pretend for a moment.)

Step two: setting up the clone

To get started, simply click on the “Clone this Drive” link under the primary hard drive, which should be selected by default. On the screen that appears, click on the “Select Drive to Clone” link in the large box with an empty white space and select the new SSD. Your screen should look something like this:

You can have as many partitions as in my example; you may have less. Either way, you’ll want to place them on your new SSD. Maybe you can just click “copy selected partitions” and everything will be perfectly displayed on your new SSD. You can also get hit:

Sigh. In my example, I could fit the first four partitions on my new SSD, but the fourth partition – my primary data partition – looked like it was taking up the rest of my SSD, even though the SSD had enough space for each partition from my primary disk. To fix this, click Undo and manually drag the partitions from the old hard drive to the new SSD, keeping the largest partition for last:

Once you’ve done that, click Next.

Step three: activate the clone

You will now see a screen with a fairly detailed overview of everything that Macrium Reflect is going to do after starting your clone. No, it hasn’t done anything yet – you just set up.

You can review these settings if you like, but you can probably safely just click Finish, which will start the procedure:

Depending on the size of the disk you are going to use – how much data Macrium Reflect has to move – and its speed, this process may take some time. Mine was done in half an hour, but for this example I cloned the SSD (where my Windows partition is located) to an empty SSD. In other words, the translation was pretty quick. Moving from hard drive to SSD can take four times (or longer). If you are impatient, you can simply set your clone to work during the night and everything will be set up when you wake up.

Step four: complete disk installation

Now that you have a clone of your original disk, don’t do anything on the primary disk that puts data on your computer that you would otherwise want to keep, because it won’t appear on your cloned disk. I recommend placing a text file that says “THIS IS AN OLD HARD DRIVE” or something neater on your desktop, and then shutting down your computer.

If you’re replacing your old hard drive with a new SSD, unplug the old hard drive from your desktop or laptop (probably SATA and power cable) and plug in the new SSD right where the old drive used to be. You don’t have to tweak anything else in your system BIOS — it should boot directly into your main Windows partition on the new SSD. (Or at least mine.)

If you are keeping your old hard drive, reconnect it to a different SATA port on your desktop computer. Make sure your computer doesn’t accidentally boot from it instead of your new solid state drive by checking that the total size of your c: \ drive (in bytes, in the Properties screen) matches the capacity of your new solid state drive and not your old hard drive. Or look for the text file “THIS IS AN OLD HARD DRIVE” in the BIOS if you didn’t skip this step. If you boot from an old hard drive instead of a new one, you will have to change the boot order of your system in the BIOS .

Assuming your computer boots to your new solid state drive correctly, open Computer Management (via the Start menu), click Disk Management, locate your old hard drive, right-click its various partitions and select Delete Volume for each of them. one. If this option is grayed out, you may need to use a third-party application such as Paragon Hard Disk Manager (free version). Same concept, it just lets you delete old volumes and repartition the disk as a big fat chunk of empty space.

Step five: how to properly maintain your SSD

To make sure Windows 10 correctly recognizes your new SSD and regularly performs all the necessary TRIM functions , click the “Start” button, type “Defragment” and select the first option: “Defragment and optimize drives.”

On the screen that appears, Windows should notice that your main C: \ drive is indeed solid state, for example:

You can also check if TRIM is enabled via command line. Open a Command Prompt as an administrator (right-click the shortcut in the Start menu and select Run as Administrator) and type fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify command: fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

If you see a screen like this, then you are golden:

If not, you can force Windows to enable TRIM by entering the following command: fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0

While you are doing this, your SSD manufacturer probably has some kind of app they offer you can use to make sure Windows (and your motherboard) is tuned for maximum performance. This and these applications usually allow you to check and install new firmware for your SSD. Go to your SSD manufacturer’s website or the product page for your specific SSD and see if there is an app you can download and install. Here’s what one example looks like: Samsung’s Wizard .

This article was originally published in April 2013 by Whitson Gordon and updated in August 2018 and July 2020 by David Murphy. Updates include: clarified the wording of the original article, added additional screenshots, included new instructions, and rewritten the introduction. It was updated again on June 16, 2021 to match the current Lifehacker styling.


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