An SSD is one of the best upgrades you can make for your desktop computer. And it’s not very difficult to configure: install it physically, connect the right cables, and reinstall Windows from scratch.
But maybe you don’t want to deal with setting up Windows (again), copying all your critical files and folders from your preferred backup location, and reinstalling all your apps. We can feel you.
There is another option you can try when you migrate to a new SSD: clone your old hard drive to the 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 your new SSD, everything will be just as you left it. (In theory.)
There is one important fact that you will need to keep in mind when cloning drives like this. Your new SSD should be large enough to fit everything on your old primary hard drive. If not, cloning will not work.
To free up space, you can delete files that you no longer need or download them again. You can also install a new version of Windows on the new SSD, make it the primary boot drive (via your motherboard BIOS), and use your old hard drive as secondary storage for your files, games, movies, or more. You don’t have to have all on your new SSD, after all.
If you replace your laptop’s drive with a new SSD, this whole process becomes a bit more difficult, as you probably only have room for one drive (unless your laptop came with a spare for an M.2 SSD). To clone your primary drive to your new SSD, you can choose a USB to SATA adapter, an external docking station, or one of those fancy gadgets.
The cloning process can take anywhere from a reasonable time to a considerable amount of time depending on your USB connection and the size of your laptop drive. However, the wait is worth it: replacing an old mechanical hard drive with a brand new SSD is one of the best performance improvements you can donate your laptop.
We will use the app Macrium Reflect to clone your hard drive to your new SSD. When you double-click on the installer, you will actually see a screen that looks like a download tool rather than your regular app installer. It’s correct. I’m not sure why Macrium Software is going this route instead of just offering the entire application for download, but there you go.
You should not have to change the options on this screen. Just click on the “Download” button and follow all the prompts when done. Once Macrium Reflect is loaded and assuming your new SSD is connected to your desktop or laptop, you will see a screen that looks like this:
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to erase my F: (“Tiny Game Drive”) drive and pretend to clone my main drive, C: , on it. (I accidentally deleted my screenshot which showed F: empty, so let’s play pretend for a while.)
To get started, simply click on the “Clone this drive” link under your primary hard drive, which should be selected by default. On the screen that appears, click on the “Select a disk to clone” link in the large empty white space box and choose your new SSD. Your screen should then look like this:
You could have as many partitions as my example; you might have less. Either way, you’ll want to place them on your new SSD. You might be able to just click “copy selected partitions” and map everything perfectly to your new SSD. You could also be affected by a:
Sigh. In my example, I could install the first four partitions on my new SSD, but the fourth partition – my primary data partition – seemed to consume the rest of my SSD space, even though the SSD had plenty of space for each. partition of my primary drive. To resolve this issue, click “Cancel” and manually drag your partitions from your old hard drive to your new SSD, keeping the larger partition for the end:
Once you’ve done that, click “Next”.
You will now see a screen which presents a fairly detailed review of everything Macrium Reflect will do once your cloning has started. No, it hasn’t done anything yet – you’ve just configured it.
You can check these settings if you want, but you’re probably pretty sure that you just click “Finish”, which starts the procedure:
Depending on the size of the disk you are going to use (how much data Macrium Reflect needs to move) as well as its speed, this process may take a bit of time. Mine was done in no time in half an hour, but I’m clipping an SSD (where my Windows partition is) to an empty SSD for this example. In other words, the transfer was pretty quick. Changing from a hard drive to an SSD can take four times as long (or more). If you’re impatient, you can just configure your clone to run overnight, and that’ll be all set once you wake up.
Now that you have a clone of your original drive, don’t do anything on your primary drive that places data on your computer that you otherwise want to save, as it won’t appear on your cloned drive. I recommend placing a text file on your desktop that says “THIS IS THE OLD HARD DRIVE”, or something more witty than that, then shut down your computer.
If you are replacing your old hard drive with your new SSD, disconnect your old hard drive from your desktop or laptop (probably a SATA and power cable) and plug in your new SSD where your old drive was. You shouldn’t have to change anything else in your system BIOS. It should boot directly to your primary Windows partition on your new SSD. (Or at least mine did.)
If you keep your old hard drive nearby, reconnect it to a different SATA port on your desktop system. Make sure that your computer does not accidentally boot on it instead of your new SSD by checking if the total size of your c: drive (in bytes, in its “Properties” screen) matches the capacity of your new SSD, and not your old hard drive. That, or search for the “THIS IS THE OLD HARD DRIVE” text file in your BIOS, assuming you did not skip this step. If you are booting from your old hard drive instead of your new one, you will need to change your system boot order in your BIOS.
Assuming your computer boots correctly on your new SSD, open Computer Management (via the Start menu), click Disk Management, find your old hard drive, right-click on its various partitions and select “Delete it.” volume ”for each one. If this option is grayed out, you might need to use a third-party app such as Paragon Hard Disk Manager (the free version) instead. Same concept, it will just let you delete your old volumes and repartition the drive like a big chunk of empty space.
To confirm that Windows 10 correctly recognizes your new SSD and performs everything the right TRIM functions Regularly, click on the Start button, enter “Defragment” and select the first option: “Defragment and optimize drives”.
In the screen that appears, Windows should notice that your primary C: drive is indeed an SSD drive, like this:
You can also verify that TRIM is enabled through the command prompt. Open a command prompt with administrator access (right click on the shortcut, via the start menu, and select “Run as administrator”), and enter this command:
fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify
If you see a screen like this, you’re gold:
Alternatively, you can force Windows to enable TRIM by entering the following command:
fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0
While you’re at it, your SSD manufacturer probably has an app you can use to make sure Windows (and your motherboard) is set up for maximum performance. That, and these apps usually allow you to check and install new firmware for your SSD. Go to your SSD manufacturer’s website or your specific SSD’s product page, and see if there is an app that you can download and install. Here’s what an 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 the following: clarified the language of the original part, added additional screenshots, added new instructions, and rewrite the intro.