How to migrate to a new boot SSD

OCZ 2.5" SSD

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By Gandalf’s beard! Have you seen how cheap it is to pick up an SSD today? If you’re not throwing solid-state boot drives into all of your systems then either you’re not saving enough of your hard-earned pennies or you’re just terrified at the prospect of reinstalling Windows.

Well be terrified no more. Follow our step-by-step guide on these pages and we’ll show you the foolproof way to clone your existing boot drive to a fresh new SSD for free. This will work with almost anything from your desktop to your laptop and includes going from a hard drive to an SSD or the other way around.

The main issue is that the new drive needs to be large enough to contain all the data on the existing boot partition. Is that obvious? Even better is if the new drive is the same or larger than the old one although this isn’t essential (it just makes life easier).

You should also remember that your system will be out of commission for some time and this isn’t a quick process – if you’re lucky and it all runs without a hitch it can take less than an hour. However if there are issues or errors this can quickly extend to five hours or more so it’s not something to try when you’re in a rush.

Here’s how to squeeze your old Windows onto a new drive in eight easy steps:


Step-by-step guide to migrating to a new boot SSD

Step 1: Recovery discs

We usually find that the newly cloned drive still needs to have its bootloader rebuilt. To do this we recommend creating a Windows emergency recovery disc (in Windows 8 it’s called a recovery drive). Open the ‘Start’ menu type Create a System Repair Disc and select it. You’ll need a spare blank CD or DVD on which to burn this.


Step 2: Remove everything unwanted

Lucky people will have a larger new drive but if your SSD is low on storage remove any unnecessary programs to make some extra space. You can also remove the large hibernation file by doing the following: open the ‘Start’ menu type Command right-click ‘Command Prompt’ select ‘Run as Administrator’ type powercfg -h off and press Enter.


Step 3: Resize partitions

Resizing the existing boot drive is possible. To do this right-click ‘Computer’ and select ‘Manage > Disk management’. Right-click on the boot partition that you’re going to clone and select ‘Shrink Volume’. It’ll calculate the amount of space that can be removed. Move on to the next step if system files are causing issues.


Step 4: Partition sizing

If you’re having issues freeing up enough space and shrinking the partition down due to system files you can try the EaseUS partition software. This will physically shift the data to shrink the partition. It’s pretty bulletproof although it will require a reboot into its exclusive mode.


Step 5: Connect the drive

We’re getting close to the copy session so hook up the new drive on a spare SATA or eSATA connection. It’s easy on a desktop but for a laptop you’ll need to use a spare desktop to handle the copying. You could also use an external caddy for a laptop ideally running over eSATA for speed reasons plus it’ll initiate the drive’s driver.


Step 6: Select & copy

We prefer Macrium Reflect as our favourite drive copy solution largely because it has a pretty interface and we’re easily distracted; however it also plays very nicely with Windows. Simply select the boot drive and then click the ‘Clone this drive’ link that appears choose the destination drive and the software will do the rest.


Step 7: Recover it

Once the copy process is completed power down disconnect the old boot drive permanently install the new one and then boot up your system. Whenever we’ve run the clone process we’ve always been tripped up by something. Usually Windows will get confused and want the bootloader to be rebuilt so boot the recovery disc and let it run.


Step 8: Reboot your system

Any ‘recovery’ can be completed by the automatic system and should only take a minute to finish. When it’s done the new boot drive will be ready to run. You shouldn’t see any change as it should run as an identical system although you’ll discover that it’s way faster if you’re upgrading to an SSD.