How to transfer your OS to your new SSD drive

When installing a new SSD in your PC that’s to be home to your OS install we highly recommend going for a full reformat and reinstall — chances are your PC is cluttered up with bloatware already and could benefit from a clean tight install. However not everybody has the time to complete this lengthy process and would much prefer to simply clone their old HD over to their new SSD in a matter of hours. We’re here to show you how — and it doesn’t require any of the payware that’s usually required to do so — Windows 7 has all of the required features built in.

What you’ll need: your old hard drive; a back-up drive either internal or external; a blank CD-R/DVD-R or the Windows 7 installation disc; your new SSD.

Step 1: Shrinking your original partition to fit on the smaller SSD

First make sure your original OS drive only contains two partitions — the system reserved partition and the partition that houses your OS. If you have any others back everything up from them onto the backup disk as you’ll lose them in this process.

Once that’s done it’s time to shrink your OS partition so it will fit inside the SSD which is likely to be smaller than the older OS drive. Go to the start menu and right-click ‘Computer’ before selecting ‘Manage’.

Select ‘Disk Management’ on the left just under the ‘Storage’ header.

Right-click your OS partition which is usually labelled as C: and then select ‘Shrink Volume’. The computer will think for a moment as it queries the volume for available shrink space.

In ‘Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB’ enter a value that’s at least 10% smaller than the usable capacity of your new SSD. For example if you’re moving over to a 120GB SSD enter 100000 to be safe.

If you can’t shrink the partition enough try defragging the drive first. If that fails you’ll need to start uninstalling applications from C:. Do this until you’re able to shrink the drive enough. Once it’s shrunk your new OS petition will be small enough to fit inside your SSD.

Step 2: Create an image of the now shrunken OS drive

Plug in your backup drive be it an external drive or an internal drive. It must be bigger than the size of your shrunken original OS partition.

Head to the control panel and double-click the ‘Backup and Restore’ option.

On the left-hand side select ‘Create a system image’. During the backup wizard it will ask where you want to store the new image — select your backup drive.

Start the backup and then hurry up and wait — this can take up to 15 minutes or more to complete.

Once it’s finished you’ll be asked if you want to create a system repair disc. If you don’t have your Windows 7 installation disc select yes and it will guide you through the creation of a system repair disc. If you do have your Windows 7 installation disc select no. Then shut down your PC.

Step 3: Install the new hard drive and restore from the image

We’re halfway there — now it’s time to set up the new drive. Firstly open your PC case and disconnect all of your drives except for the backup disk. Plug in your new SSD as described in our photo tutorial this week. After double-checking all your connections boot up your system and insert the repair disc or Windows Install disc in your optical drive.

The computer should boot from the optical disc and at the first screen select the ‘Repair your computer’ option. Then select the ‘Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier’ option from the next screen before clicking next.

On the next screen select the ‘Use the latest available system image (recommended)’ option and then click next.

Now you need to double-check you’re not going to wipe any other drives so click the ‘Exclude disks’ button.

You should only see one hard drive in the list — if there are any more make sure they’re selected with a tick mark otherwise they’ll be erased.

Click ‘Next’ and finally ‘Finish’. A warning sign will pop up asking if you’re sure you want to continue — select Yes.

If this process fails it means your shrunken partition still wasn’t small enough so you’ll need to go back to Step 1 and uninstall more applications before shrinking and mirroring the drive again.

If this process works you’ll be prompted to restart your computer. Click ‘Don’t restart’ and then click ‘Shutdown’.

Step 4: Final steps

Plug all your other drives back in but don’t plug the original OS drive in at this point. If you want to use that drive save it for later — our priority now is to make sure the new drive is working.

Boot the PC up — Windows should load from your SSD though it may need a reboot once it’s detected a new device in the SSD.

It’s time to go back into the Disk Management area. Go to the start menu right-click ‘Computer’ and select ‘Manage’. Once again head into the same ‘Disk Management’ section on the left as you did in Step 1.

Right-click your new OS partition (again usually called C:) and select ‘Extend Volume’ then click next.

Don’t adjust any of the default values — Windows will automatically calculate exactly how far you can extend the partition to fill your new SSD. Click Next and then Finish and your partition will be extended to fill the SSD.

Finally we need to enter a single command via the command prompt in administrator mode. Go to ‘Start > All programs > Accessories’ then right-click ‘Command Prompt’ and run it as an administrator. Type this command at the command prompt:

winsat disk

This command makes Windows detect the new drive as an SSD and thus enable all the features unique to these drives. You’re now good to go!

  • David G

    Doesn’t work if image is on a USB drive. Idiot windows repair CD assigns the USB drive to C: and then says it can’t restore from C: to C:. Offers no way to change the USB drive to another letter. Brilliant. And I don’t have time to copy the image onto 10+ DVDs. Fresh install it is…

  • chipiik

    FYI: shrinking of original partition is not necessary – e.g. with “Acronis True Image 2014” (provided with new Crucial SSD) one can exclude folders/files when cloning drive to fit smaller one