How to move Windows 10 From hard drive to SSD

An SSD offers numerous advantages over a conventional hard drive. The memory cells can be addressed directly, which leads to very short access times. This has a particularly positive effect on the start times of Windows 10 . SSDs also offer higher transfer rates than hard drives, require less energy, produce hardly any waste heat and are mechanically robust.

Going from a hard drive to an SSD — without having to reinstall Windows 10 (or an older version of Windows) — usually doesn’t pose much of a challenge with the right tools. The same goes for moving from a hard drive to an SSD other. Before we tell you how to mirror hard drive to SSD, we describe how to determine the speed of the previous system to have a before/after comparison and what preparations are important, especially if the new SSD is smaller than the one previous hard drive is.

1. Before moving: find the right SSD

In most cases, a 2.5-inch SSD is the right choice for converting desktop PCs and notebooks. In this design there is the largest offer and therefore you will also find the cheapest SSD variant here to install it in an existing computer. There are also more compact form factors such as M.2 or mSATA. An overview of the types of SSDs and their areas of application can be found in the box “Overview: types of SSDs”.

The appropriate capacity of the SSD depends on the intended use. If the flash disk is only to be used as a fast drive for Windows and selected applications, a size of 240 to 256 GB is actually sufficient. Cheap SSDs like the  Crucial BX500 240GB their purpose. The Crucial model even comes with cloning software, which you can use to easily copy your favorite operating system installation on the old hard drive to the new SSD.

If you want to completely replace the existing hard drive with the SSD, the highest possible capacity is mandatory. The limit here is determined by the wallet, but you should not go below one terabyte (1000 gigabytes). Recommended is about the Samsung 870 QVO 1TB for around 90 euros. Please note when determining the capacity: Manufacturers specify the size of a hard disk/SSD in gigabytes or terabytes on the basis of 1 kilobyte=1000 bytes. However, computers calculate in kibibytes (1024 bytes). The actual usable capacity of a 4 TB hard drive or SSD, for example, can be calculated as 4000 GB * 0.91 (rounded) = 3640 GiB (gibibyte) or 3.6 TiB (tebibyte). At 1TB, only 910 GiB is actually available on the drive. Windows Explorer correctly shows the storage capacity of a drive in tebibytes, but uses the abbreviation TB instead of TiB.

Overview: types of SSDs

We encounter solid state disks in various designs. The most common is 2.5 inch with SATA III connector. But there are also narrower and longer variants with and without special purposes.

mSATA: The abbreviation stands for mini-SATA. Mini PCs and notebooks in particular have slots for mSATA SSDs. Physically, this is the same connector as the PCI Express Mini that uses the WLAN adapter, but the lines are driven electrically like SATA cables. That’s why WLAN cards cannot simply be replaced by mSATA SSDs. The speed of mSATA cards is also based on the SATA standard and is in the third generation (SATA-III) with a net data transfer rate of 600 MB/s.

M.2: The SSD in plug-in card format is even narrower than the mSATA variant, but can be longer. The types 2242, 2260 and 2280 with different screw positions are common. 22 stands for the width, the following numbers for the length in millimeters. The mainboard of your computer determines the appropriate M.2 SSD size and connector shape. The connection can be made via the slower SATA or fast PCIe. Since this SSD type can provide not only two, but also four PCIe lanes (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), it theoretically achieves a transfer rate of four GB per second with PCIe 3.0 x4. M.2 SSDs are more expensive than 2.5-inch variants and are mostly found in ultrabooks or notebooks. M.2 NVMe SSDs (Non-Volatile Memory Express) also use a faster protocol instead of AHCI,

M.2 SSDs can also be retrofitted in standard notebooks in addition to an existing SSD if an M.2 slot is available. However, if the motherboard only offers M.2 SATA and no M.2 PCIe, there is no speed advantage.

SATA-DoM: Disks-on-Modules are particularly compact and fit directly onto SATA ports without cables. They are primarily used as boot media for embedded systems and servers.

eMMC Flash: These modules are actually intended for smartphones and are occasionally found in inexpensive notebooks. They look like a single chip and are soldered on. Therefore they cannot be exchanged.

2. Before installation: Check the connection and height

The majority of common 2.5-inch SSDs offer a SATA III interface. The official designation is Serial ATA 6.0 GBit/s or SATA Revision 3.x. Sometimes you also read SATA-600. The number stands for the net data rate in MByte/s. If the PC in which you want to install the flash drive is a bit older, there may still be a SATA II interface. You can still install SATA III SSDs. Upgrading with a SATA 6G card is usually not worthwhile in order to increase the connection speed, since you won’t notice the difference in speed in practice. The real boost in speed comes from switching from magnetic hard drives to flash and the associated reduction in access times. If you are not sure which port you have, use a hardware diagnostic tool Speccy . Here you can see which interface is available under “Storage” and “SATA Type”.

The height of the SSD can prove to be a bigger hurdle than the interface, especially if you want to upgrade a notebook. In most cases, 2.5-inch SSDs with a housing height of seven millimeters fit into the mobile computer. Older mobile computers can also have a 9.5 mm slot. Make up the difference with the stick-on adapter frames that usually come with the SSD. It gets trickier with ultrabooks, because they can either have 2.5-inch SSDs with a height of five millimeters or even 1.8-inch flash drives. If you are not sure how much space is available on your mobile computer, check the specifications before you get the new solid state disk.

3. Optional: Before the conversion: Windows 10 start times and benchmark

This step is purely optional and is only used for the before/after comparison.

Windows itself logs how long the startup and shutdown processes take. This information can be obtained from the Event Viewer. Press Win-R, type eventvwr, and click OK. In the left pane of the window go to Applications and Services Logs -> Microsoft-> Windows -> Diagnostics-Performance -> Ready for Operation”. Sort the list by clicking on the “Date and time” column header. Event ID 100 refers to startup, 200 to shutdown. Click on one of the messages with ID 100 and go to the “Details” tab in the lower area. After “MainPathBootTime” you can see the time that Windows needs to start. Together with “BootPostBootTime”, which is the time that services and autostart applications needed, the total value results after “BootTime”. For Event ID 200, note the value after ShutdownTime.

An average value, for example of the last 20 startup and shutdown processes, is more meaningful. You can determine this with the tool PC-WELT-Performance . Unpack the ZIP archive into any directory and start the RunAsAdmin.cmd file from there. The script outputs the last boot time in a window behind “Boot Time”. It also calculates the maximum average of the last 20 startup and shutdown operations. The average Windows boot time should be between 30 and 60 seconds on a reasonably clean and average performing system. If an SSD is used, start times of 15 seconds can be achieved

Determine the speed of the hard disk and the SSD: With AS SSD Benchmark you can measure transfer rates and access times of your drives. After starting, select the desired drive at the top left and then click on “Start”. When the test is complete, you will see the read and write performance of the drive in the Seq line. With hard drives, these are around 100 MB per second. SSDs come in at around 500MB per second or more. When reading data, hard disks achieve typical access times of 10 to 16 milliseconds, while SSDs usually only need 0.05 milliseconds.

4. Preparations for Cloning to Solid State Disk

When you clone or rebuild hard drives, there is little risk of losing data. Nevertheless, you should always make a backup of at least your personal data before working with hard drives or partitions.

If you want to be absolutely sure, create a complete image backup, for example with the free version of Macrium Reflect , which we will later (see point 6) also use for cloning. You can use the tool to create a backup copy of the system hard drive or individual partitions, for example on an external data carrier or a network drive. In Macrium Reflect you will find a function via the “Other Tasks -> Create Rescue Media” menu that you can use to create a rescue medium. This restores Windows even if the system should no longer start.

Tidy up your hard drive: Your previous hard drive will usually have a larger capacity than the new SSD. Store what you don’t need all the time on a second hard drive. Also, delete temporary files and uninstall unused applications. Of course, we also have a comprehensive guide on the topic of “ cleaning up Windows 10 ” ready. Most of the tips and tools can also be used on Windows 7 and 8.

Relocated folders: If you have moved user profiles or individual folders from your profile to another partition or drive, undo these changes. The same applies to programs that you have installed on a drive other than “C:”. Otherwise, you need to clone this partition to SSD as well. If this only has a low capacity, however, this makes little sense.

Install required drivers: An SSD on one of the standard SATA ports does not require any special driver. The previous driver for the hard disk is sufficient. An additional driver may be required for M.2/NVMe drives. Install the M.2 SSD in the computer and install the driver from the manufacturer before cloning the system. With older devices, a bios update may also be necessary for the M.2 SSD to be recognized.

Disable automatic restart: If Windows crashes due to a hardware or driver problem, you will see an error message on a blue background (blue screen). By default, the blue screen appears very briefly and Windows restarts. You will then not have enough time to read the message. But that would be important, for example in the event that Windows cannot find the start hard drive or SSD due to a missing or disabled driver (see next section).

To change the setting, press the Win-Pause key combination. The “System” area from the Control Panel appears on the screen. Click on “Advanced system settings” and under “Startup and recovery” on “Settings”. Under “System errors”, uncheck “Perform automatic restart”. Close the settings by clicking on “OK”.

5. Connect the SSD to the desktop PC or notebook

It is easiest and fastest if the PC has a free SATA port to which you can connect the SSD. If this is not possible, use a USB-SATA adapter, preferably for the USB 3.0 port. You can find suitable devices for around 10 to 30 euros in specialist shops and by mail order. Simple adapters only consist of a SATA and power supply connector and two USB connectors. Docking stations for one or more 2.5 or 3.5 inch drives are somewhat more robust. The investment is worthwhile in any case if you continue to use the removed hard drive as an external drive via the USB-SATA adapter.

If the motherboard offers a Raid function, you could also install two smaller SSDs and connect them together as Raid 0. The available storage space then results from the sum of the capacities of both SSDs. Since both drives are written alternately, the transfer rate roughly doubles. In practice, however, the speed advantage is hardly noticeable in most applications and Windows doesn’t start faster either because the access time remains the same.

The most convenient way to transfer data from your old hard drive to the SSD is with a docking station. The investment is worthwhile because you can use the old disk later as an external drive.

If the motherboard offers a Raid function, you could also install two smaller SSDs and connect them together as Raid 0. The available storage space then results from the sum of the capacities of both SSDs. Since both drives are written alternately, the transfer rate roughly doubles. In practice, however, the speed advantage is hardly noticeable in most applications and Windows doesn’t start faster either because the access time remains the same.

If there is no free SATA port on the PC, use a USB 3.0 SATA adapter.


With a Raid 0, the risk of failure also increases, because if even one of the SSDs is defective, all data will be lost. Older chipsets or RAID drivers also do not support the trim function, which is necessary for optimizing the SSDs. For these reasons, we cannot recommend an SSD RAID. Better use an SSD with the desired capacity.

6. Mirror hard disk with freeware: transfer partitions from hard disk to fast SSD

Some manufacturers deliver SSDs with a migration tool on CD. Anyone who owns a Samsung SSD can download the free Samsung Data Migration software from the Samsung download page . However, the program does not work with SSDs from other manufacturers.

If no tool is available from the SSD manufacturer, download Macrium Reflect Free . It is a web installer where you first click on “Download”. The actual installation then starts, in which you follow the instructions of the setup assistant. In the “Registration” dialog, the unnecessary registration can be skipped by unchecking “Register this Installation of Macrium Reflect?”.

Check partitions: After starting Macrium Reflect, you will see an overview of the drives and partitions on the “Backup” tab. The situation can be different on each PC, depending on whether you installed Windows yourself or use a pre-installed Windows. On newer computers that shipped with Windows 8 or 10, there is a 100MB FAT32 efi partition. This is followed by the small 16 MB MSR partition, which Macrium Reflect shows as “Unformatted Primary”, and the system partition (“C:”). The description “GPT Disk” appears for the hard disk. GPT (GUID Partition Table) partition style is used on all Uefi PCs regardless of disk size. In addition, there are usually one or more recovery partitions and sometimes a separate data partition.

Older PCs (Windows 7) use the MBR (Master Boot Record) partition style. At the beginning of the hard disk there is a small partition for the boot loader (“system reserved”), followed by the system partition (“C:”). In addition, there can be a recovery partition and a data partition.

The partition style and the number of partitions are irrelevant to Macrium Reflect. The program can handle all variants. It is only important that the sum of the occupied storage space does not exceed the total capacity of the SSD. For each partition, Macrium Reflect shows the used space and below that the available capacity. If the SSD offers less storage space than the previous hard disk, Macrium Reflect automatically adjusts the size of the system partition on the target drive.

Start the copy process: Click on the system hard disk, then in the area below on “Clone this disk…” and then on “Select a disk to clone to…” Click on the target hard disk, i.e. the new SSD. By default, Macrium Reflect has a check mark next to each partition on the source disk. You shouldn’t change that either, unless there is an additional data partition that you don’t want to clone.

Macrium Reflect is a backup tool that allows you to copy desired partitions from HDD to SSD.
After clicking “Next”, a schedule can be created if you want to clone a hard drive automatically more frequently. Click “Next” if you only clone hard drive to SSD once to move. You will then see an overview of the pending tasks. If everything is set correctly, click on “Finish”. In the next dialog, the definition of the backup can be saved for later repetition. This is not necessary for our purpose, so uncheck “Save backup and schedules as an XML Backup Definition File” and confirm with “OK”. If there are already partitions on the SSD, confirm the deletion with “Continue…”. After that, Macrium Reflect will start cloning, which may take some time depending on the size of the partitions.

7. Install SSD in desktop PC or mobile computer

If the SSD was connected to the computer via a USB cable, install the drive in the device. Turn off the PC and unplug the power cord before opening the case. If your PC does not have a special slot for a 2.5-inch SSD, use a mounting frame that either comes with the SSD or is available separately for around six euros. Place the SSD in the frame and screw it there. Then fix the frame in the hard drive bay of the computer.

Before installing the SSD in your notebook, shut down the mobile computer and remove the battery. Check the data sheet or manual to see exactly where the hard drive is located. Turn the notebook over and unscrew the cover. Disconnect the power and data cables from the old hard drive and lift it out of the slot. Then plug the cables to the new SSD and place it in the free space. Screw the cover back on. Some notebooks offer space for an additional SSD in M.2 format. Note the length and the connection in the notebook – see box “Overview: types of SSDs”. In this case, you only have to move the system to the SSD and save yourself the detour via an adapter or a docking station.

8. After cloning: The first boot of Windows 10

If you have replaced the old hard drive with an SSD, Windows 10 usually recognizes the new drive automatically. With older computers, it is advisable to connect the flash memory to the SATA connection on the old disk, since older Bios versions would otherwise confuse the start sequences. It is also possible that the bios may report the first boot and show the new disk. You simply confirm them – and Windows starts as usual.

If you leave the old disk in the computer, the computer may continue to boot from it. Changing the boot order in the bios setup solves the problem. Call up the setup shortly after the PC has started using keys such as Esc, F2 or Del. The key varies by calculator. You can find out from the manual for the PC or the mainboard. The boot settings can be found in the “Advanced BIOS Features”, “Boot Features” or “Memory” menu. From there, look for an option like “HDD Boot Priority” or “Boot Order” and put the SSD first. Confirm the setting with the appropriate key – such as F10.

9. Identify and fix relocation problems

The transfer from a hard drive to an SSD usually works reliably with Macrium Reflect. If Windows still does not start from the SSD, check the following points.

Crash with blue screen : Windows error messages on a blue background always indicate a driver problem. According to the error “INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE” (see also point 4), check whether the SSD is actually connected to the same SATA connector as the hard disk before. Some motherboards contain multiple SATA chipsets, each requiring its own driver. M.2 SSDs sometimes also require a driver, which you must install before cloning (see point 4).

Other error messages: If Windows does not start and shows a black screen, for example with the message “Boot Failure” or similar, the boot environment is defective or the MBR boot partition is not marked as active (this is not the case with GPT-style partitions necessary). Use the Windows installation DVD or a Windows setup stick for the repair. 

Moving to other hardware: In this article, we assume that you want to replace your PC’s hard drive with an SSD, but nothing else changes. In principle, you can also install the SSD in another PC after cloning. This often works with similar hardware because Windows 10 in particular already contains the necessary drivers. However, the driver equipment of Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 is worse for new hardware, which increases the probability that individual components of the PC will not work. As long as Windows starts, however, this is not a problem, because you can install the missing drivers later – at least if there are suitable drivers for Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 for your hardware. There is a limitation for computers with current AMD Ryzen or Intel Kaby Lake CPUs. Under Windows 8.1 or 7 you will receive the message that the hardware is not supported. For more information, see point 10 of the article Operate Windows faster: tips for more convenience .

10. Tips for using the old HDD

After the computer with the new SSD is running without any problems after a few days, you can delete partitions on the old hard drive that are no longer required and continue to use the drive as internal or external data storage. Press Win-R key combination, type diskmgmt.msc and click OK. Right-click on the partitions you want to delete and select “Delete Volume” from the context menu. In the resulting free area, select “New simple volume” in the context menu and follow the instructions of the assistant.

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