What You’ll Need
There are a number of different ways to go about this, but we’ve found this to be the easiest and most reliable method. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Your current hard drive, with Windows installed. For simplicity’s sake we’ll call this drive—that is, the drive you’re migrating from—your “current hard drive” throughout the tutorial.
- A solid-state drive. This is the drive you’ll be migrating to. To get a rough idea of how big it should be, head to your current drive, navigate to
C:\Users\and right-click on your user folder. Hit Properties, and mark down how much space that folder takes up. Head to My Computer and note how much space Drive
C:has filled up, and subtract your user folder’s size from C:’s total. That’s how big your SSD needs to be, though I’d give yourself a good deal of wiggle room for future updates and new programs. We’ll assume, for the purposes of this guide, that you’ve already installed your new hard driveand are ready to migrate your data.
- A backup of all your data. Since you can’t clone only part of a drive, you’ll need to remove your music, movies, and other personal files from your current drive before migrating Windows to the SSD. That means you’ll want to back up your data somewhere else—whether that be an external drive, a spare internal drive, or the cloud. Just make sure that data is safe and recoverable, since we’ll be restoring it later on.
- EaseUS Todo Backup Free. This is the program we’ll be using to migrate your installation. It’s easy to use, free, and it can clone partitions from a big drive to a smaller drive, which is crucial for this process (since your SSD is probably smaller than your current hard drive).
A Note for Dual Booters
This guide assumes your main hard drive only has one partition on it, holding Windows and your documents. If you dual boot with Linux, OS X, or another version of Windows and it resides on the same drive, this whole process becomes a bit more complicated. Make extra sure you have a backup before continuing, and tweak the following two steps to the process:
- In step three, you’ll want to click on your Windows partition and clone only that to the SSD instead of cloning the entire disk. Cloning the entire disk would bring all your partitions over, which you won’t likely have room for.
- After step three, you probably won’t be able to boot into Windows on your SSD. This is because the Windows bootloader resides on the MBR, not the partition itself. After you’ve migrated to the SSD, you’ll need to insert your Windows installation CD (or yourWindows 8 recovery disk) and choose “Repair Your Computer” from the main screen. Choose Startup Repair from the menu, and your computer should reboot a few times and repair the bootloader.
Step One: Defrag and Back Up Your Data
Before you start, you probably want to defragment your disk. Click the Start menu and type in “defrag”, hitting Disk Defragmenter when it comes up. Run one last defrag before you continue.
Next, you’ll want to make sure everything is backed up in case something goes wrong. You should already be backing up your data regularly, whether to an external drive or withsomething like CrashPlan, but if you aren’t, now’s the time to start. Run one last backup before you start the migration process to make sure it’s as up to date as possible.
The next thing you need to do is delete files from your main drive until it becomes small enough to fit on your SSD. That means if your SSD is 120GB and your current drive has 260GB of data on it, you’ll need to delete 140GB (260GB – 120GB) worth of files before you can migrate. Usually, this can be accomplished by deleting all the music, movies, documents, and other files out of your “My Music”, “My Videos”, “My Documents”, and other user folders. Don’t delete the folders themselves, just delete everything inside them. We want to keep the folders intact for later. And remember, we’ll be restoring your files later on, so don’t worry about deleting stuff you still need. Don’t uninstall any programs, unless you want them gone for good. We want to keep these on the SSD so they can benefit from the drive’s speed.
Step Three: Migrate to the SSD
Open up EaseUS Todo backup and choose “Clone” from the left-hand sidebar. Click “Disk Clone.” Choose your curent hard drive as the source disk, and choose your SSD as the target disk. Check the “Optimize for SSD” box. This ensures that your partition is correctly “aligned” for SSDs, and is important for getting the best performance out of your SSD. Click Next.
EaseUS will begin copying your disk. Check the “Shut down the computer when the operation completed” box, and your computer will turn off when it’s done.
If it tells you the source drive is too big, then you haven’t deleted enough data. Remember that the size of the SSD—say, 120GB—is not the same as how much space will be available on the SSD after formatting. Once you’ve hooked up your SSD, check how much space is actually available and make sure your current drive is using less than that amount of space. Even if your source drive is bigger, EaseUS should automatically resize the partitions so they fit on the SSD, as long as your source drive isn’t filled with too much data.
Remember, if you have more than one partition on your original drive, you wan to clone the partition, not the drive. That means instead of choosing “Disk Clone,” you should choose “Partition Clone,” clone your Windows partition to the SSD, and stick in the repair disc when you’re done to repair the bootloader.
Step Four: Wipe Your Original Drive
Once the cloning process is complete, turn your computer back on and boot from the SSD (you should have an option to press F12 for a boot menu, or you can change your drives’ boot order in your BIOS). Open up Windows Explorer and find your original Windows drive. Right-click on it and choose “Format”. A Quick Format is fine here; we just need to clear off all that old data. Make sure you’re wiping your original Windows drive and not your backup; if you’re unsure, unplug your backup drive first. You don’t want to lose any of your data.
Step Five: Move Your User Folders
Now that you’ve got Windows on your SSD, you need to get all your other files back on your system. You probably don’t have enough room to fit it on your SSD, so we’re going to store them on your old drive. And, since we can remap the locations of your My Documents, My Music, and other user folders, we can put them on a second drive without Windows even batting an eyelash.
First, head into your old drive (which should now be empty) and create a new folder to house all your user folders. I just called mine “Whitson.” Head into
C:\Users\[Your User Name] and you should see all your user folders there. Right-click on each one, hit Properties, and go to the Location tab. Click on the Move button, and choose your newly created user folder as the destination. When you’re done, you might have a few miscellaneous settings folders left over (like
.VirtualBox), which you can leave there. Your Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, Saved Games, and Searches folders should all be on your old drive.
Step Six: Restore Your Personal Files
Lastly, we just need to restore all your personal files. Open up your backup—wherever it may be—and drag your documents, music, pictures, videos, and other files back into your “My Documents”, “My Music”, “My Pictures”, and other user folders that you just moved.
Now, your files will be accessible just as they always were. Even though they’re on a new drive, Windows still sees them as your main “My Documents” or “My Music” folders, so you shouldn’t have to change much else. You may have a few programs—the text-based todo.txt is a great example—that still use absolute paths (like C:\Users\Documents instead of just searching your “My Documents” folder), so you may have to tweak a few settings to get everything working properly. For the most part, though, everything should work as it did before, and you should have a much faster computer thanks to the SSD.
We’ve covered proper SSD maintenance before, so I won’t go too deeply into it here. In order to have Windows optimize itself for your new SSD, you may need to re-run the Windows Experience Index. Hit the Start menu and type in “Windows Experience”, and hit the “Check the Windows Experience Index” option. Click “Re-Run the Assessment” and it should turn off defragmentation and turn on TRIM.
To double check that it all went as expected, head to your Start menu and type “defrag” in the search box. Click on “Disk Defragmenter”. Click on “Configure Schedule” and hit “Select Disks”. If all went well, Windows will realize it’s on an SSD and your SSD won’t even be an option in this menu (if you’re on Windows 8, it will show up in the list as an SSD instead, and defragmentation will be disabled).
Lastly, we’ll want to make sure TRIM is turned on, which keeps your drive from slowing down over time. Open up a Command Prompt and type in:
It will either give you a
0 or a
1 as a result. If you get a zero, that means TRIM is enabled. If you get a 1, make sure you have a TRIM-compatible SSD—you may have to Google your SSD’s model number to find out.