How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

The move to a solid-state disk will make your Windows PC faster

SSD

Solid state drives offer a marked improvement in speed and stability over their older spinning disc counterparts. And these days you can now get an SSD with a good chunk of storage space for a fairly reasonable price; previously they used to be very expensive if you wanted a large amount of storage. 

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As such, it’s more tempting than ever to ditch old hard disc drives, and go for a machine with an SSD or two instead. If you’re building or speccing out a whole new machine then that’s easy to do. 

But if you want to upgrade the drives of an existing computer, then things get a little more complex and, in some cases, will involve you rolling up your sleeves and being prepared to move your installation of Windows 10 from an HDD to an SSD. 

If you are wondering if it’s worth the effort, then perhaps consider that moving Windows 10 onto an SSD will result in your machine booting up and loading core programs and apps that you install on the SSD, noticeably faster than booting up from an HDD; that’s especially true if the HDD in question of fairly old and nearly at capacity.

Going down the SSD route could result in a more stable and faster machine for day-to-day tasks, and when time is money, the seconds saved can be rather valuable.

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This guide details exactly how to make the switch from a Windows 10 HDD to a Windows 10 SDD in the most straightforward way, making sure that your machine runs faster, quieter and more efficiently than before, without losing any of your data.

Be prepared!

The easiest way to move Windows 10 (or any other OS) onto an SSD is by using a cloning tool. This takes everything on the old drive and copies onto the new one. Of course, for a lot of people, this will be like trying to fit a pint in a half pint pot, because if, like us, your music, photos and videos take up a terabyte of space, you may find compromises will have to be made, because unless you have a lot of money to spend (around 300), you probably won't be opting for a terabyte SSD.

Before you move the Windows installation files to an SSD, you have to separate any other data (documents, pictures, music, videos) to another disc as these won't be transferred to the SSD.

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You will then clone the Windows OS onto the new SSD and move personal data onto the old disc. The great thing here is that you will get the benefit of running Windows from a faster drive while retaining the spacious hard drive for data.

If you are doing this with a desktop computer, then you will have little trouble fitting in both the new disc and the old disc as there should be space for both. Things get a little more difficult when it comes to laptops. At this point, you may have to remove the optical drive to fit in a second drive or spend more money on an SSD that can accommodate all the data present on the old disc.

What do you need?

As mentioned before, for this project you will need your current hard drive (or spinning platters of rust), which you will migrate data from; your new solid-state drive which data will be migrated to; and a backup of all your data, as you can only clone the system files.

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You will also need a cloning tool. In this instance, we will use EaseUS Todo Backup Free. Mainly because it is free and also because it is easy enough for most people to use. Also, the tool is good at cloning data from a large disc to a much smaller disc

Defrag your disk and back up your data 

As we are cloning a disc, it is a good idea to defrag the file system before we start anything. Click on the Start menu and type in defrag, when you see the option for Disk Defragmenter, click on it and run the tool to tidy up the disc.

Next thing to do is the back up ALL your data. An external drive is a good start or an online service such as CrashPlan is a good alternative, but the latter will take a lot longer to complete, even with a good internet connection.

Put your old hard drive on a diet

If you are making the move to a smaller SSD drive, you will need to delete a few files off of it to make sure the process completes. If you have a 256GB SSD, you will need to ensure you delete enough files off of the old one to fit on that.

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A good place to start is by looking in folders such as My Videos (often has lots of very large files within), then My Music (loads of music collected over the years), then My Documents. 

Once your backup has completed and you have verified the data is properly backed up, then delete the data within these folders but not the folders themselves, as you may need them later.

It is important to note that we don't want to delete applications in the Program Files folder. This is because we also want them to benefit from the speed boost that an SSD has. 

Send in the clones 

Once the old disc has slimmed down enough, you can then begin the process of transferring this data to the new SSD. Open EaseUS Todo backup and select "Clone" from the left-hand sidebar. 

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Select your old disc as the clone source and select the SSD as the target location. Before anything else, tick the box next to "Optimize for SSD". This is so the partition is correctly aligned for SSDs (this ensures the best performance of the new disc).

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The cloning tool will begin copying data over. If you tick the "Shut down the computer when the operation completed" box, the process will shut your system down when completed.

At this point, if you get an error message alerting you that the source disc is too big, you will have to go back to the step before and delete more data from the old disc. This can happen when you haven't formatted the SSD to find out the true capacity of the new drive.

Delete your old drive

Once complete, switch the PC back on and boot from the SSD. You may have to go into the boot menu and select the SSD as the drive to boot from.

You should notice that Windows now starts a lot quicker than before. But we are not finished yet. You can then open up Windows Explorer and wipe the old drive (make sure it isn't the backup) Right click on this old drive and select format.

Get your old data back from the backup

We can now move data from the backup onto your old disc, which is now extra storage for your system. You can create a new folder to store all your user folders. Then click on C:\users\username (replace username here!) and you should see your (now empty) user folders. Right-click on each one, select Properties, and go to the Location Tab. Click on Move, and select the newly created user folder as the destination. 

To restore your personal data from your backup, simple click and drag documents, music, pictures, videos, and other files back into your My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and other user folders that you have just moved.

Everything should now work as before, only faster.

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