Migrate HDD to SSD without re-installing

Changing the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) in your laptop, notebook, netbook or ultrabook to an new Solid-State Drive (SSD) drive can literally breath new life into your computer, even if it is 5 years old. In my experience, I've seen a performance increase of up to 5 to 10 times, possibly even more depending on your computer, especially if you've maxed out the computer's Random Access Memory (RAM) memory in the computer. It is not uncommon to see the CPU become the bottleneck in a recently upgraded SSD wielding computers performance after years of it being the HDD. You'll be surprised if your computer used to take 5 minutes to boot up and it now only takes about a minute.

While SSD drives are much faster and can be much more robust, which is important if you carry your computer around a lot or do disk intensive operations, it is not without it's drawbacks. The most noticeable one is it's limited lifespan… it's limited. How long your SSD drive lasts will depend a lot on how it is used. Unlike HDDs, SSD's should last about 3-5 years but could be as much as 10 years. That being said, the technology is always evolving and the next generation of drives are expected to last 100 times longer. There is also the cost. Simply put, they cost more and are smaller than the HDD drives available.

The following instructions will help you migrate your HDD to a new SSD without having to re-install any software. Specifically, they are for migrating from a HDD to an SSD on a notebook/laptop running Windows 7. There may be some differences if you are using Windows XP or Windows 8. These instructions also include optimization techniques designed to maximize the SSD's performance and lifespan.

Note that it is highly recommended that you add as much memory as possible to your computer to minimize the need for the computer to use your new SSD as virtual memory. Without enough RAM, Windows will use your SSD as virtual memory significantly reducing it's lifespan. On a 32-bit Windows, most computers can often handle 3 GB of memory, even if the specs say it can handle only 2 GB (no promises here so make sure you have a good return policy). On 64-bit versions of Windows, I recommend at least 4 GB if not 6 GB.

If your computer has space for two HDD, put your operating system and applications on the SSD drive and your swap file, hibernation file and all other files on the HDD drive in order to make as few changes to the SSD as possible.

Important: These steps are made available and should be followed at your own risk. They are not recommended unless you know, understand and are comfortable with the risks. Read through the instructions first. If you don't understand something, don't attempt the process on your own. Always backup your hard drive first using reliable backup software like Acronis True Image or Macrium Reflect, or risk loosing it all forever.

  1. Run Check Disk on each of the partitions to be moved to the new drive.
  2. Clean-up the files on your drive
    • Delete programs no longer used
    • Clean up the drive using CCleaner to delete:
      • Browser caches
      • Temporary Files
      • Recycle bin
    • Move less important files and files less frequently used to a slower external storage device
    • Defragment the drive using Defraggler
    • Shutdown and Reboot the computer
  3. Again, run Check Disk on each of the partitions to be moved to the new drive.
  4. Install SSD internally or externally (if you are using a laptop with room for only one internal drive)
  5. Clone your existing drive to the new. You can use the EaseUS Partition Tool or the EaseUS TODO Tool. The EaseUS TODO Tool is a little less flexible but has the advantage of aligning the data on your SSD drive while it is copying the information instead of doing this as a separate step.
  6. Shutdown computer.
  7. Remove HDD and replace it with the new SSD. Do not reconnect your HDD externally at this time.
    Boot computer.
  8. Enable AHCI in your computers BIOS if it is not already enabled. If you do not have this option in your BIOS, skip this step. If Windows crashes while restarting your computer, set the setting back to it's original setting and only switch it back after making the following changes in your Windows registry using RegEdit:Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\iaStorV]
    "Start"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\msahci]
    "Start"=dword:00000000

    Once these changes have been made, restart your computer, go to the BIOS and enable AHCI. When you log into Windows again, you will notice it is installing new drivers. Once this is done, shutdown and restart your computer again.

  9. If the tool you used to clone the drive did not have an option to do an SSD alignment, use Minitool Partition Wizard to fix the problem using the Align All Partitions option. If you aren't sure if you have the problem, try it anyway. The tool will let you know if something needs to be fixed.
  10. To optimize Windows for your new SSD, run the Windows Experience Index tool that comes with Windows.
  11. Disable Scheduled Defragmenting -- Since memory in your SSD is randomly accessible, you no longer need to defragment your drive. In fact, doing this will cause it to wear out. To ensure it is disabled:
    • Head to your Start menu and type defrag in the search box.
    • Click on Disk Defragmenter.
    • Click on Configure Schedule.
    • Click 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).
  12. Turn on TRIM:
    • Open up an elevated Command Prompt (right click on CMD and select Run as Administrator, confirm by clicking Yes)
    • Enter the following command:
      fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify
    • If you get a zero (0), TRIM is enabled. If you get a one (1) and you have a TRIM-compatible SSD, type in the following command:
      fsutil behavior set disabledeletenotify 0
  13. Some notebook computers have an Active Protection shock sensor which protects your hard drive when it gets bumped. Since there are no moving parts in an SSD, you can disable this feature and free up some memory. How you disable this will depend on your notebook. Check with its manufacturer.

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