Moving Windows 10 installation to SSD

Moving Windows installation to SSD


I've waited a long time to move my Windows (now 10) installation to an SSD, for fear of the process messing up my installed applications, games &c. However, after several days of tinkering, it turns that it is actually not that hard. Using a few simple tools, some know-how and good ingredients, moving a Windows installation is definitely… ♪♫♬♫♩

These instructions pertain to Windows 10, and were written August 2015. But they should work for all post-Vista Windows versions, and since Windows 10 is the last numbered release anyway, it should keep working indefinitely.


First, start by creating a Windows recovery disk. This option can be found under Backup And Restore (Windows 7), as highlighted in the image above (fear my mad paint skillz). This recovery disk will be needed later in the process to restore the boot loader.


Figure 1: Windows Backup and Restore dialog

Also while you're at it, burn a GRML live CD for copying and shrinking the partitions. GRML is always handy to have around as a bootable CD or USB stick for fixing other computer problems.

Also, you need some external storage as temporary store for data that you'll have to move to make the old windows installation fit on the new SSD (which is probably going to be smaller than your old spinning rust — uh, hard drive).

Finally, and this should really go without saying, make a backup. The easiest way for this is generating a Windows restore image (also available from the Backup and Restore dialog) and storing it on an external drive. This image can be restored via repair disc, and restores your Windows installation completely, including partition table, boot record and data.


Also, a short disclaimer: If you don't know what you're doing, please don't follow this guide. If my mention of "boot loader" made you go "Huh?", use some other guide like this one. I can't be held responsible for any damage or data loss that occurs while following my instructions.

The Process

  1. First, make your Windows installation small enough to fit on the new SSD. Do this by moving data to your external drive or uninstalling large programs (like Steam games). Also, run the Disk Cleanup tool to remove things such as old Windows Update files, old Windows installations and such. For this, select the highlighted "Clean up system files" button, and select everything you feel comfortable with. This might get you up to 20 free gigabytes. Another helpful tool is WinDirStat, which allows you to find the largest space consumers on your computer. However, this step really depends on your computing habits, and so, I can't really go into more detail on shrinking the installation.
  2. After shrinking your installation, shut down your computer, and attach the SSD you want to transfer the installation to.
  3. Then, boot the GRML live CD (and hope it works correctly on your hardware, without fiddling with the boot flags), start a graphical display with grml-x, start gparted with Alt-F2 gparted, and select your Windows partition.


    Figure 2: Gparted interface

    Accept the gparted warning, seeing as you've made a backup anyway (right? RIGHT?), and select the windows partition. Then, shrink it to the new size of your SSD via the highlighted "Change Partition Size" button, press OK and wait a while. Rest assured that nothing can happen to you, since you've made a backup.

  4. After the partition is shrunk on the old hard disk, take a note of the hard drive device of your original partition, as well as the device of your SSD (selectable on the top right of the interface). I've highlighted the location of the device name in the image.
  5. Create a new partition of at least the same size as the source partition on the SSD. This will be our new Windows partition.
  6. Now comes the tricky (and potentially data-destroying part): Cloning the partitions. This can be done by simply running the command dd if=<source partition> of=<destination partition> bs=65536. DO NOT CONFUSE SOURCE AND DESTINATION HERE, as this will delete everything on the destination partition.

    This command will run a while, and after it's finished, you have your Windows installation on SSD.

  7. We will go about actually making your cloned partition bootable. For this, we'll need the windows recovery disk you've created before starting this guide.

    Shut down your computer, remove the original hard drive (we'll reconnect it later), insert the Windows recovery disk, and restart the Computer. It should boot the Windows recovery disk (you must press Enter to actually boot it).

    Choose the "Repair your Computer" option, select the Windows partition on your SSD, and on the next screen, choose "Command prompt". This will open the cute little box that passes for a terminal in Windows (I kid). Here, you'll need to enter the following commands to make your installation bootable again:

    bootrec /RebuildBcd
    bootrec /FixBoot

    This should allow your computer to boot from the new Windows partition. Exit the recovery menu, shut down your PC, remove the Windows recovery disk, and restart. You should be greeted by your original Windows system, only much faster. You're done!


This should've done it, your Windows installation has moved to an SSD, without reinstalling your programs.

If you have feedback, pass it on to me. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2015-08-12 Wed 00:00

Author: Jan Seeger