While there are a wide range of disk and partition cloning utilities available, many users may not realise that Windows 7 has its own disk imaging utility that is just as effective, but with the advantage of not costing anything to use.  The user just needs either an external HDD or a second internal hard disk, the SSD to clone to and either a blank CD-R or the Windows 7 OS installation disc.

Ideally, to get the most out of an SSD, it is best to start with a clean OS installation.  However, this is not a choice for everyone, especially those who may not have the original OS or software discs, such as with a consumer PC/laptop that does not come with OS/software installation media.

To clone from HDD to SSD with Windows, the process is summarised as follows:

  1. Move data off any non-OS partitions from OS HDD and delete these partitions.
  2. Shrink the OS partition to fit the new SSD.
  3. Make an image of the OS partition to a 2nd or external HDD.
  4. Install the new SSD.
  5. Restore the OS image from the 2nd or external HDD.
  6. Resize the OS partition to fill the SSD capacity.
  7. Have Windows re-rate the OS drive so it recognises it as an SSD.
  8. Optional: Set up the original OS HDD as a drive for data.

Once complete, Windows 7 should behave exactly as before, with all software and settings intact, but with the exception of running much quicker thanks to the SSD.

  1. Introduction
  2. Initial preparation
  3. Creating an image of the OS drive
  4. Writing the OS system image to SSD
  5. Finishing steps for the SSD

  33 Responses to “How to clone HDD to SSD with Windows 7′s own software”

  1. Excellent and well detailed guide.

    I did not see in your review, what is a commonly referenced issue on SSD installation on other sites, that of SSD disk alignment.

    Do your steps in this guide manage this issue or do I need to address this separately?

    by Insight

  2. Windows 7 creates its partitions aligned to the 4KB boundary and from my testing, the 4KB alignment remains after the backup and restore process. The only thing I haven’t check is what happens if the partition was not 4KB aligned, such as a Windows Vista installation that was upgraded to Windows 7, but when I get time to test this, I’ll report back.

    A Windows 7 clean installation on a new hard disk or a hard disk that was previously partitioned by Windows 7 is 4KB aligned. The same with the majority of computers that are supplied with Windows 7.

    To check whether the partition is aligned, download and run the AS SSD utility (link). Select the OS drive in the drop-down and look at the info that appears in the upper-left panel. If there is green writing ending in ” K – OK”, the partition is properly 4KB aligned. If the writing is red ending in ” K – BAD”, then the partition is not 4KB aligned and this could lead to the clone not being not 4KB aligned.

  3. Thanks for the followup. Other than using Diskpart to set alignment at 1024, I followed your guide and the install worked without a hitch. And all is well.

    By Insight

  4. One other note on the alignment issue for SSD’s. When I created a partition using Win 7 managment tools, I noticed that the resulting partion offset was zero as indicated by using Start/MSINFO32/Components\Storage\Disks. That information is what lead me to use DiskPart to set the alignment manually at 1024.

    Perhaps using the Win 7 Disk/Repair to set create partition would have different results? I haven’t tried this.

    By Insight

  5. The Repair CD restore process creates the partitions automatically to match the originals. From my backup and restore process while creating the guide, the SSD was completely blank (no partitions) beforehand and the OS partition the restoration process automatically created had the same 1024K offset as the original on the source drive.

    As far as I can tell, if the SSD had one or more existing partitions, the restore process would remove any and create its own, especially with the warning that all content on the drive being restored to will be deleted.

  6. [...] well (amazingly) and that’s all I needed. This blogs outlines the exact procedure to follow http://www.ssdfreaks.com/content/664/how-to-clone-hdd-to-ssd-with-windows-7s-own-software Pay particular attention to the very first action “Move data off any non-OS partitions from [...]

  7. I got this error:
    “No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found”

    This method signed by STIMP on Windows Forum
    and it fixed it:

    I finally just got it working. Trying to go from a 500gb drive to another 500gb drive and getting the same error. I went into Diskpart and type “select disk=0″. Then I type “detail disk” to make sure I had the right drive. I typed “Clean”, and then “exit” to get out of Diskpart. And then I started the image recovery and finally it works. Before I did these commands I had formatted the drive to one large partition, set the partition to active, and made sure it had a drive letter assigned.

  8. First off – Thank you for the clear step by step instructions.

    My laptop has a 20GB system recovery partition. In Step 1 do I need to move it off the HDD C drive before the back up to the external drive or can it tag along like the 100 MB System partition?

  9. Although I haven’t tested this with a recovery partition, as far as I’m aware of Windows will include it in its backup, in which case the recovery partition will end up on the SSD.

  10. Where does the part about Activating AHCI come in? I heard you have to activate it in Windows first, and then in the BIOS. I am not sure where this should be done to take advantage of the better performance in this step by step guide. Which by the way is the best I’ve seen.

  11. If AHCI is not enabled already, I would recommend enabling AHCI after completing the guide, i.e. where your system is up & running on the SSD.

    See #1 of this SSD optimisation guide on how to do this. Basically you need to make sure your BIOS has an AHCI setting first. Then you make the registry change before changing the setting in the BIOS.

    If you need any help, I’m on their SSD forum along with many other helpers.

    • I am still going over the guide step by step. These instructions are very clear, but it is still a mystery to me why I can’t get the shrink partition down as part of the initial prep. I have shut down hibernation, and system restore, and have run Defraggler again.

      My current state:
      0 Fragmented Files (0.0B)
      0 Total Fragments
      0% Fragmentation

      I have no data on my netbook, and I have already created a set of full recovery DVDs and a Drivers & Apps DVD using the Acer E-Recovery V5.0. just to be safe. Then I meticulously got rid of the bloatware, and installed the only the apps I use. Now, including the OS and apps I am only using 11.8 GB. (207.9 free, 219.8 capacity). I was hoping to buy an OCZ 60GB (OCZSSD2-2VTXE60G) SSD. Since I only carry a very little amount of data when travelling, never more than 5gb. This should fit on a 60GB according to the numbers. But I am still trying to figure out the shrink bit.

      • It looks like there is an unmovable system file (e.g. registry file) located towards the middle of the disk preventing it being shrunk beyond this point.

        The only way to get around this would be to perform a shrink with a third party tool which can move any “unmovable” files or fragments out of the way. The best way I can think of off hand would be to shrink the partition in Parted Magic, which is a bootable live Linux OS that runs from a USB pen drive. It automatically moves any stubborn files/fragments out of the way and can shrink down much further than Windows can. You can get the ISO here and the USB boot tool here. Once you shrink the partition in Parted Magic, boot back into Windows and then continue to page 3 of this guide.

        Once I get some free time, I’ll aim to write another guide showing how to use Parted Magic as an alternative to the tedious defragment & shrink process.

        • Excellent methodology to migrating a Windows 7 installation to an SSD from another hard drive, however I’ve also run into the same issue as the prior respondent. I have my Win7 installation on a drive with about 175Gb and trying to migrate it to a 240 Gb SSD. I’ve run defraggler several times after unprotecting the drive and disabling the hibernation mode and my drive remains stuck at 7% fragmentation, which is preventing me from shrinking the partition down to the size necessary to fit within the SSD. It seems a few choice system files are unmoveable by defraggler. Couldn’t find any follow up thread regarding using Parted Magic to move those unmoveable files to shrink the drive. Was hoping you could elaborate on the process.

          • To reply to my last reply, I found that, in my case, it was the pagefile.sys that was causing the issue. Simple fix, I disabled the virtual memory in Windows, eliminating the pagefile.sys, which was stuck in the middle of the drive. and then defragged again. After this, was able to shrink my drive down to size. Don’t know that this will be the solution for everyone, but its worth examining it if you run into the same issue as I. It’s probably not recommended to attempt if you are running a setup with a low amount of RAM installed (ie less than 4 gb) but as i’m running with 12gb of ram, the temporary lack of virtual memory presented no issues.

    • I think I realize where I am stuck. In the “Enter the Amount to Shrink” I should put 170000 for my drive. My numbers for Shrink C: are as follows:
      Total Sice before shrink in MB: 225061
      Size of available shrink space in MB: 209714
      Enter amount to shrink in MB: 175000
      Total size after shrink in MB: 50061

      With these numbers I should be good to go, yes? The I can proceed and create an image.

      • Ah, that will work fine, as 50,061 should be within the limit of the 60GB. I would suggest trying 180000 just to be on the safe side, as you can easily expand the partition after you restore the backup the SSD.

  12. I finally decided to opt for an OCZ Vertex 2 SATA II 120GB SSD drive. I was cheating myself not having the extra room, even though I traditionally never use much on the road.

    So I created my image on an external 75GB HDD (in a USB enclosure), and made a Windows 7 repair disk so I can boot from DVD. Where I am stuck now, is the Windows 7 boot CD does not see the external HDD on the USB port. The image by the way is only 9.5GB. I am trying to create an image across 3 or so DVDs, but that is not going well. I am on the 3rd DVD, and the progress bar is only at 25%. I am going to see if I can make a new Windows 7 repair disk with the drivers required for an external drive.

    • The only thing I can think of is if the USB port the HDD is plugged into is a USB3 port. As far as I’m aware of, the Windows 7 repair CD cannot see USB3 ports, which means that the HDD must be plugged in a USB2 port (regardless of whether the enclosure is USB3 or not.) The easiest way to check which ports are USB 2 or 3 is to look at the tab colour in each USB port. If it’s blue, then it’s USB3 and if it’s white or black, then it’s USB2.

      I’m surprised the image is just 9.5GB, but quite possible for a fairly clean Windows installation, i.e. little other than the OS and drivers.

  13. I have followed your instructions exactly and everything has been great until I try to install the image to the SSD. I keep receiving some message about “Shadow Copy component error” when I look online it tells me to do stuff from start menu, but I have my original HDD disconnected only can use recovery disk.

  14. Thanks for share this useful information, I used migrate my system partition from old HDD to NEW through some third-party partition software-Partition Assistant Home Edtition-it is also easy to use. Hope this could help you also.
    this article will show you how to clone old hard disk to new hard disk

  15. Thanks! it help Excerllent!!!!

    But the main KEY of Image HD was (Acronis or O&O or Spotmau…).

    1) Sink volume to third DH smaller than or equal new SSD
    2) Clone Image to third HD
    3) Chane cable Thrid HD is C: (boot)
    4) Clone Image to new SSD
    5) Now you can change cable boot new SSD now.
    *Note: some software may miss serial # or must update again but windows work excerllent


  16. Awesome guide, it was extremely helpful. I only had one problem, I kept getting the “No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found” error; the various solutions discussed here (shrinking the C volume, running “clean” in diskpart, etc.) did not help. It turns out that the original hard disk had an additional Q volume with factory-supplied system restore data. After shrinking the C volume, the Q volume remains offset to the end of the drive, so that the drive layout looks like:

    System Volume | C Volume | Lots of unallocated space | Q Volume

    Apparently, an image of the just system volume + C volume will include some information about the Q volume offset, because I could not restore that image to the SSD (which was half the size of the original HDD).

    I deleted the Q volume after writing its contents to DVDs and created a new image. Restoring from that image worked perfectly on the first attempt.

  17. [...] a good manual to bring it to a good end. Brouweing the net in search of information I stumbled on how-to-clone-hdd-to-ssd-with-windows-7s-own-software. It may ask a smaal amount of preparation but if it turn out to be a succes I have some advantages. [...]

  18. fantastic tutorial.It helped me to succeed the installation of a Samsung 830 series (256gb) into a Fujitsu Siemens E8310. I did the image over a NAS drive and it went quite good.
    I copied parts of the tutorial and included the link to these pages onto my personal blog (intened to be used personal and not known to the wide www). If ther is a stray visitor he’ll have the full info available.

    Once again great job and thank you very much.

  19. Just wanted to post my experiences in Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium migration from HDD to SSD, having switched from a Windows XP Raid system. Starting: Raid 1 with 2 500gb discs, 1 SATA clone, 1 hot swappable SATA bay, Windows XP 32 bit Ending: SSD in AHCI with the 2 500gb discs each being a bootable backup clone, 1 hot swappable bay, Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium.

    And let me save you the HOURS AND HOURS of time I spent doing trial-and-error:

    1. First off, I had started with Windows XP 32 bit in RAID mode on the bios, with 2 discs in Raid 1 and 1 other hard drive also on SATA and 1 hotswap SATA bay. The non-raid hard drive was a clone of the raid system (and was bootable), plus I had a removable SATA dock with a hard drive cloned there as well (also bootable).

    1.5: I had created a Windows 7 64 bit installation in anticipation of my migration: I had simply disconnected the SATA and Raid drives, plugged a hard drive into my SATA bay, and installed Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium on it (note: Bios was still in Raid mode. See below why this matters). I had then installed a bunch of programs and got Windows 7 formatted to just the way I wanted. Hence, I didn’t want to do any more fresh installs, just clones of this.

    2. With the Raid drives and my SATA hard drive still unplugged, I plugged in my new SSD and put the Windows 7 hard drive into my SATA swap bay, planning to simply clone Windows 7 from the hard drive (along with installed programs and formatting) to the SSD. Of course, upon bootup I changed my Bios from Raid to AHCI to ensure optimal SSD functionality. Result: The Windows 7 hard drive was not recognized so I could not clone it to the SSD, since it did not boot up even. Turns out there’s a program/driver that has to be placed on the Windows 7 drive in order for it to even be seen in Windows when switching from Raid to AHCI mode. So, I went back into Raid mode in the bios, the Windows 7 drive was recognized and booted up, I downloaded this msi program from Microsoft, I ran it on the Windows 7 drive, I rebooted into AHCI mode and voila- it was recognized.


    3. I tried Acronis. I tried Miray HDClone. I tried Drive XML. I tried Easus Todo. None would clone from the Windows 7 hard drive to the SSD, even after formatting the SSD with 4k partitioning. They might clone and then stop just before finishing. Or they would clone and then be unbootable. Before trying anything else that I saw on the web, I tried Casper 7.0. Utterly and completely easy, brainless, and successful cloning from the Windows 7 drive to the SSD, even while working in Windows. Note: the SSD is 240gb, the hard drives 500gb (but data was only 190gb). With Casper, I did not have to change partition sizes or do any other screwing around with formatting or partitioning . . . I just cloned it. There are many options out there for cloning, but I suspect they all require changing your partition sizes so they match before you clone. I don’t know about you, but often once I’ve done a repartitioning, I’ve got a nonbootable disc. Make sure you got backups if you prefer to go that route.

    4. Next, I removed the Raid drives from my computer case. Remember, they were Raid 1. Turns out when I put them in a USB/SATA dock, they are accessible and totally readable to my new Windows 7 64 bit system. But, I don’t need ‘em that way and I had hard drive clones of my old Windows XP Raid system on other drives. I put the Raid drives (500gb each) back in my case and connected them back to SATA. Now, in ACHI mode using Windows 7 64 bit on my SSD, I used Casper to clone the SSD to each of the old former 500 gb raid hard drives.

    5. End result: Windows 7 SSD and 2 clones of it in my system. Casper has automated incremental backup/cloning so this is mindless now. If the SSD gets corrupted, I have not one, but two clones that I can instantly boot up from with my data all intact. I don’t even bother with ‘data backups’ since cloning and even incremental cloning is done automatically in the background, and if I get a rootkit, virus, or corruption, I just reboot my computer to one of my two clones and then clone ‘em back to the SSD. 6.

    One footnote: After doing all this, I wanted to have one other Windows 7 system disc clone to store off site. So I put a former Windows XP HDD (created as a clone of my old Raid 1 system) into my SATA hotswap bay on my new Windows 7 64 system (which is in AHCI mode to accommodate the SSD, remember). On bootup, the old WinXP HDD was seen on my Bios. It was recognized by my cloning program, Casper, upon running that program in Windows 7 64. But Windows 7 itself failed to see it in explorer or Disc Management. Why? Because it was originally formatted and run in the Raid mode and I forgot that I didn’t put the stupid Microsoft driver on it to make it recognized in the AHCI mode by windows. Rule: Any disc created when your Bios is in Raid mode, even if it isn’t a raid disc itself, HAS TO HAVE THIS DRIVER installed on it for Windows to recognize it once you are in AHCI mode.

    Hopefully the above story will help out someone else.

  20. This guide is a great help by the way – kudos for it.
    I bought an SSD that was bigger than my existing one. My laptop was an HP so it had this HP tools partition that ended up between my new partition and my unallocated space. It wasn’t clear how to move the partition as one needs to get the unallocated space beside the C: partition. I did a web search and found a free tool by EASEUS and used it to move the partition. When I went to reboot it failed – no BOOTMGR found I think was the error. I put in the windows repair disk and booted from it and did an auto repair – it took a few attempts before it seemed to be have correctly and successfully rebooted on it own with the partition moved tot he right location. I could then expand the volume to ~450GB. I ran the tool mentioned on the first page and got the “K- OK” result. My question is – is there a tool that can confirm that all the appropriate settings are enabled for the SSD?

  21. On my Windows 7 running on SSD (after clone) – browser downloads, media player, install programs, unininstall programs has stopped working !
    Any clue ?
    Is the lic. not recognised/retained ?

  22. Hi,
    I went step – by – step by howto. I have SSD 120G – windows repair disc shows 111GB. I did Image recovery from windows on partition of 86GB. While doing restore I got message:

    Any ideas? Its really strange behaviour….

    The system image restore failed.

    Error detail: The disk that is set as active in BIOS is too small to recover the original system disk. Replace the disk with a larger one and retry the restore operation (0×800042407).


  23. [...] those of you who still want to try the Windows method, please head over to this page which has a very thorough explanation of how to clone your drive using built-in Windows [...]

  24. [...] SSDFreaks This entry was posted in Technology. Bookmark the [...]

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