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How to move Windows 10 to an SSD

If you still use a hard drive as your primary boot drive, you may really benefit from moving Windows to another drive - preferably an SSD. To keep your existing data as it is, but to enjoy SSD speed, you’ll need to move your operating system (and all the data it holds) to the new drive. However, it is not as complicated as it seems and it means that you will renew yourself much faster than if you simply started from scratch.

Windows 10 does not make this easy, but the instructions below make it as easy as possible to clone and change the installation of Windows 10 to a new hard drive.

We’ll show you how to move Windows 10 to an SSD in just a few steps. Keep in mind, however, that this guide is for people who only change drives, even if this method may work if you’re building a new platform or changing computers, depending on your configuration. It probably won’t work with any virtualization projects, although you can find those services if you are willing to pay for them.

Before attempting to move Windows 10 to a new drive, it is important that you install the new drive so that it is ready for trial. For tips on this, see our detailed guide on how to build a computer.

Macrium Reflect 8 download options.

Download Macrium Reflect free

As part of our guide, we will use Macrium Reflect Free. This software will allow you to clone your main drive with Windows 10 installed on a new SSD for free. Note that you will also need a destination SSD that is greater than or equal to your main cloning drive. Otherwise, this will not work.

Step 1: Go to the website and choose the free Reflect 8 shopping option Download for free button and enter your email. Choose I need a free personal license.

Step 2: After choosing this option, click Keep going button and then check the email for download instructions.

Step 3: Go to the email link, download the app and install it. During setup, choose Free of charge option and choose Unload at the bottom. Be sure that Run the installer directly after downloading the button is also clicked, so the app will install automatically.

Step 4: Follow the instructions on the screen. Keep clicking Next on requests and uncheck the boxes for installing additional software. Click on cOMPLETION button and let the app install. When you’re done, click Launch now.

    Macrium Reflect free on Windows 11.

Configure Macrium Reflect 8 to clone the drive

Once Macrium Reflect 8 is installed, you can open the software and start the cloning process. Here’s how.

Step 1: Click on Local disks from the top and choose the main disk with your data. Choose Clone this disk the option in the middle of the application. You will know that this is your main disk, as it will have multiple partitions on it.

Step 2: Then click all the bookmarks on the main disk. Make sure everything and all partitions are checked.

Step 1 Clone a disk in Windows 11.

Step 3: Head to Select a disk to clone then select your new SSD from the application list. If you don’t see it, restart the app. You will want to choose Wipe the disc option and wipe the SSD so that it is empty, as in our screenshot below.

Step 3 Clone a disk in Windows 11.

Step 4: To continue, choose Copy the selected partitions when you click Next option and make sure it is checked. Click on Next button to continue.

Step 5: You will be directed to an optional program page. Jump over it and click Next. You will see a summary of everything you are about to complete, as we have below. Click on cOMPLETION button.

A summary of disk cloning in Windows 11.

Step 6: In the pop-up menu, choose Run this backup now box. Accept any warnings and click Keep going > K.

Step 7: Sit still and wait while the disk is cloned. It may take a long time depending on the speed of your PC and the type of SSD you are using. Our clone lasted seven minutes.

The final step in cloning a disk in Windows 11.

Step 8: When you’re done, you should see that your drive is now fully cloned and both look the same in the Macrium Reflect 8 utility, as shown above.

Compressed air can be directed into a PC to remove dust.

Ekaterina Krasnikova / Getty Images

Replace your new SSD on the boot drive

To complete this process, you will want to set the new drive as the primary boot drive. You can leave your old drive in your computer if you plan to use it for something else. Otherwise, you can physically remove it.

Step 1: Boot into the PC BIOS or UEFI settings. ESC usually works for this, or you can use it Remove key. If you’re not sure, check the online guides or the computer manufacturer’s support page.

Step 2: Head in Startup settings tab and remove or deactivate the old drive as one of the startup options, then add or activate the new drive instead. Some BIOS or UEFI will allow you to drag the drive or select it from a checklist.

BIOS settings on a Windows 11 computer.

Step 3: Once you have the new drive as your primary boot option, click Save and get out button, usually labeled in the BIOS. Your system should now boot on your new SSD!

Frequent questions

Is it worth moving Windows 10 to a new SSD?

Moving your data from a traditional rotating hard drive to an SSD has a huge performance advantage. SSDs are much faster than hard drives, which means that if you can move Windows 10 to a new drive, your computer will boot much faster. Also, your games will load faster, and your apps will work better. We have a dedicated guide that explains the differences, but in the end, your entire system will feel more responsive once you install Windows on an SSD.

Do I have to reinstall Windows when I move to an SSD?

In fact, you won’t have to reinstall Windows when you move to a new drive. This is as long as you use the software we mention in this piece.

Using specialized software, you can “clone” your drive and copy it to Windows exactly as you left it. In the worst case, you may need to reactivate Windows after switching to the SSD, which shouldn’t be a problem. Our separate guide covers issues with activating Windows.

If all else fails, you can back up your existing installation of Windows 10 and restore it later after installing Windows 11 on the new SSD on your computer. Our guide also covers backups and reinstallations.

In our guide, we use Macrium Reflect 8 as cloning software, but there are many others, such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free or AOMEI Backupper Standard. In addition, if for any reason you are having problems, we suggest that you put the old drive back in your computer and back it up to a separate external SSD. Then clean-install Windows and manually restore files and applications.

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