How to clone HDD to SSD with Windows 7′s own software

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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.

Note: This an archived post from a former blog SSDFreaks I ran back in 2011. Although this guide was also written in 2011, these steps may still work in Windows 10 as long as “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” is present in the control panel.  To access the control panel in Windows 10, go into Start, Windows System and Control panel.

Article Content

  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


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.

Initial preparation

Before starting, make sure that the OS HDD only contains the System Reserved partition and the OS partition. If it contains another partition, such as for data, this data must be moved off and the partition deleted. Once this is complete, the next task is to reduce the OS partition such that it fits well within the SSD capacity, as in the following procedure.

  1. Go into the start menu, right click on “Computer” and click “Manage”.
  2. Go into “Storage” -> “Disk Management” on the left.
  3. Right click on the OS partition (usually ‘C:’) and click “Shrink Volume”.
  4. Enter a value such that the “Total size after shrink in MB:” field is at least 10% lower than the capacity of the SSD, e.g. 50000MB for a 60GB SSD.

For a small SSD such as 80GB or lower, it may not be possible to shrink the OS partition small enough. For example, the following would be a problem for a 60GB SSD:

Shrink attempt 1

Once the partition is small enough, we should have something like the following:

Resize partition

If it is not possible to shrink the size enough, carry out the following tasks, otherwise carry on to the next page:

Disable hibernation:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt, as follows: Go into Start -> All Programs -> Accessories, right-click on “Command Prompt”, click on “Run as administrator” and click ‘Yes’.
  2. Type in the following and press enter: powercfg -h off
  3. Close the command prompt.

Disable system restore:

  1. Go into start, right-click on “Computer” and click “Properties”
  2. Go into “System protection”
  3. Click on the OS drive (usually ‘C:’) and click “Configure…”
  4. Tick “Turn off system protection”, click ‘OK’ and click ‘Yes’.

Run a full defrafmentation with Defraggler (link) or any defragger tool that consolidates the space. Defraggler is a freeware tool which consolidates the data during its defragmentation process, leaving the free space at the end of the drive. This is necessary to be able to be able to shrink the partition further. The Windows own defragger does not usually consolidate all the data.

The following shows an example of data at the end of the partition that was preventing our partition from being shrunk below 72,351MB:


After the defragmentation on our example, we were able to shrink the partition much further. There is no need to shrink it down to the following, but just enough so that it is well within the new SSD’s capacity:

Shrink attempt 2

Now try shrinking the OS partition again. Once the partition has been shrunk enough, repeat the above steps for Disable hibernation/system restore to undo these changes. For hibernation, type in “powercfg -h on” instead of the above to turn on hibernation and tick “Restore system settings…” for the restore option to enable system restore.

Creating an image of the OS drive

At this point, the OS partition should be small enough to fit within the capacity of the new SSD. Once the clone is later complete, it is just a matter of expanding the partition to fill the SSD.

Now we are ready to create an image of the OS drive. For this process, a second or external hard disk is required with enough free space to hold the entire OS partition. This hard disk should be connected. If a Windows 7 OS DVD is not available, a blank CD-R is also required to create a system repair disc. The new SSD should not be connected yet.

  1. Go into the Control panel
  2. In the “View by:” drop-down, select “Large icons”
  3. Go into “Backup and Restore”
  4. Ensure your external (or second HDD) is connected, then click “Create a system image”:Create system image step 4
  5. Choose the external hard disk from the drop-down list. If it does not appear (e.g. brand new HDD), make sure it is partitioned and formatted:Create system image step 5
  6. Click ‘Next’ and then “Start Backup”. This process could take up to an hour for an external USB2 HDD. An internal, USB3 or eSATA HDD will take 5 to 10 minutes for a typical 60GB OS partition:Create system image step 6
  7. Once complete, it will ask to create a system disc. If the Windows 7 OS DVD is not handy, then insert a blank CD-R and create and label it:Create system image step 7
  8. Shutdown the computer.

Writing the OS system image to SSD

Now that we have an image of the OS HDD created, this OS HDD must now be disconnected and remain disconnected until the final page. The new SSD should be connected to the same SATA port the OS HDD was attached to.

  1. To be on the safe side, disconnect all other hard disks, including external hard disks and pen drives, apart from the hard disk containing the backup image. If a mistake is made in the following steps, it is possible to accidentally erase any hard disk or pen drive attached during the restoration process.
  2. Boot the computer using either the Windows 7 OS disc or the system repair disc loaded, i.e. that disc created on the previous page.
  3. If the Windows 7 OS disc is loaded, click “Repair your computer” at the first screen. At this point, we should now see the following:Restore image part 1
  4. Ensure the “Restore your computer…” option is ticked and click ‘Next’.Restore image part 2
  5. Ensure the “Use the latest…” option is ticked and click ‘Next’.
  6. Click the “Exclude disks…” button, as highlighted here:Restore image part 3
  7. Ensure there is only a single hard disk listed here:Restore image part 4
  8. If there are two or more hard disks listed on this screen, place a tick mark on every hard disk apart from the SSD, otherwise it will be erased! To be on the safe side, shutdown the PC and disconnect these hard disks, such that only the SSD and HDD containing the backup are connected.
  9. Click ‘Next’ and then click ‘Finish’.
  10. Click ‘Yes’ to start the reimagine from the backup:Restore image part 5

If the following error appears, then the OS partition was likely not small enough to fit the SSD. In this case, it may be necessary to start over again by attempting to shrink the partition of the original OS HDD further and making a new image of it:

Restore image part 6

If all goes well, the re-image process should now take place:

Restore image part 7

Once complete, it will give an option to restart. Click on “Don’t restart” and then click “Shutdown” to power off the computer:

Restore image part 8

Finishing steps for the SSD

Now that we have the OS image on the new SSD, it is time to reattach any hard disks that were disconnected prior to the restoration. Do not connect the original OS HDD at this time. We start by resizing the OS partition to fill the SSD, have Windows rescore it and if necessary prepare the original OS HDD as an extra storage drive.

  1. Re-attach all HDDs apart from the original OS HDD and boot into Windows.
  2. If necessary, allow Windows to reboot once it finishes detecting the new hardware (i.e. the new SSD).
  3. Go into the start menu, right click on “Computer” and click “Manage”.
  4. Go into “Storage” -> “Disk Management” on the left:Finish cloning step 1
  5. Right click on the OS partition (usually ‘C:’) and click “Extend Volume” and click ‘Next’:Finish cloning step 2
  6. Leave the figures as the are, then click ‘Next’ and ‘Finish’. This will extend the partition to fill the SSD:Finish cloning step 3
  7. Bring up an elevated command prompt: Go into start -> All Programs -> Accessories, right-click on “Command Prompt”, click “Run as administrator” and click ‘Yes’.
  8. Type the following, then press enter: winsat disk
  9. Close the command prompt window.

What this “Winsat disk” command does is have Windows rebenchmark the OS hard disk (in this can a new SSD), so that it knows that it is an SSD and configures itself such as enabling TRIM, disabling defrag scheduling and so on.

If the original OS hard disk needs to be connected (e.g. for data storage):

  1. Shutdown the PC, connect the original OS HDD and then configure the BIOS to give the SSD higher boot priority.
  2. Boot into Windows and go back into disk management.
  3. Right-click on the hard disk that shows “Offline” and click “Online”:Finish cloning step 4
  4. At this point, it should be safe to delete or reformat the OS partition on the old hard disk.

With a modern high end SSD, the OS should maintain its like-new installation performance even after a year or two, long after it would take 2 to 3 minutes to boot had it still been running from the original HDD.

8 thoughts on “How to clone HDD to SSD with Windows 7′s own software”

  1. Thanks – this worked for me with a couple of modifications:
    1. I needed to resize the main partition to less than half its original size – Defraggler wouldn’t move some of the MFT related files but PerfectDisk did the job.
    2. I kept hitting the 0x80042403 error despite my system recovery partition and main partition included in my system image being well below the size of the ssd. After going round in circles I worked out that this was due to there being an additional “invisible” partition at the end of the disk – maybe a hibernation partition though not marked as such. Although this was not apparently being included in the system image, I guess it was referenced in the partition table at least meaning that the the restore utility was looking for a big enough disk to include it. I deleted this extra partition (hope nothing valuable lost) and for good measure created a new hibernation partition right after the main OS partition before creating a system image.

  2. Thanks, article helped solve a problem: once upon a time I was an mcse (WinNT Ha!), now mostly live in the *nix world, but needed to bring a laptop back to performing reasonably for one of my kids (go figure, he’s 30). Clonezilla kept puking and I needed to move the box to an ssd.
    Nice tutorial, and no need to waste dollars buying something for a one use project.
    From the other commenters, this isn’t lost tech yet… 😉

  3. Dear Seán,

    I mostly use GNU, but needed to help family and friends that insist on using systems with “gates”.

    Can you please confirm if I can use a USB pendrive instead of a CDR for the recovery and backup ?

    My target host uses Win 7 and is used only for on-line games, so I believe it should have, at most 16GB of HDD space used. The goal is to speedup the host with a SSD.

  4. Even after I run Defraggler (which takes about 15 hours), I can’t get the “Total size after shrink in MB” field anywhere close to 10% less than the SSD drive capacity (1TB).

  5. I carried out successfully the first 4 steps, but the 5th one, retrieving the OS image from the external disk to the SSD – failed. I got a msg saying that windows could not find a disk to retrieve the image to. Whatever I did didn’t help. I lost 3 working days and at last I installed Windows 7 a fresh and had to re-install all the programs. Bother!

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