Hardware Laptops

How do I clone my existing system to an SSD?

If your machine’s performance is lacking punch, then it’s worth considering an SSD. It’s an effective to way to inject performance for a price that is guaranteed to be cheaper than buying a new machine. We’re going to show you how to clone your existing drive to a super fast SSD without spending hours re-installing software. 

Before we dive in, there’s a little bit of prep to have a look at.

Hardware Considerations

To do this yourself, you may need to purchase a small adapter – but precisely which one depends on what type of drive you’re cloning too.  If you’re cloning to a S-ATA based SSD, I suggest this one from Startech. If you’re cloning to an M.2 based SSD, then this adapter from Fideco is the one I use myself.  It’s versatile design means it will function with both NVMe and S-ATA SSDs.

The adapters enable you to connect two drives to your machine at the same time, so if you have another way of doing this, then you probably won’t require one.

If you’re unsure of which drive you have then check out our How can I tell which drive I have? guide. We even have a buyers guide to help you choose the ideal SSD. Never let it be said that The Big Tech Question doesn’t have you covered.

To make everyone’s life a bit easier, I’m going to refer to the source drive (the one inside your machine that you are cloning) as Drive A and the target drive, (the one you’re cloning to) as Drive B.

Reach for Macrium Reflect

The software we’re going to use is Macrium Reflect 7 Free Edition for home use. Macrium is happy to give you the free product in exchange for your email address, so once you get the link, simply download the software to your machine.  Installation is pretty standard (you don’t have to register so just untick the box). – and get ready to launch.

Connect Drive B to whatever adapter you’ve purchased and plug it into the machine. Now launch Macrium Reflect, which should detect both drives.

Step 1: Open Macrium Reflect

In our example, Drive A is a 960GB drive which I’ve clicked to select. Select your drive than then click ‘Clone this disk’. The ‘Clone’ popup will appear. Click ‘Select a disk to clone to’.

Step 3: Select target drive

Now select your Drive B.  In our example, it’s a 128GB SSD.

Step 4: Check your selections.

Double check that Drive A and Drive B have been selected correctly and click Next.

Step 5: Ignore the Schedule. Click ‘Finish’.

Macrium has lots of lovely features – which we’re going to completely ignore in this article.  Select ‘Finish’.

Step 6: Don’t save the XML – untick & click OK.

This is Macrium’s final screen before it fires into action.  Untick the ‘Save backup and schedules as an XML file’ and click OK.

Step 7: Sit back & watch the magic.

It’s showtime! Macrium will work it’s magic on your drives, creating partitions and shifting data across. The duration will depend on various speeds: speed of your machine, speed of your USB ports, speed of your drives and how much data you’re shifting. Leave the machine running and Macrium will pop up a notice when it’s finished.

Step 8: All done.

You can now close down the machine, disconnect the power and grab a screwdriver. It’s time to open the machine, remove Drive A, replace it with Drive B and screw it all back together.

Sorry – did you say screwdriver?

If you’re upgrading a desktop, this shoudn’t prove too much of a challenge. Remove the panels carefully and use a torch to spot any hidden cables that you may discover just at the wrong moment. With older cases, there may not be any S-ATA SSD mounting points so grab one of these and you’ll be able to mount a 2.5″ drive in a 3.5″ space.

If you’re turboing a laptop then here is a link to a video of me taking apart a few – it’ll give you pointers if you’re new laptop tinkering.

Turn the machine on and hopefully, Drive B will boot in record time leaving you with a huge smile of satisfaction. Well done!

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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