If you have bought a new SSD, you will of course want to use it as soon as possible. But you still want to transfer your old data. To be able to switch to your SSD relatively quickly, you can clone your existing installation to your new drive.
MiniTool Partition Wizard
We have already covered cloning an existing installation. Until now we used paid software for this because we hadn't found a good free alternative yet. We have now found that free alternative in the form of MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition. The most recent version at the time of writing this article is version 12. Install the program after downloading it.
Clone disk directly
MiniTool Partition Manager is only suitable for direct copies from one disk to another.
Before you start the program, first connect your SSD to your PC or laptop. Do this via a USB adapter or use a free SATA connection on a PC. Start MiniTool Partition Wizard. You will see the drives connected to your system at the top of the main window.
Click in the left column on Copy Disk Wizard and click Next. Select the drive you want to clone. If you only have one drive in your system this is easy, it's the drive with the partitions on it. If you have multiple hard drives, take a good look at which one you need and click Next. Then you come to an almost identical screen as the previous step, but now you have to indicate the target disk. That is, of course, the empty SSD. click on Next.
The step you see in the picture is a very important one, because if you don't click on the right options, you can end up with an SSD that is not correctly aligned. Select under Copy Options the first option: Fit partitions to entire disk. The partitions will now be scaled neatly to the size of your SSD. Also make sure that the option Force to align partitions to 1 MB is checked. Then click Next. You will now get a warning telling you to set the cloned disk as the boot disk. click on Finish.
You will now return to the main MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition window. It now seems as if the program has done nothing. However, you will see that MiniTool has remembered the commands you just gave. At the bottom of the left column you see below Operations Pending should be the clone command just given. If this is the case, click on the button Apply at the top of the picture. Then click yes to start the procedure.
MiniTool Partition Wizard will now start copying the partition layout and data to your blank SSD. Typically, the program throws an error after the first partition because the program cannot copy partitions that are actively in use. MiniTool gives you two options: close programs and try again or restart the PC. Click on Restart Now. The PC will reboot and complete the command from a utility. When MiniTool is ready, turn off your PC or laptop neatly and install the SSD or exchange the SATA cable as shown in the step-by-step plans for PC or laptop.
Clone a drive with Acronis True Image
The current budget top SSD, the Crucial MX100, comes with Acronis True Image, just like a number of other SSDs.
You must first download and register the software through the SSD manufacturer.
In the case of Crucial, you'll find a flyer in the box with a download link where you can download the installer.
We will discuss the basic functionality below, all other options such as cloning per partition can be found in the manual.
Obtain license key
You must enter a 64-character license key after installation, Crucial only provides a short key and this may also apply to other manufacturers.
Therefore click on I only have short key. You will now be redirected to a website where you can enter your details and the short license key. You will then receive a confirmation email with a link, if you click on it you will receive the license key for Acronis.
Copy the key and paste it into the input field and click Activate. You can now launch True Image.
Clone disk directly
To clone your drive directly to a blank SSD, connect the SSD via USB or SATA and click the tab Tools and Utilities on clone disk, choose Automatic and click Next.
Select your Windows drive and click Next. In the next step, select your empty SSD and click Next. Then click Process after which Acronis will clone your drive.
Acronis will reboot your PC and finish the command.
More interestingly, however, Acronis can also clone with an external hard drive as an intermediate step.
It is important for performance and longevity that an SSD is aligned so that the file system clusters align exactly with the physical sectors of the SSD.
Both MiniTool Partiton Wizard and Acronis True Image take alignment into account when cloning.
If you already have an SSD or hard drive, or if you don't trust cloning, you can check if your drive is aligned correctly.
Open Command Prompt (Windows key+R and type cmd.exe). Tap the command wmic partition get Name, StartingOffset. You will now see a list of your hard drives and their partitions. Divide the number you see below StartingOffset by means of 4096.
If this is a whole number, then the partition is neatly aligned. In fact, every first partition on a disk should start aligned exactly at 1048576 bytes. Do you have a drive that is not neatly aligned at 1048576 bytes? Then it is possible to fix the alignment with MiniTool Partion Wizard Home Edition. At the top right, select the drive whose partitions are not aligned correctly.
On our PC we found out in the command prompt that it is disk 1. Since Windows starts counting from 0, in MiniTool Partion Manager this is disk 2. We select this disk and click Align Partition. Press Apply to begin. The PC will be restarted for this action.
By the way, allow enough time for the alignment, it will certainly take a few hours to an entire night. Of course, you first make sure to back up the data.
In our PC, disks 0 (an SSD) and 2 (a hard disk) are neatly aligned, if you calculate it then disk 1 (a hard disk) is not aligned.
Bootable USB stick
To use Acronis True Image with an external hard drive as an intermediate step, you need to create a bootable USB stick which you will need to restore the created image to an installed SSD.
Make sure you have an empty USB stick of at least 512 MB and insert it into a USB port. Click on the tab Backup and recovery and choose Create bootable media. click on Next and tick Acronis True Imageon and click Next.
Then click again Next, select your USB stick and click Next / Process.
Make sure you have an external hard drive that has more free space than the size of the drive you want to image and connect it to your system.
In Acronis, click the tab Backup and recovery and click Disk and partition backup. In the window that now opens, first click on Switch to disk mode. Next, make sure your boot drive is checked and that Acronis has selected a folder on your external hard drive.
If the settings are correct, click on Back up now.
When Acronis is finished, turn off your computer. Install your SSD in place of your hard drive.
In the case of a desktop, mount the SSD on the SATA connection of your old hard drive. You can connect the hard drive to another SATA connection. Then start up the PC or laptop using the USB stick you created earlier.
You may need to change the boot order in your BIOS to do this.
On the first screen, press Enter and Acronis will load. When the interface is loaded, connect the external hard drive. Then click Recovery.
If you don't see the backup, click Browse for backups, navigate to the image and click OK. Right click on the image and select Validate archive. Then click Process.
When the image is found to be correct, you can proceed. If the archive is corrupt, you will have to swap the SSD and the hard drive again to create a new image.
Right click on the archive and choose recover. Choose Recover whole disks and partitions and click Next. Select the entire disk by checking the check mark next to Disk 1 and make sure all partitions are checked. After you click Next click, Acronis will search for the SSD.
In the window that you now see on the screen, select the SSD as the target. Leave the option Recover disk signature unchecked. Then click Next.
True Image shows a summary of the actions entered, click on Process to perform the cloning.
Finish and start up
Acronis will now copy the image to your SSD. This will take some time. While Acronis is working, check the Shut down the computer when the operation is completed at. When Acronis is finished, your PC will now shut down automatically.
If the image copy was successful and your system is powered off, remove the external hard drive and USB stick. Then turn your PC or laptop back on. If all went well, Windows will now boot from your SSD and your system will be a lot faster than before!