Upgrading a PC SATA drive to SSD

Upgrading a Windows 10 Mechanical Hard Drive to SSD diagram

In my journey to upgrade my new Windows 10 laptop from its SATA mechanical hard drive to a much snappier SSD, I came across several stumbling blocks that were not all addressed within a single blog post or YouTube instructional. Here is my attempt to remedy that.

*NOTE* Before you purchase an SSD and undertake this mission, we urge you to please research that your particular laptop model can indeed be upgraded to SSD.

Background: If you’re buying a laptop today (early 2016) and looking to upgrade its hard drive (HD) to SSD, you can probably accomplish this upgrade for around $150 total if you do a 480 GB SSD with an enclosure; plus, you’ll have a nice external drive after. Chances are, the SSD will be smaller than the laptop’s shipped HD (possibly by more than x2), and this can pose some challenges. It’s also possible that your laptop was shipped with particular backup/recovery sectors WAYYYYY at the end of your original HD — sector numbers that are too high and won’t exist on your new SSD. More challenges.

Materials needed:
  • External enclosure
  • SSD
  • Separate external drive for backup (If you’re upgrading from a not-new laptop)
  • Blank CD or other recovery media (or USB stick)
  • Screwdrivers of varying sizes
  • Software: Macrium Reflect (freeware)
  • Software: Paragon Partition Manager Free (non-commercial use)

What follows is an outline of the process to prepare the upgrade and to help ensure everything goes smoothly; you may be able to just follow the steps below, or if not then their expanded descriptions as they follow in the post:

  1. If you’re upgrading from a not-new laptop: Move MyDocs, MyPictures, Desktop and all other large files to an external drive (not your SSD — a different drive you hopefully have)
  2. Follow this blog post (coming soon) to migrate some common dev settings over from your old machine (puTTY connections, FileZilla connections, SQL Developer connections, etc.)
  3. Remove Window’s Paging and Hibernate files (requires several restarts)
  4. Connect your new SSD in its enclosure via USB
  5. Create new “Simple Volume” for SSD in Windows’ Disk Management
  6. Use Macrium Reflect to:
    • copy sectors in same order from laptop to SSD, shrinking the main partition enough to fit on SSD and fill it up (can take 30+ mins)
    • create a backup recovery disk to CD or USB stick in Macrium Reflect
  7. (if backup CD was created, make sure it is in before turning laptop off) turn off laptop, unplug, perform SATA hard drive/SSD swap
  8. After laptop is reassembled, turn it back on.
  9. Moment of truth. If it boots properly, congrats you’re done!
    • If it doesn’t boot, restart the computer and enter your BIOS; change boot order to boot off your recovery media
    • Use recovery media to have it fix the booting
    • Reboot again (don’t go into recovery media boot this time), and it should hopefully work this time
    • If it still didn’t work, shake your fist at the world, curse me, re-swap hard drives, and create a better blog post than this after you find your answer (and/or share in Comments)
  10. Once booted into your new screamer of an SSD machine: if your partitions don’t look as you thought they may, use Paragon Partition Manager Free to adjust the positions and size
  11. Move MyDocs, MyPictures, etc. back onto your machine from external drive; turn Paging and Hibernation back on if desired
OK, let’s do this!

Move MyDocs, MyPictures, Desktop and all other large files to an external drive
If you’re upgrading from a not-new laptop, or you already have files accumulated on your kinda new laptop, you may want to/have to offload some of these onto an external drive to make the rest of the process go more smoothly/be feasible.

Remove Window’s Page and Hibernate files (requires several restarts)
Some of the following steps require your partition to be shrunk in order to fit onto your SSD, possibly by more than twice its current size. In order to allow this, you’ll have to remove 2 large files that Windows uses for Paging and Hibernation. These files are otherwise unmovable by disk utilities and will not allow your hard drive to be shrunk to more than half of its current size unless removed. Here are 3 steps to do that.

  1. Open Command Prompt (Run as Administrator); issue the command “powercfg -h OFF
  2. In Control Panel -> System -> “Advanced System Settings” -> ‘Advanced’ tab -> Performance “Settings…” -> ‘Advanced’ tab -> Virtual memory -> “Change…”: uncheck the “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives” check box; select “No paging file”; click OK and Apply for windows to take effect. Restart machine.
  3. In Control Panel -> System -> “System Protection” -> ‘System Protection’ tab -> “Configure…”: select “Disable system protection” option; click OK and Apply for windows to take effect. Restart machine.

Connect your new SSD in its enclosure via USB
Follow instructions that came with your enclosure to place the SSD in the enclosure, connect it to the laptop, and power it on.

Create new “Simple Volume” for SSD in Windows’ Disk Management
Hit Windows Key, and start typing “create an”– the option “Create and format hard drive partitions” should appear; click it to enter Disk Management program.

Find your SSD hardware in the left bottom area, right-click it, and choose “New Volume…” option; choose Simple volume, follow defaults, and optionally label/name the volume “SSD”; close Disk Management.

Macrium Reflect
Open “Reflect” (aka Macrium Reflect). In “Disk Image” tab, make sure your laptop’s hard drive is selected (should be selected by default). Choose “Clone this disk…” option under the hard drive, then select your SSD drive as the destination. Copy sectors in the same order from laptop to SSD, shrinking the main partition enough to fit on SSD and fill it up. Once the selections are made, then you will execute your settings and perform the clone. (can take 30+ mins)

Next, while still in the Reflect program, we’re going to create Bootable Rescue Media on a CD or USB stick (you can do this before the cloning if you prefer). In the Reflect program, in the “Restore” tab and “Other Tasks” in the left menu, select the “Create bootable Rescue media” option. Once selected, follow the on-screen prompts to do this.

*If backup CD was created, make sure it is in before turning laptop off.

Turn off laptop, unplug, perform SATA hard drive/SSD swap
Recommendation: put your laptop model into Youtube and find a video of someone disassembling your model, so there are no surprises/guesses as to where things are for your particular machine. Can’t find one? Please let us know in the Comments, and we’ll try to find it, reply to your Comment to let you know, and add it here: (none for now).

As you’re unscrewing and deconstructing your laptop, don’t forget to disconnect your battery before swapping your hard drive. I’d recommended you have a shallow cup/container that you won’t easily knock over to hold the screws so you don’t lose any. Once swapped, put everything back together.

After laptop is reassembled, turn it back on…
Here’s the moment of truth. If it boots properly, congrats you’re done!

If it doesn’t boot, restart the computer and enter your BIOS; change boot order to boot off your recovery media

Use recovery media to have it fix the booting
Follow the steps once it boots into the Rescue Media to have it fix the booting issue.

Reboot again
(Don’t go into recovery media boot this time), and it should hopefully work this time.

If it still didn’t work, shake your fist at the world, curse me, re-swap hard drives, and create a better blog post than this after you find your answer (and please share in the Comments).

Once booted into new Screamer of an SSD machine
If your partitions don’t look as you thought they may or should, then feel free to use Paragon Partition Manager Free to adjust the positions and size.

Finally
Move MyDocs, MyPictures, etc. back onto your machine from external drive; turn Paging and Hibernation back on if desired (Hibernation back on at Command Prompt as Administrator: “powercfg -h ON“)

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