Whether you’re switching to an SSD or replacing an existing hard drive with a larger model: Changing a hard disk while Windows is running always involves a bit of effort. But that doesn’t matter: We show you how to migrate the stored data from the old to the new hard disk in an uncomplicated way.
Hard drive cloning: What do I need?
First of all, of course, a new hard disk As I said: The shown method works with SSDs as well as with classic HDDs. In our case, we cloned a rather lame 3.5-inch drive to a snappier WD Black.
If the new disk goes directly into a PC case, you’re fine. If you want to replace the old one completely – for example on a laptop – you will need a USB hard disk adapter or an alternative solution. Corresponding SATA-to-SSD solutions can be found on Amazon and Ebay for little money, for example here or here. For 2.5-inch disks or SSDs, a simple external enclosure will suffice, of course.
An adapter or enclosure for external hard drives makes switching to a new drive much more convenient (Image: Ugreen)
On the software side you have a huge selection for cloning. We use the free version of Macrium Reflect in the example because I have had consistently good experiences with it over the years. But of course you can also choose another clone solution.
So, now to the point:
1. Install a new hard disk or connect it to the PC
Either install the new drive directly, if possible, or use one of the shown USB methods to connect your new drive to the PC. In the example, a tried and tested external HDD adapter from Conceptronic is used to initially backup the future internal hard drive via USB 3.0 to connect.
2. Install and start Macrium Reflect
Download the free version of Macrium Reflect, install it and start the program. A tip: If the program interface of Macrium Reflect does not appear in German, press Ctrl + Shift + L, to change the language.
3. Select hard disk to be cloned
After starting Macrium Reflect lists all hard disks in your PC. Now identify the disk you want to clone and click on it. Afterwards click on the now displayed link Clone this disk...
4. Select target disk for clone
In the now appearing window click on Choose a disk for the clone. Macrium Reflect now shows the available drives. Find the empty disk and select it.
5. Start cloning your hard disk
You can now if necessary still over Advanced functions set more options. But usually you can just use the default settings and click twice on Next click. Here Macrium Reflect summarizes again the planned procedure. Everything is correct? Then click on Finish and then to Ok to complete the process and start the cloning of the hard drive.
6. Playing the waiting game..
Wait until Macrium Reflect has finished the cloning process. You can now basically continue to use your PC normally, but just to be on the safe side, you should wait until Macrium Reflect is finished.
The cloning process may well take a couple of hours…
7. For larger disks: Extend partition
Annoying: when cloning, Macrium Reflect assigns the same size to the new disk as to the old one. Say: If you clone a 1 TB disk to a 2 TB edition, a wonderful terabyte lies fallow. But you can change that in no time at all: Start via the start menu the Computer management and changes to the Disk management. Here you will find the new hard disk including the drive letter and a bar with the note Unassigned. Now click the assigned part with the right mouse button and select Expand volume. Click through the wizard that appears to assign the maximum capacity to the drive. The changes are immediately taken over by Windows.
After the cloning process make sure that the new disk is usable under Windows with its full capacity.
8. Install a new hard disk
Once the cloning process is finished, you can replace the old disk with the new one. How many screws you have to unscrew depends of course on your PC or computer. Laptop off… After reboot Windows should detect the disk and you are good to go.
Change hard disk without screws – sometimes PCs are actually fun
9. Optional: Assign drive letter for clone hard drive
Under certain circumstances, Windows may assign a wrong drive letter to the cloned hard drive. Then existing shortcuts etc. will not work anymore. If this is the case, the Computer Management and change to Disk management. Here you click again with the right mouse button on the new disk, but this time select Change drive letters and paths. In the window that pops up click on Change and then select the drive letter that the old disk had.
Wrong drive letter? No problem!
That was it! This way it is quite easy to move from an old hard disk to a new one, no matter if it is a speedy SSD or a huge 3.5 inch data tomb. More hardware tips can be found here, more Windows tutorials can be found under this link.