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Is there a free way to clone a full Windows 7 installation from HDD to SSD? (The free part is important, I know I can pay for Acronis True Image.)

SSDs are usually much smaller than HDDs which complicates matters. For instance, I have about 50GB data, my new SSD is 80GB but I still can't use Windows clone/restore system if my HDD is something like 300GB.

Therefore, I'm looking for a third party tool that will be able to:

  1. Create a clone of my C: partition
  2. Store it onto an external USB drive
  3. Boot from some rescue / restore CD
  4. Load the image onto the new SSD

Acronis True Image seems like a tool that should support this but it's a paid-for software and the trial version cannot create clones. Acronis Migrate Easy is a fully functional tria for 15 days but need both the HDD and SSD connected at the same time which is a bit of a problem for me as a laptop user.

P.S. I almost got there combining Windows image backup combined with Acronis True Image restore CD (which can load .vhd's) but was not able to boot as some boot information were probably lost and could not be repaired using the Win7 installation DVD.

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to succesfully boot after copying the partition use my guide here superuser.com/questions/252675/… –  bortao Sep 15 '11 at 0:45
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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

9 Answers

up vote 40 down vote accepted

PartedMagic

PartedMagic is a free (FOSS actually) Linux-based tool that can perform almost any operations with disk drives, including copying, resizing and moving partitions. It can be booted from CD, USB flash drive or network and is very small (around 70 MB).

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Does it support cloning to a smaller disk? –  Borek Jan 22 '10 at 12:19
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Yes, you can resize the partition on HDD and then copy it to SSD. –  whitequark Jan 22 '10 at 12:41
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PartedMagic is no longer free - currently asking for $4.99 to download –  Basic Nov 18 '13 at 10:20
    
That sucks. If someone knows a freely downloadable replacement (PartedMagic is still FOSS, you just have to build it yourself), please let me know and I'll update the answer. –  whitequark Dec 26 '13 at 20:03
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Clonezilla

clonezilla is a free Linux based tool made for hard disk backups.

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Windows 7 actually behaves differently when it is installed on an SSD:

When a solid state drive is present, Windows 7 will disable disk defragmentation, Superfetch, ReadyBoost, as well as boot and application launch prefetching.

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/windows-solid-state-drives-ssd,7717.html

I'm not sure if all this will be done automatically if you clone to an SSD instead of a fresh Windows install...

Something you might want to think about

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6  
I read somewhere that after you clone the OS from HDD to SSD, additional reboot will be required that will pick up to hard disk change and hopefully adjust these Windows settings. Would be great if someone could confirm this. Thanks for your answer! –  Borek Jan 22 '10 at 12:17
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just found this utility for configuring SSD related win settings: techspot.com/guides/246-ssd-performance-tweak-utility –  Shevek Feb 11 '10 at 7:54
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Paragon Backup & Recovery

Paragon Backup & Recovery 2011 (Advanced) Free has "Restore with Shrink" to restore a backup image into a smaller disk, taking into account only the amount of actual data of the image. That means that the amount of used space on the HDD be smaller than the full size of the SSD, with a few gigabytes still left free as a security measure.

Another solution to the size problem is to rather use a copying tool such as HoboCopy to copy from the HDD to the SSD. It uses shadow-copy and so can also copy files that are in use.

Acronis True Image

For straight disk-cloning, Acronis True Image Home ($49.99) is another good possibility. The target disk can also be of any size with the same considerations as above.

Other free cloning tools are:

DriveImage XML

DriveImage XML runs from within Windows and can backup logical drives and partitions to image files, but doesn't have a boot CD (you need to create a BartPE Boot CD).
Many people rave about it.

EASEUS Disk Copy

EASEUS Disk Copy is a great alternative if you don't want to go for a 'hot' backup that runs from within Windows. Good review at lifehacker and on a par with DriveImage XML. A boot CD is supplied.

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Although not free, Novell ZENworks Imaging will clone a disk image into a smaller disk than the original, if used correctly. However, it requires the two disks to be on different hosts, and a network connection between them. –  eleven81 Jan 22 '10 at 13:10
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Don't forget to check with your SSD vendor. Both Intel and Western Digital (and probably most name brand SSDs) offer free, limited versions of Acronis software (or similar). Search for "Intel data migration software" and you'll find the Intel page with the free download.

The catch is that this software will only work with an Intel SSD connected to the PC, and it is not a full version of Acronis. But for your needs, it may work.

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Yes this guy also got free Acronis cloning software with his SSD: "plus it comes with a nearly idiot proof program I’m familiar with -Acronis, which re-images your mechanical hard drive to the SSD." wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/09/my-best-computer-upgrade-evah –  Matthew Lock Jan 27 '11 at 1:00
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You can use Farstone's Drive Clone that can copy and clone HDD->SSD, and they support just about everything from windows (including servers, domains, raids, etc).

You can download the trial for free, and it has the cloning features

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Ghost for Linux

Ghost for Linux will clone to a smaller disk, but it will not do the required partition table fixup. You can do that later, but it is a bit risky since you may be truncating data on the filesystem.

GPartEd

If you need to preserve the original disk, you could clone to another disk (HDD on a USB, for example), use GPartEd on SysRescueCD (for example) to resize the partition down to SDD size, and then clone again to the SDD.

I've done similar exercises and had them work... and had them not work.

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I just used this free tool: http://www.minitool-drivecopy.com/ to clone a 160GB boot HDD to a 240GB SSD and it went without a hitch. Didn't even have to run Windows Repair disk after like I had to when I used Norton Ghost previously.

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Macrium Reflect Free Edition

A really fast Disc Imaging Backup Software to make a complete *.mrimg or *.iso copy of your hard drive; it has a built-in scheduler, you can set it up to create backups of the windows harddrive automatically in the background, during you work with Windows XP or Vista. Images can be saved off to network drives, DVDs, or removable drives (USB and FireWire). Images can be password-protected for the security of your data. Using Microsofts Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS). Its very well supported by the company. The backup images can also be mounted as a virtual drive, which can be very useful for retrieving separate files: you can also restore single files or folders, but backup only the full drive C.

More info:

http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx

HD Clone

HDClone (available in different editions) creates physical or logical copies (clones) and file images of hard disks and other mass storage media. HDClone is a perfect tool for backups and copies of entire software or operating system installations. A special SafeRescue mode makes HDClone an invaluable tool for rescuing defective hard disks and other media. HDClone works independent of partitioning scheme, file system, and operating system. It also works with proprietary formats which otherwise would be unaccessible.

More info:

http://www.miray.de/products/sat.hdclone.html

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