Recently my hard drive, with a dual-boot of Windows 10 and Ubuntu 15.10, crashed on me. I could boot into Ubuntu, not Windows, and I saw in GParted that Windows 10 was practically gone.

I managed to reinstall Windows 10 from a repair USB, I had created earlier, but had to wipe out the entire disk, both systems and all data, as a consequence. Luckily I had backed up all data - I believe.

These troubles led me to finally pulling the trigger on an SSD. Now the old disk is working fine with the restored Windows 10, so I know I can simply clone it to the SSD.

The question is, if a clean install of Windows 10 would be a better option for me. I will probably mostly use the HDD as a data drive, but I would like to be able to keep it as an extra Windows disk, just as a Windows 10 system backup

I will restore the ( >= ) dual-boot, with Ubuntu, and possibly other distros I want to test out. As the need for speed is practically non-existent for my Linux setup(s), I want to use the SSD only for Windows. Actually I only need the greater speed for a few applications.

So it would be good to be able to have the extra Windows on the hard disk - mostly thinking about saving the SSD from wear and tear.

If I am thinking this out in a wrong way, please tell me how. Opinions on the endurance of SSDs seem to vary. Some say most SSDs today will outlive the other parts of the system they reside in, even with a huge load of read and write, all the day long.

Others say the number of read/write cycles are limited, and the number of "dead" areas on the SSD will increase with time, affecting the speed and lifetime of the drive.

So how should I go about in this?

  • The working installation is a clean installation, what benefit, is there from installing Windows again? You not writing stuff to the SSD seems foolish you can write hundreds of GB daily for years and never reach the lifespan of a typical SSd – Ramhound Feb 19 '16 at 21:51
  • If I clone, will the SSD be a perfect replica of the HDD? Will I be able to boot to either of them, and to a fully functional Windows 10? – theodorn Feb 19 '16 at 22:06
  • That entirely depends on the method you use to clone the drive – Ramhound Feb 19 '16 at 23:30

It looks like you have been doing your research. You probably know most of what I wrote here, but I'll be thorough for people who come looking for similar answers.

If you want a few applications on Windows to run quickly, I'd recommend installing fresh Windows onto the SSD so you can set up partitioning appropriate to the new disk (usually SSDs are different sizes from HDDs). The OS and its applications will only run as fast as your hard drive and RAM allow, so I'd make sure all of Windows is on the one SSD.

A clean install is always a good idea, but certainly isn't critical, since you just did a reinstall. I have had SSDs in my family's laptops for the last couple of years and we are very happy with them. Wear and tear occurs much faster on spinning hard disks, because they have moving (fragile) parts carefully balanced between powerful magnets. SSDs don't have moving parts, so they use less power, should stay cooler, and are less likely to have motion-related failures. Even SSDs are not immune to failure, however, so it is a good idea to have external backups, like you are thinking.

If you are using a desktop that can hold both hard drives, I would probably wipe the old drive after installing or cloning to the new one. Then, you can set up space-efficient backups, recovery machine images, or partitions for the various Linux distros you want to use. If you are using the disk for an OS that you use regularly, however, don't plan on it for backups. It will probably die before your SSD. If you have a need for an instant second Windows machine, then stash the drive powered off it in its currently functioning state and use your new SSD for your Linux distros. Spinning HDDs are relatively cheap, so you could just get another one for Linux if you have enough space in your case.

BTW, if your Linux distro is installed on a second hard drive, you should be able to install directly to the second hard drive and not have to jump through the normal hoops of setting up your Windows partitions to create space for Linux. Your BIOS should be able to detect two different bootable disks. Your bootloader (GRUB2, probably) should let you choose which one you want to boot, and set up a default to boot.

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  • A good thorough answer, thanks. I did a clean install, Seems I have some work to do, need graphic adapter drivers, as the resolution is only set at 1024x768. Re: backup, I have an external WD Elements. Every file created on the SSD or the internal HDD, will be copied to the WD or the cloud. – theodorn Feb 19 '16 at 22:53
  • Update - think I'll go the clone route. My system is kind of dysfunctional. The resolution/display is wrong, I can't connect Windows to my Microsoft account, and there is no WiFi. If the process makes the HDD unbootable, I'll just accept that - not sure it complies with the Microsoft license anyway to have the same Windows on two disks. – theodorn Feb 19 '16 at 23:18
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    It's perfectly fine. Only a single instance can be used at time, and it would only boot on that machine, unless you performed additional steps – Ramhound Feb 19 '16 at 23:31
  • I can boot up to both disks, have tried that. On the same machine, I don't intend (now) to move the HDD between computers. It's just that the SSD W10 is crippled, but the HDD one works just like it always has. I'll let you know how things look after the data migration. – theodorn Feb 19 '16 at 23:38
  • Cloning done, everything works fine. Both disks boot up, thanks for all the help. – theodorn Feb 20 '16 at 0:17

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