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I’m having some disk issues and I would really appreciate your help. I’ll try to be as precise as possible, however, if any additional information is needed, please let me know and I´ll fetch it asap!

My setup:

Me: I’m familiar with computers, but I’m certainly no expert. With this in mind, it would be fair to say that I would be able to follow somewhat complex instructions (if needed), but I would require a very detailed guide. Please bear with me!

My computer: Here’s a summary of all the main components of my Windows 7 PC:

  • Operating System
    • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1
  • CPU
    • Intel Core i7 4790 @ 3.60 GHz
    • Haswell 22nm Technology
  • RAM
    • 16.0 GB Dual-Channel DDR3 @ 933 MHz (10-11-10-30)
  • Motherboard
    • Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. Z97X-SLI-CF (SOCKET 0)
  • Graphics
    • PnP-Monitor (Standard) (1920×1080@60 Hz)
    • Intel Standard VGA Graphics Adapter (Gigabyte)
    • 4095 MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (Undefined)
  • Storage
    • 931 GB Western Digital WDC WD10EZEX-22BN5A0 SCSI Disk Device (SATA)
    • 223 GB KINGSTON SH103S3240G SCSI Disk Device (SSD)

image: Computer specs

The situation:

About a month ago, my SSD started displaying warning messages indicating impending failure:

Windows detected a hard disk problem

Back up your files immediately to prevent information loss, and then contact the computer manufacturer to determine if you need to repair or replace the disk.

Which disk is failing? The following hard disks are reporting failure:
Disk Name: KINGSTON SH103S3240G SCSI Disk Device
Volume: C:\

image: Message of impending doom #1

I’ve backed up the SSD in my HDD (which is working normally) but, according to the limited research I made on the subject, the disk failure appears imminent:

Replace or repair the hard disk

After backup is complete, please shut down the computer and repair or replace the faulty disk.

and I’d rather deal with this issue before my SSD dies.

image: Message of impending doom #2

The solution:

Given that I can’t afford a new disk at the moment, I would like to move both Windows and the boot partition from my dying SSD to my healthy HDD. I want to do this in such a manner that all my system runs from the HDD, but that I may still use the SSD for storage until it dies.

The caveat, however, is that all my important data is on my HDD, so I CAN’T format or delete all its contents.

In short, what I want to do is move both Windows and the boot partition from my SSD to my HDD without deleting the HDD’s contents.

Is this even possible? And if so, what would be the easiest way for me to do it?

Additional question – what would happen if I actually let my SSD die? Will I be able to completely restore my system (including Windows and all my programs) solely from the backup I made on the HDD?


I would be forever indebted to whoever takes some time to help me with this issue. I’ve read countless threads about how to move the system to new drives, but nobody seems to outline a method to move it into an already used drive (or I’m too dull to understand if someone did).

  • I’m sorry if it’s tedious, but you might get more help if you include your computer specs and the error messages in the question as text. (Keep the links to the images for reference.) – Scott Oct 25 '17 at 1:29
  • Absolutely! I've updated that information in my original question. Thanks for the advice, Scott. Have a great day! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 1:54
  • Thanks for doing the typing. I’ve applied standard formatting. Note: (1) You should always strive to make your question look like a new, improved final draft. We prefer that you not include an audit trail like you did; there is an edit history that we can look at if we want to. (2) The site policy discourages signatures, since the system automatically provides a signature of sorts. – Scott Oct 25 '17 at 3:34
  • Duly noted. Thanks, Scott! I really appreciate you taking the time to fix my chaotic question. You’re amazing! I’m still new to the site, so I´m still learning the ropes. However, I promise I will take all your notes into account in the future! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 3:38
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This is actually a lot easier then everyone who answered is making it out to be.

All you need is a program called Clonezilla.

You won't have to worry about MBR GPT mumbo jumbo. It takes care of all that for you!

If you carefully follow the instructions then it will copy everything you need. I can verify that it does work for migrating between HDD and SSD. It cleans up the MBR and GPT to what it needs to be if it detects something is wrong. It has not failed for me once no matter what crazy scenario I've thrown at it. And it even has a feature supposedly for recovering failing drives that is supposed to work better where other software is failed.

It works faster and more reliably than the Windows backup.

Follow the guide here exactly.

http://clonezilla.org/show-live-doc-content.php?topic=clonezilla-live/doc/03_Disk_to_disk_clone

Clonezilla is free and open source!

Here's another tip. If you chose device to image instead of device to device then you can use that saved image to recover it to another drive if both the HDD and SSD fail. Clonezilla is also very effective at compressing the disk it is backing up.

  • Amazing! Thanks a lot, LateralTerminal. This is, indeed, the most noob-friendly method suggested so far. I'm pretty sure I can still screw it up, but having a tool doing all the heavy lifting for me is quite definitely the best I could hope for! Again, thanks a lot for sharing this answer with me. I will try it out asap! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 22:09
  • I'm not going to lie, It's a little intimidating the first time you use it because you basically have to use the keyboard only and not the mouse. But if you follow the instructions carefully then you won't have to worry about anything. After you burn the ISO if you have any trouble running the program there is a compatibility mode you can select when it first starts up. – LateralTerminal Oct 26 '17 at 13:41
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Moving everything to the HDD is entirely possible but complicated and risky. Plus the tools I'd use are Linux based. It's not even worth bothering with Windows based disk cloning software. First thing you might wanna do is get things ready so that should the drive fail you can easily get your system back should you have a new disk.

When you make a Windows backup you can include a system image which includes the data needed to boot including EFI. I assume that's what it did through the wizard that warned you about your SSD failing. With that and a Windows Repair Disc you can restore your system even if the drive dies. Any Windows install disc also has the repair functionality. However its not that friendly to any existing data on the disk to be restored to. But get that done so you have the option of using Windows backup to get your system back should you get a new SSD.

So either keep a Window install disk handy or burn a repair disc. In Windows 7 that should be Windows 7 File recovery or Windows backup from the control panel and then there is an option for "Create a system repair disc" Then you'll have the option of restoring your system should the SSD fail.

The procedure for that is: Start up repair or install disc. If install disc click repair near the bottom. One of the options will be System Image Recovery. It'll ask you to use the latest system image then it will probably provide you with two options: if the disk UUIDs match it'll overwrite only the partitions in the system image. If they do not the only option it'll give you is reformat the whole disk which doesn't help you with your HDD situation. So you'd have to have your new disk and choose that then click finish and it will reimage it and reboot. Finally if your new drive is bigger I'm doubtful it'll make use of the extra space. You'll have to look into that later.

If you want to move the EFI system partition, the Windows partition, usually also the "recovery" partition, etc you will probably want to use Disk Management from within Windows to shrink the existing file systems as well as create empty partitions on your HDD at the end for at least EFI system partition and Windows partition leaving your existing data partition. To do that you first need to defragment both your Windows partition and your HDD/Data partition you'd need to open Disk Managment and open the menu for your Windows (C:) partition and shrink it leaving about 1 GB for wiggle room. Do the same for the data partition except you'd only need to shrink it by what ever the size of the partitions you're copying from SSD, maybe 20 GBs? Create a new partition at the end of the HDD and make the same size as your EFI system partition then make another using the rest of the space your windows drive. Make sure to make straight forward labels for each of these to help you later.

At this point you will need tools to do partition cloning. I suggest using Clonzilla or Arch Linux live cd. You will then use partclone.fat32 for EFI system partition and partclone.ntfs for the Windows partition. The commands should look like this:

partclone.fat32 -b /dev/disk/by-label/EFI\ System /dev/disk/by-label/New\ EFI

partclone.ntfs -b /dev/disk/by-label/Windows /dev/disk/by-label/NewWindows

After this is complete you will not have a bootable system because the UUIDs of your previous drive don't match. I suspect the best approach here would be just to run startup repair from the windows repair disc which will find the new install of Windows.

  • Thanks a lot for your answer, jdwolf! I went over it more times than I’d like to admit, but I still couldn’t really understand it completely (this is on me, as I’m definitely not on a level of technical prowess where I could make sense of your instructions). However, what I did understand is that the process is risky and beyond my capabilities (to the point that I’m pretty sure I´ll screw it up if I try to do it). Still, it would appear as if the root of all my problems is the fact that I don’t want to format my HDD. – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 3:55
  • This leaves me with two options: 1) Wait for a miracle and hope for someone to provide a risk-free, noob-friendly tool or guide to do everything I need. or 2) Face the harsh reality and accept that, if I want to do this, I will probably have to format my HDD. I will definitely wait for a bit just in case someone actually provides the miracle answer. But I should also brace myself for option 2. – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 3:55
  • With that in mind, I should say that I do have a half-full 2TB external hard drive. I can’t format that one either, but the 1TB of free space it has should allow me to backup all the contents of my HDD so that I may be able to format it freely (I’m just assuming that’s something that can be done. I honestly have no idea). Still, adding the external hard drive to the equation, do you I think there’s a simpler method I could follow to get what need? (Which is, ultimately, to move all my system from my SSD to my HDD in a noob-friendly manner without losing any data). Thanks again! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 3:56
  • Unfortunately windows doesn't make disk cloning noob friendly. Other answers might know of software thats easier to use than what I mention. However shrinking partitions is all done within windows. Simply shrinking partitions is fairly safe but you need to pay attention to what you're doing. I use Linux tools for cloning because they are much less problem prone than other tools I've used like Norton Ghost or something of that vintage. Because you have a 2TB external this gives you another option which is to backup your drives as virtual hard disks (which appear as files) onto your 2TB. – jdwolf Oct 25 '17 at 5:14
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I would not expect that a full drive format would be needed. I've done this sort of thing multiple times. Although, I was using an older version of Microsoft Windows.

The basic process is:

  1. Have a partition on the destination drive that uses the filesystem type that the operating system will use. (In all likelihood, we're talking NTFS here.)
  2. This may involve partitioning (probably the most dangerous part of the process) and formatting (also extremely dangerous, specifically if you end up formatting the wrong partition).
  3. Copy all of the data over. To minimize problems, make this copy from something other than the Microsoft Windows installation that you're trying to copy. Linux-based boot disks may work wonders for that. And when I say "all", I mainly mean: "\Windows" and "\Program Files" and "\Program Files (x86)" (if that exists) and \Users and \ProgramData (which I do believe should exist on a Windows 7 system, although it may be hidden), including all subdirectories underneath each of those locations.
  4. Adjust any "boot manager"/"boot loader" software, including whatever is on the boot sector and whatever Windows uses. If your destination drive doesn't match the original drive (e.g., if you're not installing to the "first" partition anymore), a direct copy may be insufficient.
  5. Enjoy. (Test it out.)

The other approach is to try using "disk image" software. I suspect Clonezilla may be a good option. I believe it offers a "live media" (e.g., a DVD image) that you can directly boot. This may be an even easier method, although since it may take care of the formatting (and possibly partitioning) steps, you absolutely must be very careful that you know exactly what partition you are adjusting. Otherwise, significant data loss can occur.

As I haven't done this successfully in very recent times, using recent software/hardware, I am not going to endeavor to write a full step-by-step guide (including being fully tested) anytime soon. However, I do want to through in my insights. Step number 4 may be the trickiest aspect, but should be doable, and so probably is worth investing additional time into learning how to do right. It does probably involve changing one kilobyte (up to two disk sectors which are probably 512 bytes each, although they may be slightly bigger) so it really ought to be a very fast part of the process, except for the time it takes you to learn how to do that and get the pieces entirely correct. If Clonezilla doens't work well, there's really very little reason not to correctly perform steps 1-3, and then you have the positive aspect of a "backup". (Specifically step #3 might take a bit of time.) Then, step #4 may start to look highly attractive to try to just knock out successfully.

I suspect you may have two boot managers/loaders. One being what happens when the computer starts up (stored in the MBR if using MBR-based-layout), and one within the partition of the operating system that gets boot. As an example, grub can be stored in either one of those two locations, or both. Windows will have a boot loader in the Microsoft Windows partition; you may also need to adjust the system-wide boot loader. If done incorrectly, that can break the ability to boot other operating systems, although the fix is usually involving writing a small amount of data (which might be a bit tricky to figure out how to do).

Although I haven't included fully detailed steps, I hope this answer at least dissuades you from feeling the need to fully format an entire destination drive.

  • Thanks a lot, Toogam! Yes, your answer certainly gave me some hope! Now I´ll try to educate myself a bit more regarding the steps you outlined and, once I feel decently comfortable with my understanding of the situation, I´ll try out your method. Have a great day! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 15:36
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After copying all files, you need to use the bootsect.exe to make the hard drive or partition bootable. You can find bootsect.exe on Windows DVDs

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I wanted to know few more things about your system:

  1. Is your system using UEFI or MBR [OP: MBR]
  2. Where is your EFI/MBR partition. located - SSD or HDD? [OP: SSD]
  3. Is your SSD removable? [OP: Yes]

Things you need:

  1. Windows 7 CD/PD
  2. Ubuntu 17.10 CD/PD [Prefer PD]
  3. Your SSD's windows partition copied to external or internal HDD on an NTFS partition. Copying data to a large DVDs or PD won't help you.
  4. Note size of every partition of HDD. Rename every partition to something other than Local Disk.

Use any other computer to create bootable CD/PD of Windows 7 and Ubuntu 17.04 Now insert Ubuntu USB stick and boot from USB. See if you are able to boot Ubuntu. Use 'Try Ubuntu' option and check that your HDD is readable. See if you are able to copy any file to any external media. If its not readable, reboot to Windows and use Restart option but do not let windows reboot. Instead goto BIOS and boot from Ubuntu USB. Now your HDD should be readable. Proceed ahead only if you are able to copy files from HDD to external media.

Shutdown the computer.

Remove your SSD. Reboot and goto BIOS menu. If SSD shows up under boot options, try to delete SSD from boot priorities menu or set it to lowest priority.

Solution 1:

If you have more than one HDD partition, you will have to vacate one of those partitions. If you dont have a another partition, you will have to shrink/resize the HDD. Lets say that partition is E and you have renamed it to NewWin

  1. Boot from Windows 7 CD/PD and click install
  2. When you see the option for selecting a partition to install, choose partition E. Windows will create an MBR partition on your HDD. This is all we want the setup to do for us.
  3. We do not want the installation to complete. The moment it attempts to restart, plugin Ubuntu USB, goto BIOS and boot from Ubuntu USB. Again select 'Try Ubuntu'
  4. Open file explorer, delete everything from NewWin partition [Do not format, just shift+delete]
  5. From your windows 7 backup, copy everything maintaining the folder structure.
  6. Reboot and see the magic.

Solution 2

Again assuming you have an empty partition called NewWin on HDD

  1. Boot with Ubuntu USB.
  2. From your windows 7 backup, copy everything to NewWin partition maintaining the folder structure.
  3. Now shutdown and boot from Windows CD/USB.
  4. Create MBR manually by following this [post]
  5. Reboot and you should have everything back like normal

Solution 1 will work like magic but perfect timing is the key or you will have to start all over again. Solution 2 is not tested.

To use SSD until it dies: The reason we removed SSD is that your computer cannot have two MBRs. So if you now have MBR on HDD and you plug in SSD which also has MBR, your computer will mostly try to boot from SSD. So you must delete MBR from SSD in order to use it. To do that you can boot to Ubuntu and open GParted. Select your SSD from top left. Be very careful. Usually MBR is on the first partion. Usually in few MBs. You can select the correct partition and delete it. Click Apply only if you are 100% sure that you are deleting MBR partition of SSD not HDD.

  • Hello, Sziraqui! Thanks for taking the time to look at my question. Sure! I´ll provide all the information you´ve requested: 1) My system uses MBR. 2) In the SSD. 3) Yes. Thanks a lot! Please let me know if there's any more information you need. – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 15:49
  • Updated answer with detailed steps – sziraqui Oct 25 '17 at 20:29
  • Thanks for your detailed answer, Sziraqui! I will definitely try this out if I fail to implement the more noob-friendly methods suggested by other users. Still, I honestly appreciate you taking the time to research and share the solution to my problem. Thank you very much, good sir! – Dr.Garfeel Ph.D Oct 25 '17 at 22:04

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