I have a family member who complains that her laptop is slow. I checked the laptop over and indeed, it was slow, so I looked into what was using the most hardware, and found that the hard drive was at 100% pretty much the whole time.

I disabled as many services and programs at startup as I could (without disabling the Trend Micro Internet Security suite), but the HDD was still at 100%. So I advised her to purchase an SSD (a Samsung 128GB, just released).

She received the drive in the post today, and she wants me to 'do my magic'.

The storage space taken up is 79GB, which is fine as she doesn't use the SSD for massive files/folders (only to browse the 'net, read emails, type up Word docs, etc). The source drive has a 260GB capacity, with an extra 60GB for the laptop's recovery partition (I don't plan to transfer this partition across).

The backup/restore utility is the standard Windows 7 backup/restore utility, though I may consider using Acronis..

I have two questions that I would like to know before I commence:

  • Can a system image from a larger drive be restored to a smaller one, especially since the source drive is a HDD and the target is an SSD?

  • Is a HDD to SSD transfer possible?

  • Would it just be wiser to install Windows onto the SSD, and then transfer the programs, documents, and settings of the old HDD?

I've seen this question about restoring a Windows system image to a smaller drive, but it doesn't really answer my questions.

  • 13
    If the harddisk is at 100% constantly, chances are that the system is swapping heavily. Replacing the harddisk with an SSD will only fix the symptom, but it may be a good idea to extend the RAM and fix the real issue (which will also enhance the lifetime of the SSD as well as reduce power consumption). May 7, 2014 at 16:14
  • However, 100% usage can repeat even after moving to SSD. If it repeats look here and here
    – Jet
    May 7, 2014 at 17:21
  • 4
    I'd go for a clean install. This way you can also filter out any unnecessary programs during the reinstallation. To reinstall the programs, you might want to check out Ninite.
    – BlueCacti
    May 8, 2014 at 7:08
  • 2
    @shortstheory: disabling swap is a really, REALLY bad idea, both for performance and reliability. May 8, 2014 at 8:04
  • 2
    From Vista onward, swapping is only used if the memory is really full. So disabling swap does not help with performance, except that your computer crashes instead of becoming slow.
    – Alexander
    May 8, 2014 at 10:44

6 Answers 6


First a remark: Even with a slow disk, it is not normal for the disk to always be at 100%. If the cause is system corruption or virus infection, then by reimaging this system you might only transfer the problem as-is to the SSD. I would therefore counsel to start with full system scans by several anti-virus products including at least Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, to do sfc /scannow and to examine the Event Viewer for error messages. If problems are found, better install Windows to the SSD from scratch rather than take the chance of doing all this for nothing.

Good and free imaging products exist that can do this migration, so you don't need a commercial product like Acronis. I would prefer using a third-party product rather than Windows Backup, because the later has too many gotchas and not enough support.

Before imaging the disk, I would first prepare the system disk to reduce its size :

  1. Move your personal data out of the disk
  2. Disable paging and hibernation, to reduce disk space (returning them after the migration)
  3. Empty the Recycle Bin
  4. Defragment the hard disk so as to consolidate unused space at its end

The free products I recommend for the transfer are :

  1. AOMEI Backupper
  2. Paragon Backup & Recovery 2014 Free

Do the backup using the smart or sector-by-sector method, so only used sectors are backup. This reduces the times of both backup and restore and makes likelier the successful transfer to a different-sized disk.

Study carefully the documentation of the backup/restore product that you choose. The documentation of both products should have advice regarding the migration to SSD.

Both products can create recovery boot media on CD. Create it on the target computer, and test carefully before proceeding. Verify that the restore boot can see the device on which the disk-image is stored.

These products can also partition the SSD disk, which is preferable to your doing it manually.

If you have another computer that can accept the SSD as a second hard-disk, you could do the restore on that computer, then move the disk to the target computer. In that case you wouldn't need the boot media.

  • Yes, you can restore the larger drive to a smaller one. You should resize the partition on the larger drive so it will fit on the smaller one first. See here. You can do this with Disk Management in Windows, or you can use free tools like Gparted.
  • HDD to SSD should be fine, it is really just another drive to the system (for the purposes of copying data).
  • Which method you choose is more opinion. Seeing as Windows is taking 79GB and 100% of HDD access just to "browse the net, read emails, type up Word docs", I think you would benefit from a clean install. It will probably be more work to transfer all of the content to the new drive, but it maybe worth it in performance.
    • If you decide to move the Windows installation, see this question about the options you have.
    • Adding RAM to the system will also help if the disk access is due to the system running out of memory.
  • 6
    +1 for "Seeing as Windows is taking 79GB and 100% of HDD access just to \"browse the net, read emails, type up Word docs\", I think you would benefit from a clean install."
    – simon
    May 8, 2014 at 11:34

Before you consider copying the contents of the hard drive as you are doing, you should probably first ask yourself "why is the hard drive running at 100% so often?"

As Simon Richter pointed out, it could be swapping. However, that would only happen occasionally (and usually as you opened or closed different programs that hadn't been used in a while). If it's running at 100% a lot of the time, instead of only once in a while, the "swapping" answer seems less probable.

A more concerning possibility, however, is malware. I would strongly suggest that you run a full suite of malware-detection utilities on the old machine (Spybot, Ad-aware, Malwarebytes, etc.) to see if there is a virus or trojan horse on the machine that is causing it to do excessive disk access (and possibly excessive internet access as well?).

Otherwise, if you only transfer the contents of the hard drive from one machine to the other, you will just have moved the malware along with it, and the malware authors will thank you for upgrading them to a faster system!


Can a system image from a larger drive be restored to a smaller one, especially since the source drive is a HDD and the target is an SSD?

Multiple hard drive vendors release tools to do this (unfortunately,, Samsung are not one of these). You will want to ensure that you do a partition copy, not a whole drive copy to avoid taking the recovery partition with you. Google "Drive Cloning tools" and you will find a wealth of freebies! Also, you may well need to resize the partition first.. This Technet Article may help

Is a HDD to SSD transfer possible?

Yes - although with a lot of solutions, you will find a bit for bit copy will not leave the drive bootable.. however, there are lots of ways to fix this. The easiest is to use a system repair disc after installing the new drive and it will rewrite the boot area of the drive for you :)

Would it just be wiser to install Windows onto the SSD, and then transfer the programs, documents, and settings of the old HDD?

Wiser - probably. If the drive is being hammered at 100% usage, 100% of the time - you may find thata quick rebuild will reduce the usage (and expand the life) of your new disk. A basic rebuild of OS, drivers, updates, Browsers, Office and AV shouldn't take too long and will compliment the new hardware for speed and may even get rid of a few bugs.


I've just done a similar thing (cloning a 70 GiB Windows 7 partition to a 50 GiB partition on another HDD) using 'DriveSnapshot' which was the only program that could 'Ignore' bad sectors in the old HDD and continue cloning.


The answer to your main question is Yes, it is possible, but not as easy as it may seem. The answer to your second question is Yes, HDD to SSD transfer is possible and absolutely normal

First of all you need to make sure that total occupied space on your source disk is smaller then total available space on your target disk. If this is not the case, then you cannot achieve what you want.

Also, once you have created backup image, I seriously doubt that you would be able to write it to the disk of smaller capacity. What I am trying to say is that you would need to shrink the partition downto reasonable size before creating the backup image.

Last but not the least. The whole process involves multiple steps and is not a common task. I seriously doubt that utilities that you have mentioned (Windows 7 backup and Acronis) will be able to perform this task for you. You would most likely need several tools. My first guess would be:

  • Compress filesystem with GParted / QTParted
  • Create backup image with dd
  • Write backup image to target SSD
  • (if necessary) resize target partition to full size of your SSD

The answer to your third question is Most likely yes It would be smarter to reinstall windows since you are already having slow performance. Transferring your data would be easy, though you have to be careful with transferring programs.

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