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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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11 Answers 11

47

PartedMagic

UPDATE: since circa 2014, PartedMagic is no longer free to download, although still technically FOSS (in the sense that you can build it from source).

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).

enter image description here

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  • Does it support cloning to a smaller disk? Jan 22, 2010 at 12:19
  • 5
    Yes, you can resize the partition on HDD and then copy it to SSD.
    – whitequark
    Jan 22, 2010 at 12:41
  • 8
    PartedMagic is no longer free - currently asking for $4.99 to download
    – Basic
    Nov 18, 2013 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, 2013 at 20:03
24

Clonezilla

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

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  • 1
    I have used Clonezilla to do exactly this with success. From a large HDD with a fair bit of free space to a smaller SSD.
    – localhost
    Oct 19, 2014 at 23:52
  • 1
    My default tool for any hard-disk update. Have used it I think more than 5 times. Works flawlessly.
    – sevenforce
    Jul 8, 2016 at 6:46
  • 1
    I've tried successfully Clonezilla too, this is the right free/open source tool to do the job. However if the source disk is greater than the target disk you have to use the -icds advanced parameter (Expert mode) but first of all you have to shrink partitions with a tool like GParted in order to fit the destination disk. Keep on hand a Windows 7 install disk to fix boot issue if needed. Here a comprehensive howto
    – chirale
    Oct 21, 2016 at 8:00
  • Didn't get this to work even after shrinking the source partitions, and of course the -icds expert flag. Feb 18, 2021 at 15:40
19

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! Jan 22, 2010 at 12:17
  • 2
    just found this utility for configuring SSD related win settings: techspot.com/guides/246-ssd-performance-tweak-utility
    – Shevek
    Feb 11, 2010 at 7:54
13

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, 2010 at 13:10
12

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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  • 1
    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 Jan 27, 2011 at 1:00
  • Samsung provides the Clonix-based Samsung Data Migration Software with their SSDs. It worked, but some reconfiguration may be required especially if you intend to keep the original hard drive installed for additional storage. superuser.com/questions/848692/…
    – bwDraco
    May 11, 2015 at 22:20
5

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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  • Sometime in 2013 it appears that Farstone made available a fully functional free version of DriveClone. Jan 14, 2015 at 14:32
  • I tested this and it worked perfectly for me, it copied everything over and most importantly, set up the boot options so I did not need to mess with them.
    – David
    Dec 12, 2015 at 21:46
  • Official website is down/misconfigured. But still on some freeware hosting sites (the ones with too much advertisement). This actually was the best choice, it runs on windows server, too, where all other tools failed. Also, it has easy to use UI. Samsung Data Migration just never does what I want (no choice to pick HD to clone..) and Macronium Reflect (probably great tool too) did not run on Windows Server. Even though I just wanted to clone external client OS HDD. Oct 16, 2019 at 21:14
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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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  • I tried in vain to get Clonezilla to work but never could get it up and running. I eventually used Macrium Reflect which worked a treat. Just one thing to bear in mind; if you're editing files while the clone operation is running you'll lose them so it's best to leave the machine idle while you're waiting for the clone operation to complete.
    – Jon Cage
    May 6, 2015 at 7:04
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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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There is a Sysinternals tool to create a VHD (which is the standard format for a drive used by VirtualPC/Hyper-V).

Disk2VHD

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/ee656415.aspx

enter image description here

I assume you could add to it at a later date although I haven't confirmed this.

For some reason 'volume shadow copy failed' for me but I was trying to backup an external drive that wasn't my boot drive so I could safely just turn it off.

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I would suggest booting to an ubuntu live cd and using gparted to shrink your partition (provided there's enough free space). Then you can use ddrescue with the sparse option to take an image of your drive and store it to some temporary medium. Swap your disks and reverse your source and destination to restore the image.

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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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