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Friday, 21 October 2011

Installing an SSD without reinstalling windows


Congratulations on receiving your new SSD disk! The best way to make use of it is to use it as your system disk and local subversion cache for lightening fast boots and builds.
It is possible to do without reinstalling windows and all your software using windows inbuilt tools such as Windows Backup and Disk Manager. This guide applies to Win2k8r2 but it might work for other OS versions

Step 1 - Install your SSD

You may need to tweak the BIOS to enable the SATA port if windows can't see the disk. Also make sure the SSD is higher in the boot priority than your existing system disk

Step 2 - Shrink your OS disk

Windows backup will only restore to a disk that is at least the same size the original volume. Delete any unnecessary files and shrink the volume using Disk Management. If you are lucky it will be small enough to restore to your new SSD. If you are unlucky there will be some unmovable files such as page files, or indexing files that prevent the disk being shrunk.
To remove the page file, disable virtual memory and reboot the computer
I found I had to disable indexing as well. Select "Indexing Options" in the control panel, remove all the folders or disks under "Included Locations". Then rebuild the index using the "Advanced" button.
Now try shrinking again. If its still to big you are out of luck, you will need to reinstall windows and all your favourite software.

Step 3 - Backup your OS Disk

Use Windows Backup or Windows Server Backup. Select Backup once and choose a custom backup - you want to select "Bare metal recovery", "System State" and your system disk (C: drive). I also has an additional partition called "System Reserved" that I backed up as well just in case. Choose a destination for the backup, either an external disk or your other internal disk and wait for the backup to complete.

Step 4 - Restore your backup

To restore a bootable system you will need to reboot with the OS install disk. I also disconnected the original windows disk just in case.
Choose restore your backup. Now at this point it failed with a cryptic message about a data disk having an active partition. This apparently was because my SSD had some stuff on it. I went to the commandline and ran diskpart clean - which deleted everything from the SSD. After that the restore proceeded successfully.

Step 6 - Reboot and enlarge your system disk

You system should reboot successfully and super quick thanks to the new SSD, but because you shrunk the windows partition in step 2 there may be some unallocated space on the disk. Use diskmanager to enlarge your c: partition and reclaim this unused space.

Step 7 - Enjoy your fast booting computer and lightning quick build times

I hope this guide was useful.


I initially had a problem when I reconnected my original HDD with the OS on it. My dell optiplex 755 didn't remember that i changed the boot order, booted off the old disk and screwed the startup for the SSD. I suggest reformatting your original HDD to remove all trace of the OS before restarting with it connected to your computer.

Alternatively you may prefer to use the free disk migration utility from Intel

However, this will not work with server grade OSes like Win2k8

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