How to Transfer OS from HDD to SSD: Step-by-Step Guide

How to migrate OS from HDD to SSD? The easiest way is system cloning. You can use a handy migration tool to do it without reinstalling or data loss.


By Delia Updated on June 6, 2024

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User case: the best way to transfer OS to SSD?

“I am running out of hard drive space due to installing too many games from various giveaways over the last two years. I went to install a second hard drive, only to find that there is no bay for a second conventional hard drive and no place to put/mount the second drive even though there are two free SATA ports and an extra SATA power port. Strange.

However, now I'm faced with the issue. The OS is on the OEM 1.5 TB drive, but the SSD is much faster. What's the best way to transfer my copy of Windows 10 Pro to the new hard drive? ”

– Answers.

Why transfer OS from HDD to SSD

SSDs (solid-state drives) are the next evolution of PC storage. They generally run faster, and quieter than the aging technology of hard disk drives, bringing new life into your old system. Meanwhile, SSDs are more durable and reliable with no moving parts inside.

Transfer OS from HDD to SSD

All these qualities make SSDs a better option as boot drives. But if you clean install the operating system such as Windows 11 and 10 on a new SSD, all your old configurations, personal files, and installed apps won't be retained. Instead, you may want to directly transfer OS from HDD to SSD.

📌Slow Boot Times: When your computer takes a long time to start up.
📌Lagging Applications: If applications and programs open or run slowly.
📌Frequent System Crashes: Experiencing regular system crashes or freezes.
📌Upgrading Hardware: After purchasing a new SSD to enhance your system’s performance.
📌System Overheating: When your hard drive generates excessive heat.
📌Noisy Hard Drive: If your HDD is making loud or unusual noises.

This article will explore how to migrate the operating system to SSD without booting or usage issues.

How to migrate OS from HDD to SSD

Due to the complex system files involved, you can't just move a C drive from HDD to SSD directly just like copying and pasting a file. But you do have ways to transfer the operating system to another drive and make sure it works - the most common methods are system image recovery and disk cloning. They both overwrite the target disk's data with the source disk's data (including OS), the difference is that cloning is much simpler.

System image backup and recovery

You can use the Windows built-in utility to create a system image -> create a bootable media to boot the computer with a new SSD installed - perform system image recovery in WinPE.

As you can see, the procedure is quite cumbersome, and the recovery operation is error-prone. For example, if you want to restore the system image to a smaller SSD, you will receive a system image restore failed error.

To learn how to transfer OS from HDD to SSD via backup & restore, please check system image backup and restore for a step-by-step guide.

Choose Operating System

Disk or system cloning

The easiest way how to transfer OS from HDD to SSD, or even the entire hard disk to SSD, is disk cloning. It will directly duplicate the data of the source drive, and copy it over to overwrite the target SSD. No need to create a bootable drive and then recover the system in WinPE. The whole process is simple and straightforward, and the cloned target disk will boot normally.

With the addition of proper methods and tools, you can easily achieve your goal, such as cloning HDD to M.2 SSD, or even transferring data from one SSD to another SSD. I will clarify in the following.

AOMEI Backupper

Best disk cloning tool for Windows OS and data migration.

Best software to transfer Windows OS to SSD

How to transfer Windows to another drive securely? You need to use a reliable disk cloning tool. Disk cloning is the easiest and most efficient method to move your OS, but unfortunately, Windows OS doesn't include a built-in cloning feature. This is where professional disk cloning software comes in handy, offering a seamless way to clone your entire system, including all files, applications, and settings. 

Here I would recommend AOMEI Backupper Professional for its effectiveness and simplicity.

⭐Direct system clone - No need to backup and then restore - just clone them! This powerful cloning tool allows you to transfer only OS or the entire disk.
⭐Intelligent-sector clone - You can transfer OS to a smaller SSD as it copies only used sectors by default. If the target SSD is larger, you can edit the partition size flexibly.
⭐SSD alignment - One click to improve the reading and writing speed of the target SSD, and prolong its life span.
⭐MBR/GPT disks - It can transfer OS between two disks of different partition styles (MBR/GPT), for example, you can migrate OS from MBR HDD to GPT SSD, or vice versa.

Now, I‘ll show you how to transfer OS from HDD to SSD with it. Download the free trial to get started!

FREE DownloadWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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  • AOMEI Backupper can also be used to create a system backup and restore it to SSD. And the operation is much easier than the built-in utility. You can refer to: the image Windows 10 to SSD.
  • The clone features in the trial version can only be demonstrated, to actually transfer OS, you can upgrade pro trial with a discount.

How to migrate OS from HDD to SSD step by step

Here you will use the System Clone feature to directly copy OS from HDD to SSD in Windows 10/11 and other previous operating systems, both 32bit and 64bit. 

✍Preparations before transferring OS to an SSD:
◾ Ensure the new SSD is compatible with the computer's form factor and has enough space to store your data.
◾ Clear junk files on the source HDD, uninstall unnecessary apps, delete unwanted files, etc.
◾ If there's some data on the target SSD, make a backup of it, as the cloning will overwrite everything on it.
◾ Disconnect any external peripheral devices, such as USB storage devices, external displays, and printers, to ensure that files are transferred from the hard drive to the SSD correctly.
◾ If your computer has an extra slot, just install the SSD alongside the old HDD. If there's only one slot, you need to prepare a USB-to-SATA adapter or enclosure to connect it.

Steps to transfer Windows 10/11 from HDD to SSD

1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Professional, and select “System Clone” under the Clone tab. *If you want to transfer the entire disk with Windows installed, choose Disk Clone instead.

System Clone

2. It will choose the system files automatically, and you just need to select the new SSD as destination location. Then click “Next”.

Destination Disk

3. Here you can preview the result. Tick “SSD Alignment” as it can accelerate the target SSD and prolong its life span. "Sector by Sector Clone" is optionally to clone all sectors of the system partition to SSD. Then, click “Start Clone” to begin the cloning process.

You can also use the System Backup and Restore features of AOMEI Backupper to perform OS migration. This method requires a few more steps but is fully available in the free version of AOMEI Backupper Standard.

Follow up for transferring OS to SSD

After cloning, you still need to do the following two closing tasks, namely boot from the cloned SSD and reformat HDD to store data. The previous task is to ensure you can boot your computer from it while the latter one is to expand the space for data storage.

How to boot from the cloned SSD

1. Shut down your computer completely, remove the computer's back cover if it's a laptop, and take out HDD from its location.

2. Install the new SSD at the location of the original hard drive.

3. Then, replace the computer's back cover and connect the power cable. Restart your computer, and press the specific key to enter BIOS, you will see it on the initial screen.

4. In the BIOS window, go to the Boot tab and set the cloned SSD as the first boot option, save changes to let your computer boot from the new SSD.

Boot from the Cloned Hard Drive

How to format the old HDD for reuse

1. Open AOMEI Backupper Professional, switch to the Tools tab and select Wipe Disk.

2. Then, you will be asked to select the wiping type, disk, and method.

  • Tick Wipe Disk to delete all the partitions on the hard drive. Then, click Next.

Wipe Disk

  • Select HDD and click Next.
  • Choose Fill sectors with zero or advanced disk wiping methods - fill sectors with random data, DoD 52220.22-M, Gutmann. Then, click Next.

3. Click Start to begin the disk wiping process. Afterward, all the data are deleted from the disk.

Fill Sectors with Zero

How to optimize the system after transferring OS from HDD to SSD

If after transferring OS from HDD to SSD, your computer is still not running at a good enough speed, here are some tips and tricks for optimizing your system on SSD.

Enable TRIM: The SSD TRIM command flags invalid data and tells the SSD to ignore it during garbage collection, saving time and improving SSD performance. You can enable TRIM by opening the Command Prompt as an administrator and typing “fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0”.

Enable Trim for SSD

Disable hibernation: Hibernation creates a large file that can take up space on your SSD. You can disable hibernation by opening the Command Prompt as an administrator and typing “powercfg -h off”.

Disable system restore: System restore creates restore points on your hard drive that can take up valuable space on your SSD. You can disable system restore by right-clicking on “Computer” and selecting “Properties” -> “System Protection” -> “Configure”.

System Protection

Move user folders: You can move your user folders (such as Documents, Pictures, and Music) to another drive to save space on your boot drive. To do this, right-click on the folder you want to move and select “Properties”, then click on the “Location” tab and select “Move”.

Update drivers: Updating your drivers can help improve the performance of your system after transferring OS from HDD to SSD.

The benefits of transferring OS from HDD to SSD

1. Improved Performance: SSDs offer significantly faster read and write speeds compared to traditional HDDs. This results in quicker boot times, faster application launches, and overall improved system responsiveness.
2. Enhanced Durability: Unlike HDDs, SSDs have no moving parts, making them less susceptible to physical damage. This durability reduces the risk of data loss due to mechanical failure.
3. Reduced Power Consumption: SSDs typically consume less power than HDDs, which can lead to longer battery life for laptops and lower energy costs for desktops.
4. Quieter Operation: SSDs operate silently since they lack the spinning disks and moving read/write heads found in HDDs, resulting in a quieter computing experience.

FAQs about how to transfer OS from HDD to SSD

1. Can you just swap an HDD for an SSD?

Replacing a SATA hard drive with an SSD is simpler than it may seem. You can switch from an HDD to an SSD in just a few steps, either by reinstalling the operating system or cloning the old drive. Upgrading to an SSD can significantly speed up your computer compared to an old HDD.

2. What happens when you replace an HDD with an SSD?

Replacing your hard drive with an SSD is one of the most effective ways to dramatically boost the performance of an older computer. SSDs operate more quietly and efficiently because they lack the moving parts found in traditional hard drives.

3. Do I need to remove the HDD to install an SSD?

No, you don't have to remove the old HDD to install an SSD. Many higher-end and business-class computers have additional hard drive bays. If your computer has a second slot, you can simply install the SSD alongside your existing HDD.


You can easily transfer OS from HDD to SSD (even to smaller ones) with the help of professional disk cloning software. Also, you can use it to migrate OS from MBR to GPT and vice versa. You can further improve SSD disk performance and avoid unallocated space.

Besides, you still can use its backup and restore method to achieve the same effect, but with relatively complicated steps, create a system image to USB or external drive and then restore the system to SSD. The advantage lies in long-term data protection and minimizing data loss in a disaster.

This method is really useful when you want to deploy system images to multiple computers simultaneously. You need to use image deployment software in the Technician or Tech Plus edition. Try cloning or imaging methods based on your situation.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.