By Ivy / Last update June 15, 2022

Quick navigation:

Can I clone my boot drive?

“My Lenovo computer with Windows 10 is preinstalled on HDD. My computer run slower and slower recently, so I bought a new SSD. I want to clone Windows 10 boot drive to SSD and make it bootable. I don’t want to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch because the cloned Windows 10 won’t boot. Is there any freeware that can do this? Any suggestion will be appreciated.”

In fact, you can find many hard drive cloning software on the market that helps you make a bootable clone of Windows 10 successfully. The same is true for Windows 11.  And this article will introduce you to one such software.

Benefits of Windows 10 or 11 bootable clone

The bootable clone is an exact copy of all files (both visible and invisible) of a drive on your computer, including the operating system, system reserved partition/EFI system partition, installed programs and other files. Thus, many users want to clone boot drive in Windows 10 and we summarize some advantages of it. 

Get rid of low disk space warning: Obviously, you can get a larger capacity by cloning hard drive to larger drive, and then install more applications, store more files, and boot your computer faster.
Get peak performance: The best way to improve computer performance is to clone bootable drive in Windows 10 to smaller SSD, since it has faster reading and writting speed.
Fast system recovery and data loss prevention: You can directly replace the original disk if you clone it, and prevent heavy data loss caused by reinstalling, unexpected system failure, hard drive failure, virus infection, and more.

Best free bootable cloning software for Windows systems

It's disappointed that Windows 10/11 does not have cloning software, thus you need to turn to third-party disk clonig software. Here I strongly recommend you AOMEI Backupper Standard due to the following advantages:

  • Simple and easy-to-use: The cloning software should have a user-friendly design and clear interface, so all users can use it smoothly in a very short time.

  • Two cloning modes - intelligent clone (default) & sector by sector clone: The default cloning mode clone only used sectors of selected disk, so you can easily clone large drive to smaller drive and make sure it's bootable. 

  •  4K alignment technology support. It allows you to improve reading and writing speed of destination disk if it's an SSD disk.

  • Flexible cloning options. Except for disk clone, you can also use partition clone feature to clone one or more specific partitions. 

To get started, please download this software on a Windows PC. For server users, try AOMEI Backupper Server.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Clone boot drive of Windows 10 to SSD with AOMEI Backupper

You will learn to clone a hard drive in Windows 10 for free with "Disk Clone" and make sure it is bootable. The steps also apply to Windows 11.

Step 1. Prepare a new SSD and connect it to Windows 10 computer. Then, start AOMEI Backupper and click Disk Clone under the Clone tab.

Disk Clone

Note: If your new hard drive is not enough to save the boot drive and all the installed programs, files, folders, you can transfer Windows 10 to new hard drive with “System Clone” (supported by AOMEI Backupper Professional).

Step 3. Select Windows 10 bootable disk as the source disk and click Next to move on.

Bootable Drive

Step 4. Select new SSD as the destination disk and click Next.

Prepared SSD

Step 5. Check SSD Alignment to accelerate the reading and writing speed of an SSD disk. And then, click Start Clone to clone boot drive in Windows 10 immediately.

Start Clone SSD Alignment Checked

Also, you can use Sector by sector clone to keep the old partition layout or Edit Partitions to adjust the partition size on the destination disk. And the later one is more practical, since it resolves two potential issues during the cloning process. 

#1: The cloned drive not show full capacity.

By default, all the cloning software makes an exact copy of the source disk unless you change the partition size while cloning. To prevent this from the beginning, try the following 3 options. And the last two options are available on the Professional version.

👉 Copy without resizing partitions: It will not resize the partition size.

👉 Add unused space to all partitions: It will reallocate the unallocated space to each partition of the target disk, appropriate for the disk size.

👉 Manually adjust partition size: It allows you to extend unallocated space to any partition on the destination disk you want. 

Add Unused Space

#2: The cloned drive not bootable after cloning.

One of the biggest reason is the destination and source disk has different partition style and you don't convert them to the same before cloning. In this situation, you can simply check the last option - Convert the destination disk from MBR to GPT or vice versa, depending on the disk partition styles of them. 

Both MBR and GPT are two different disk types for data storage. And you can check its disk properties in Disk Management. The overall steps are below:

  • Press Win + R to open the Run window. Then, type diskmgmt.msc and hit OK to open disk management.
  • Then, right-click the disk you want to clone and select Properties in the pop-up window.
  • In the Properties window, select the Volume tab and confirm the partition style. It can be MBR (Master Boot Record) or GPT (GUID Partition Table).

Disk Partition Style

  • Similarly, check the disk partition tyle of the destination disk. If it is still MBR, you can clone hard drive from bootable USB for free. To clone GPT to GPT (eg: clone NVMe to NVMe), MBR to GPT or GPT to MBR, try professional version.

Notes ✎... 
• To get the best performance of a disk after cloning, it's suggested to transfer Windows 10 to NVMe. Because it has the fastest transfer speed. 
• Except for disk or system clone, you can still use backup and restore to realize this purpose, even restore to dissimilar hardware. Please note the backup only works after restore.
• To clone Windows 10 to bootable USB, you just need to connect a USB drive and choose it as the destination disk.

Video Tutorial: 

Make sure if the cloned SSD is bootable

 Now, you already have a bootable clone of Windows 10, and you still need one more thing, it's to check if the cloned hard drive is bootable. Therefore, you can use it to replace old hard drive when something bad happens or upgrade as needed.

To boot from the cloned disk with the following steps:

1. Swap the old hard disk and cloned drive.

2. Restart your computer and press “F2” or “ESC” key to enter BIOS.

3. Set the new hard drive as default boot option, then save changes and exit this window. After that, it will boot from the cloned hard drive automatically. If not, please check possible factors, such as, disk firmware, and then try again later.

Bios

Potential problems for bootable clone Windows 10 or 11 hard drive

If you do an in-depth search about how to make bootable clone Windows 10 online, you may find there are many examples of cloned disk won't boot. So, you may have some concerns and want to know how to make SSD bootable after clone in Windows 10. Here, I’ll show you the clear answer.

About the target disk 

• The target disk has different partition style of original hard drive. In general, many disk cloning software only allows you to clone disk with the same partition style. If not, the process will fail.

• The target disk is smaller than original disk. Honestly, most disk cloning software only clone disk to larger disk. So you need to delete the useless installed programs or large files to free up space.

• The target disk is not the default boot disk in BIOS. Usually, your computer can only boot from the default boot disk, also called first boot option. If not, please set the boot priority for target disk and press “F10” to save the changes.

• The cloned disk only has operating system. To boot windows 10/11 from cloned drive, not only the operating system, but also other boot related partition or files are required. To check it, you can go to disk management and see if there are system reserved partition or EFI system partition.  

About other problems

• Cloning hard drive in Windows 10 with other externally connected devices, such as, bootable USB or CD/DVD. So, the disk cloning software may clone the boot partition to another external device instead of your target disk.

• The computer does not support UEFI boot mode. If your computer was bought a long time ago, it may not support the newer boot mode UEFI. Meanwhile, most of the current disk are GPT, which requires UEFI boot mode. Therefore, you need to convert GPT to MBR without data loss ahead of time.

 The master boot record is damaged. If your situation is different from above, Windows 10 clone not bootable may be caused by corrupted MBR or BCD. You can boot your computer using installation disk or recovery disk, press “Shift + F10” to open command prompt, then type the following commands and hit Enter.

  • bootrec.exe
  • bootrec.exe /fixmbr
  • bootrec.exe /fixboot
  • bootrec.exe /scanos
  • bootrec.exe /rebuildbcd

Repair Cloned Drive Won't Boot

Wrapping things up

You can easily create bootable clone for Windows 10 or 11with the help of free disk cloning software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. With it, you are able to clone disk to larger disk as well as smaller SSD, depending on your purpose, larger capacity or better performance. 

And you can further improve SSD disk performance with its SSD Alignment feature. In its advanced edition, you can add unused space to all partitions automatically or specific partitions (require human intervention). Also, you can clone OS only with System Clone feature. In a simple word, it's worth trying!