By Ivy / Last update October 20, 2021

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Why clone larger drive to smaller drive in Windows?

"I need to clone my 1TB hard drive to a 500GB SSD to gain better performance, and the 1TB one is only using around 250GB of space so it would fit fine. Anyone knows a program that will let me clone a larger drive to a smaller one? Seems all the ones I’ve tried want the destination to be the same or bigger. The hard drive is sounding like it is going to fail (lots of clicking sounds) so I figure I should do it before something bad happens. Thanks."

Clone Larger Drive to Smaller SSD

Do you ever need to replace your old hard drive with a new but smaller one holding same reason as above? Better performance, hard drive fails or hardware updates. 

It is not uncommon to clone larger drive to smaller drive these days and the reasons may be different. You may also want to clone larger drive to smaller SSD drive especially when SSD is becoming popular among computer users. 

It could be counted as a wise move to clone boot drive to SSD only and make old HDD as secondary storage device due to SSD’s property. Anyway, to clone HDD to smaller drive, you need to find a suitable solution.

Best free disk cloning software to clone larger drive to smaller drive

Hard drive upgrading is nearly an inevitable process, so you need the best free disk cloning software that has options to meet your needs. Disappointingly, cloning is still a missing feature in Windows backup utility. But you can still turn to 3rd party software.

If you have done a deep research in advance, you may know that lots of software only supports cloning to equal or larger size hard drive, or they are charged. Here I strongly recommend you AOMEI Backupper Standard, which can clone larger disk to smaller disk successfully in Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista with secure boot. Also, cloning GPT disk to smaller SSD is supportable.

How can you clone to a smaller drive with AOMEI Backupper? It makes use of "intelligent clone" feature to clone only used part to target disk as long as the used part fits the drive, so you can clone Windows 10 to new hard drive successfully, even smaller one. And this operation will not ask you to shrink partition or volume before cloning. It's the most important reason why I recommend this software.

Further, AOMEI Backupper’s built-in technology will take care of 4K partition alignment for SSD to improve performance and prolong lifespan when the target disk is an SSD. It supports all branded SSDs, whether SATA,  NVMe, or PCIe, such as, HP, Samsung, WD, SanDisk, Lenovo, etc. 

Besides, it is OK if the larger drive section is a little bit destroyed because AOMEI Backupper supports clone hard drive with bad sectors. So set your mind at ease to free download this software and have a try now. Following paragraph will show you how to clone a larger drive to a smaller one in detail. Take cloning to smaller SSD for example.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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Step by step guide: clone larger hard drive to smaller SSD free

Here are two guides to help you clone larger HDD to smaller SSD free. The video can show the whole cloning process more intuitively while graphic tutorial provides more details about this operation. It's suggested to check the video tutorial first and then get details in the graphic tutorial. 

No matter which tutorial you will check and follow, you need to make some preparations before cloning to a smaller drive.

  • Install the smaller SSD disk on your computer and be sure it can be detected. If it's not initialized, please initialize it in the Disk Management first.

  • If your computer is a laptop, you need to prepare a SATA-to-USB cable or adapter

  • Check the two disk spaces, and then clean the larger drive to fit the smaller SSD. 

  • One external hard drive. You may need to transfer large files to get some space or create a system backup or disk backup to prevent data loss or system crash owing to human error.

Video Tutorial:

Graphic Step-by-step Tutorial:

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard, and then you will see its deep-blue interface. Click Clone and then choose Disk Clone to start the cloning process.

Disk Clone

① The "Disk Clone" is free only when you clone an MBR system disk to another MBR disk. To clone system disk from GPT to GPT, GPT to MBR, or MBR to GPT, you could consider using AOMEI Backupper Professional.
② To check disk partition style, go to Disk Management, right click the hard disk or the SSD, choose Properties -> Volume -> Partition Style, then you will see "Master Boot Record(MBR)" or GUID partition table(GPT). You can also check partition style when selecting disks in AOMEI Backupper.

Step 2. Choose the larger drive as the source disk, and then click Next.

Select Source Disk

Step 3. Choose the smaller SSD drive as the destination disk and click Next.

Select Destination Disk

Step 4. This operation uses Intelligent Clone by default, so you can easily clone larger drive to smaller drive. Then, preview the operation summary and click Start Clone to execute.

Start Clone

① Do not check Sector by sector clone because this feature is to clone all sectors on larger drive, and it will fail to clone bigger drive to smaller drive due to insufficient disk space.
② Edit Partitions (supported by paid versions) is used to avoid unallocated space after cloning hard drive to larger drive. You can adjust partition size before you click "Start Clone" by checking the "Manually adjust partition size" or "Add unused space to all partitions" option.
③ It's suggested to tick SSD Alignment while cloning hard drive to SSD, because it can optimize the performance of SSD disk and make your computer run faster after cloning.

Step 5. (Optional) Replace larger drive with the smaller SSD and try to boot from it. If it doesn't automatically boot from the cloned drive, you need to change boot priority to it in BIOS and try again.


① To get the best performance of cloned SSD disk, it's suggested to clone Windows 10 to NVMe SSD. Because it has the fastest speed.
② This software is still an M.2 SSD cloner, so you can use it to migrate Windows 10 to M.2 SSD, clone M.2 SSD to larger M.2 SSD, etc.
③To clone larger HDD to smaller SSD without booting Windows, you can create a bootable media with this software and boot from it, then perform disk clone.
④ Except for disk clone, you are allowed to migrate OS to smaller SSD with "System Clone" or move data on specific partitions with "Partition Clone". "System Clone" is available in AOMEI Backupper Professional and higher editions.

What to do when cloned drive won’t boot?

Cloned hard drive may not boot as expected due to various causes, such as corrupted operating system, missing boot related partition, operation mistakes, wrong boot order, etc.

Don’t be panic if you confront such situation. In the first place, you need to understand that the cloning operation has no harm to the original hard drive since it just makes duplications. Then, you can follow this article to figure out how to fix cloned SSD won’t boot with detailed guides.


It is quite easy to clone larger drive to smaller drive like smaller SSD on the condition that you choose the right cloning tool. AOMEI Backupper Standard can be a great choice, because it can ensure a safe boot after cloning. At the same time, it provides some useful features to optimize the process, such as, hot clone, intelligent clone, 4k align technology etc. 

Also, you can use it to clone SSD to HDD in Windows 10, clone hard drive to larger drive, copy boot drive to another drive, copy NTFS drive, and create bootable Win PE & Linux media, etc. 

If you happen to have this need, download it to have a try right now. After all, practice is the truth of everything.