By Delia / Last update June 13, 2022

Can I install an SSD without reinstalling Windows?

With the popularity of SSDs, more and more computer users would like to replace boot drives with SSDs for better performance. But at this point you might be wondering, how to install Windows 10 to SSD effortlessly?

It may be a good idea to create an installation media and perform clean install on the SSD, but those customized user profile, system settings, personal files and installed programs won't be brought to the new SSD. Besides, the installation may not go smoothly since many users haved encountered various problems, not to mention the time spent on the whole process.

Therefore, some users would prefer to install SSD without reinstalling Windows, and this could actually be done with disk cloning software. Here's a quick guide to show you how to accomplish it.

SSD

How to securely install an SSD without reinstalling Windows

The SSD installation process to laptop and desktop is a little different, so does to the necessary tools. For this part, you could refer to some installation tutorials of specific brands and models on Youtube.

After installing, choosing proper disk cloning software is also important. You could follow the guide to have a try, and some tips on cloned SSD won’t boot are also provided at the end.

Step 1. Connect/install SSD to your computer properly

Generally, you just need to install the SSD alongside the old hard drive. Open the main chassis after power down the machine, and then go through these steps:

  • Find the SSD power input interface which is flat type.

  • Find the SSD data input/output interface, i.e. SATA cable. It is narrower than hard disk power cord and also flat type.

  • Connect these two to the corresponding interface and the installation is almost done. Put SSD inside the chassis and close it.

  • Power up the computer and see whether the SSD has been detected by Windows. If no, disconnect it and retry. 

Note if you laptop has only one slot, you need to prepare a USB-to-SATA cable or SSD enclosure to connect the SSD as an external drive.

USB-to-SATA cable

If you want to install a new SSD:

For a brand new SSD, you may be asked to initialize it at first use. To do this, you can search for "Disk Management" in Windows search bar, and then right-click the new SSD, choose Initialize Disk to prepare it for use by Windows.

The partition style should be compatible with the boot mode of your PC, MBR for Legacy BIOS and GPT for UEFI. 

initialize disk

If you want to install an old SSD that already has data on it:

Note that the cloning process will overwrite the target SSD, so if there is any important data in it, please back them up first. This operation can also be done with the cloning tool below.

Also, if the partition style of the SSD is not compatible with your current boot mode, then it's recommended to convert MBR to GPT or vice versa in advance. Otherwise you will need to switch the boot mode after cloning. 

Step 2. Clone hard drive to SSD without reinstalling Windows 11/10/8/7

Now you can pick a powerful disk clone software since Windows lacks the feature, and AOMEI Backupper Standard is a free yet reliable option. It supports cloning entire disk or only selected partition(s), and even allows you to clone larger drive to smaller drive as long as it is sufficient to receive all the used data. 

The software is user-friendly and suitable for both professionals and beginners. Download the completely free Standard edition to have a try:

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

*The Standard edition supports cloning all data disks and MBR system disks. If you want to clone system disk from MBR to GPT, or GPT to MBR, please upgrade to Professional edition. 

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

1. Install and run the SSD cloning freeware. Click Clone in the main console and then Disk Clone.

If you want to clone only OS to SSD, please choose System Clone (available in Professional edition).

Disk Clone

2. Select the current system drive as the source disk.

Select Source Disk

3. Select the new SSD as the destination disk.

Select Destination Disk

4. Tick SSD Alignment to improve the read & write speed of the target drive if you are cloning hard drive to SSD, and click Start Clone to execute the operation. Optionally, if the target SSD is larger or equal-sized, check Sector By Sector Clone to all sectors of the hard drive including the blank and bad sectors.

Start Clone 2

5. Wait for the process completes and shut down your PC.

💛Important Notes: 

You will find the cloned SSD not show full capacity after cloning disk to larger disk, whether HDD or SSD, since it will not adjust partition size automatically to fit on the larger destination disk. To make full use of disk capacity, try the following 3 practical options in Edit Partitions feature (supported by 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

👉 Besides, you may see another premium feature in this feature - Convert the destination disk from MBR to GPT, and it may be different, depending on both disk types. In view of this, you may see Convert the destination disk from GPT to MBR option. 

It helps to convert MBR to GPT or GPT to MBR with booting issues when the destination and source disk has different partition style. And the free version of AOMEI Backupper only supports cloning system disk between two MBR disks. You need to upgrade to the professional edition and then clone GPT to GPT, MBR disk to GPT, or GPT to MBR.

So, now the question is what is MBR or GPT and how do I differentiate between 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 to SSD for free. 

Tips:

👉 The Standard edition supports cloning basic disks. If you want to cloning dynamic disks, please use System Clone and Partition Clone in Professional edition.

👉 This software is also a M.2 SSD cloner, thus you can use it to migrate Windows 10 to M.2 SSD, clone M.2 SSD to M.2 SSD, etc.

Step 3. Boot from the cloned SSD securely

For PCs with more than one slot, you don't necessarily have to remove the old hard drive right now. Just shut down the computer, keep pressing the specific key (depends on manufacturer) to enter BIOS, set the SSD as the first boot option and save the settings. If your PC successfully boot from the cloned SSD, you can choose to keep the HDD for storage, or remove and discard it completely.

For laptops with only one slot, you need to replace the hard drive with SSD physically. Shut down your laptop and try following steps:

  • Disconnect the SSD carefully. Disconnect all other external connections and remove the battery.

  • Open back cover of laptop. You may need the help of a screwdriver.

  • Find the hard drive and uninstall it with the screwdriver. Remove it then.

Remove hard drive in laptop

  • Install SSD to that place and connect each interface accordingly. It should be easy to match since the interface is quite different.

  • Close the back cover, re-connect other devices and reboot your PC.

If everything works fine, you can reformat the hard drive for other purposes. What worth mentioning is that above steps also apply to replacing a hard drive without reinstalling in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows XP and Windows Vista.

What if cloned SSD won’t boot successfully?

In a few cases, the cloned SSD won’t boot up normally. In a nutshell, there are several possible causes to explain.

  • Cloned SSD is not the boot device. Change the boot order in BIOS to solve.

  • Boot with the wrong boot mode. Please change Legacy to UEFI if you cloned to a GPT disk.

  • The source disk contains bad sectors which may be cloned to the SSD. Please run CHKDSK to check.

There may be other reasons on the boot up failure. For more information, please refer to cloned hard drive won’t boot.

Conclusion

How to install an SSD without reinstalling Windows 7/8/10? Actually, it is fairly easy so long as you follow the instruction strictly.  AOMEI Backupper enables you to migarte the entire disk or only system drive(s) to SSD with several clicks. Transferring Windows 10  to NVMe SSD is a great option, because this mode of SSD has the fastest writing and reading speed.

As a comprehensive data protection software, AOMEI Backupper also provides complete backup and restore features, like schedule backup, incremental and differential backup, restore system to different computer, etc.