How to Move Windows to Another Drive [Step-by-Step Guide]
How to move Windows 10 to another drive without reinstalling? You need a handy clone tool like AOMEI Backupper to transfer OS and data to new hard drive or SSD directly.
- Can I Move Windows Installation to Another Drive?
- 2 Ways to Migrate Windows to Another Drive
- How to Move Windows to Another Drive via OS Migration
- How to Transfer Windows to Another Drive via Built-in System Restore
- Transferring Windows to Another Drive FAQ
Can I Move Windows Installation to Another Drive?
When your old hard drive is on the verge of collapse, or is no longer adequate for your use, you may purchase a new HDD or SSD to replace it. But can you move Windows 10 or 11 installation over just like other files?
The answer is yes. You can transfer Windows to another drive without reinstalling OS & programs, which means your old data and configurations will be retained just fine. But since there are system files involved, you need a specialist migration tool instead of manual copy and paste.
In the following article, I will introduce how to move Windows 10 to another drive with secure boot. The provided methods also apply to moving Windows 11, 8.1/8, 7, etc.
2 Ways to Migrate Windows to Another Drive
To move Windows to another hard drive or SSD, you can consider using disk cloning or backup & restore way. They both save you the trouble of reinstalling Windows 11/10, and help you transfer the installed programs, documents, files & folders, etc. along with the operating system.
✔ Transfer system image via backup & restore
It requires you to create and then restore system image to new drive. The process using Backup and Restore utility is rather tedious and error-prone. A bootable media is also required for system image recovery. However, if you plan to transfer Windows to new hardware, this may be the only option.
✔ Migrate OS via disk/system clone (recommended)
To transfer the operating system efficiently, disk clone would be the best choice. It simplifies the steps to: install the new drive >> clone system (or disk) >> boot from the new drive.
Using it, you can move Windows to another drive without USB or other bootable media. However, Windows doesn’t come with a cloning feature, you need specialist disk clone software to take over the job.
I would use AOMEI Backupper as an example. It includes complete features to move OS or entire disk (selectable).
▪ System Clone - It auto selects the system-related partitions, and transfer only Windows installation to the new hard drive. Also read: system clone.
▪ Intelligent Copy - It copies only used sectors by default, allowing you to migrate Windows 10 to smaller SSD. You can also choose to perform sector-by-sector clone.
▪ System Restore - It includes free system restore in case you want to transfer Windows to another drive via backup and restore way. It also allows for restoring to smaller disks, and does not require a bootable USB.
Simply click the download button to try it out:
- If you are running Windows Server, you can use the specialized Server edition.
- The cloning feature in trial version is for demonstration. Please upgrade to enjoy full functionality, or use system backup and restore feature to migrate Windows to another drive for free.
How to Move Windows to Another Drive via OS Migration
Disk clone is the easiest way to migrate Windows to another drive without USB. Here's a step-by-step guide to do so in Windows 10. It also applies to moving other OS such as Windows 11, Windows 7, etc.
Step 1. Connect the new drive for Windows migration
Install the new hard drive or SSD. If your PC has more than one slot, just install the new drive alongside the old drive. Otherwise, please use a USB to SATA adapter to connect it.
- If it’s a brand new hard drive and it doesn't show up in File Explorer, you may initialize it first. Here’s a Microsoft guide.
- If you’ve stored some files in it, make a backup first, otherwise all the data will be overwritten during cloning.
Step 2. Launch the migration tool to initiate disk clone
Navigate to Clone tab from the main interface, and click Disk Clone to transfer the entire system disk. *You can also choose System Clone to transfer only Windows 10 installation.
Step 3. Specify the source drive and the target drive
Select the current drive with Windows 11 or Windows 10 installation, and click Next.
Then, select the connected destination disk that you wish to migrate Windows to. It could be a larger HDD or smaller SSD, partitioned with MBR or GPT. Click Next to continue.
Step 4. Check the setup and start migrating to new drive
Confirm the operation and Start Clone if everything is okay. Here are some useful options that may be helpful to you:
- SSD Alignment: When moving Windows to another SSD, this option will accelerate the target drive.
- Sector By Sector Clone: By default, this tool runs in intelligent mode that allows you to migrate Windows 10 to a smaller SSD. If you are moving Windows to a larger or equal-size drive, you can tick this option to copy all the sectors, no matter used or not.
When the progress reaches to 100%, the Windows installation is transferred to the new hard drive.
Step 5. Boot Windows from the cloned new drive
After the cloning is complete, if your PC has only one drive bay, you can shut it down and physically replace the old hard drive with the new one; if it has more than one slot, and you want to keep the old hard drive as the 2nd storage, you just need to do the following:
- Restart the computer, press the required key (could be DEL, F2, F12, etc.) to enter BIOS menu. The specific key depends on the manufacturer and model, which you can directly search in Google.
- Set the new hard drive as the first boot option, then press F10 to save the change and exit.
If your computer boot from the new drive successfully, then you are free to decide what to do with the old hard drive. You can either discard it or keep it as a storage device. AOMEI Backupper also integrates a disk wipe feature to help you clean a hard drive completely.
Video tutorial of moving Windows to another drive securely:
Can you migrate Windows to another drive without using 3rd-party tools? The answer is yes. As mentioned earlier, the conventional way to move Windows installation to new hard drive is creating a system image of Windows 10/Windows 11, and restoring it to new SSD or HDD using Windows Backup and Restore.
The steps for this method are much more complex, as you need to do the following:
- First create a system backup including all the files required to boot, and save it to an external device.
- Create a bootable media, such as a recovery USB. Windows 10 installation media is not applicable given that you are trying to transfer the current system.
- Boot the computer into Recovery Environment and then perform a system image restore.
This method is less fault-tolerant when restoring. Before the transfer, it's suggested to make sure the target disk is equally sized or larger than the source disk; the target disk should be formatted with NTFS; the way the source and target disks store partitioning information (Master Boot Record or GUID Partition Table) and the ensuing boot mode issues (Legacy or UEFI) are also concerns that require extra attention.
Here I will show you the basic procedure to move Windows to another drive using backup & restore way.
Step 1. Create a system image or Windows 10/11
To transfer Windows 10 to another drive, you need to first create a full system image with all the boot-related files.
1. Open Control Panel, go to System and Security -> Backup and Restore (Windows 7). Or you can directly search for “backup settings” on task bar, and click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
Choose Create a system image on the left side of the popping-up interface.
2. Choose the backup destination. Given that you need to transfer Windows 10 to another drive, you can choose an external drive to save the backup.
3. The drives that are required for Windows to run will be included by default, you can also choose additional drives as you need. Then confirm the settings and click Start backup.
Step 2. Create a recovery media to boot the target drive
In order to move Windows to new SSD or HDD, you need to boot the computer into Windows 10 advanced options for System Image Recovery, so an installation disc or recovery media is necessary. Here are 2 ways:
Create a recovery drive: Connect a USB with at least 16 GB space -> search for “recovery drive” -> follow the wizard.
Create a repair disc: Insert the disc (CD/DVD burner is also required) -> click “Create a system repair disc” in Backup and Restore (Windows 7) -> follow the wizard.
*Find details in Windows 10 recovery tools.
Step 3. Transfer Windows 10 to another drive using System Image Recovery
1. To migrate Windows to new hard drive, shut down the computer and replace the old hard drive with the new one, then insert the recovery media and the external drive with the Windows 10/11 system image stored.
2. Start the computer. If it can’t boot from the recovery drive, then press the required key to enter BIOS and set it as the first boot option. You will see the Windows Setup page, and hit Next button on the bottom-right corner.
3. After setting the language, keyboard, etc. up, you can navigate to Next -> Repair your computer -> Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> System Image Recovery.
4. In the pop-up wizard, check if the latest system image selected by default is the one you want to restore. If it is not, choose Select a system image to specify the correct one. Then click Next to continue.
5. Make sure Format and repartition disks option is ticked and click Next.
6. Confirm the operation and hit Finish to start restoring Windows installation to target drive.
With any luck, your recovery will be complete after some patience and you have successfully moved Windows installation to the target disk. However, the possibility of failure in this process is fairly high.
One of the most frequently occurring recovery errors is 0x80042407, and the most possible reason is that your target drive is smaller than the source drive, so it failed to match the layout of the system image.
Step 4. Resize partitions after transferring a system image
A system image will completely replicate your system drive, including all available partitions on it and their sizes. Therefore, if the target drive is larger than the source drive, there will be unallocated space on it. You can resize the partitions to make full use of the disk capacity.
1. Search for "diskmgmt" on the task bar to open Disk Management in Windows 10/11.
2. Right-click the partition on the left side of the unallocated space and select Extend Volume. Then, you will enter the Extend Volume Wizard, click Next to move on.
3. Select the disk you want to extend the partition and click Next. Usually, you can only use unallocated space on the same disk to extend volume unless this disk is a dynamic disk.
4. Click Finish to start this operation.
By using AOMEI Backupper, you can migrate Windows 10/11 to new hard drive with great flexibility and simple operation. However, some users may still have concerns about transferring Windows between different disks. Here I will answer some common cloning questions.
1. Can you transfer Windows license to new hard drive?
This is a major concern for many people. When we migrate Windows to new hard drive, we definitely want the license to work on the new drive too. So let’s look at the 3 license types:
Retail: The license you purchase from a local store or online retailer. It can be transferred between different hard drives and computers as many times as you want. If your Windows 10 is upgraded from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 retail copy, the key is also transferable, but only once.
Volume: Such licenses are distributed in bulk to large organizations, allowing one master key to activate any installation of Windows 10, but you cannot activate devices that don’t belong to the organization. Also, it’s not allowed to transfer the key with the device when the system changes ownership.
OEM: This license is preinstalled on a new computer by the manufacturer. It’s linked to the motherboard in the device, so you cannot transfer it to another device, but it’s OK to install it on a new hard drive on the same PC.
So yes, when you transfer Windows to another drive on the same computer, the license still works (as long as you don't replace the motherboard), and the rule applies to Windows 11/10. But if you want to move Windows to another drive and use it on different hardware, you may need a Retail license.
- If you are not sure of your license type, search for “Command Prompt” and type the command “slmgr /dli”. Press Enter and the information will show in the popping-out window.
- Sometimes you may have activation problems and need to contact Microsoft support to explain the scenario.
2. Can you move Windows 10 to a smaller drive or larger drive?
3. How do I fix unallocated space after transferring Windows to a new SSD?
Sometimes you may find the cloned SSD does not show full capacity after cloning disk to larger disk. This is because the cloning procedure does not adjust partition size automatically to fit on the destination disk. To make full use of the disk capacity after moving Windows to another drive, you can try the following 3 options in "Edit Partitions":
- 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. And it requires you to manually adjust the size of the partition.
4. Can you transfer Windows between MBR and GPT disks?
Yes. AOMEI Backupper supports cloning both partition styles, including MBR to MBR, MBR to GPT, GPT to GPT and GPT to MBR, but to make the computer bootable after moving Windows 10 installation to another drive, you still need to ensure the partition style of the target disk is compatible with your boot mode (MBR for legacy BIOS and GPT for UEFI).
To check the partition style of your disks, try the following steps:
Press Win + R to open the Run window. Then, type diskmgmt.msc and hit OK to open disk management -> Right-click the disk and select Properties -> Go to Volume tab and check the Partition style. It can be MBR or GPT.
If you need to convert the partition style of the target disk, you can also use the Convert the destination disk... option in "Edit Partitions".
5. How to migrate only the OS to a new SSD?
SSDs are recognized as better boot drives compared to HDDs. Therefore, many users want to transfer Windows installation from HDD to SSD, and use the HDD for data storage. This is truly viable. You just need to choose System Clone instead of Disk Clone, it will only select the system-related partitions to migrate.
Note that if you keep the HDD after the cloning is complete, you need to go into the BIOS menu (by pressing a specific key during startup, which is determined by the brand and model) and make sure that the cloned SSD is selected as the first boot option. Otherwise the system might confuse the two disks and fail to boot.
6. Can I transfer Windows to an external drive?
7. Can I transfer Windows to new PC?
If you want to move Windows to another drive directly and securely, the easiest way is using disk clone software. AOMEI Backupper is a good choice with its powerful disk clone and system clone features. No matter you want to move Windows 10 or Windows 11 installation, you can use this tool to migrate operating system from a hard drive to a larger HDD or smaller SSD.
If you need to transfer hard drive to new computer without reinstalling Windows 10, there’s also a Universal Restore feature to ensure the computer can boot after dissimilar hardware restore.