By Delia / Last update September 7, 2021

Move Windows 10 installation to SSD | why and how?

Are you considering replacing hard drive with an SSD? This is indeed an effective way to get lager capacity or better performance. But rather than installing system from scratch, you may prefer to move Windows 10 to SSD along with all the existing settings and personal files.

To achieve this, one common method is to image Windows 10 to SSD, i.e. create a system image of Windows 10 on the old hard drive, and then restore the Windows 10 image to SSD. This process is also known as bare metal restore, which enables you to restore a PC without previously installed software and operating system.

Normally you can image Windows 10 to another hard drive with Windows built-in utilities, but there is a significant probability of failure, either because of a smaller target SSD, different partition style or some other reason.

If a problem does occur, you can use alternative software like AOMEI Backupper to image Windows 10, or directy transfer Windows 10 to even smaller SSD. Keep reading and I’ll introduce both the methods in following sections.

Image Windows 10 Ssd

How to image Windows 10 to SSD with Windows built-in features

It’s possible to image Windows 10 from HDD to SSD with built-in features, but the process is a little bit complicated - you need to create a Windows 10 system image contain all the system files, then create a bootable media to access recovery options and perform System Image Recovery. I’ll divide the tutorial into 3 parts.

Part 1: Create a Windows 10 system image

Windows provides a System Image Backup feature to back up all your system required drives into an image file. You can also add additional drives to finally backup the entire hard drive.

1. Search for “backup settings” on Windows 10 task bar, launch it and click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7), then choose Create a system image on the left side.

Create A System Image

2. Select a destination to store Windows 10 system image. Considering your needs to move it to SSD, it’s better to save it on an external hard drive.

Select Backup Location

3. Select additional drives you want to backup, confirm the information and then Start backup.

Click Start Backup

Part 2: Create a recovery media to boot the SSD

To restore a system image to new SSD, you need to boot from the SSD and access Windows 10 recovery options for System Image Recovery. Therefore, an installation disc or recovery media is necessary. Try following ways to create bootable media on your own:

Create a recovery drive: Connect the USB (with at least 16 GB space) > search for “recovery drive” > follow the wizard.

Create A Recovery Drive

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.

Choose Dvd

*To learn more details and make sure which one to create in your case, please read Windows 10 recovery tools.

Part 3: Restore Windows 10 image to SSD

Shutdown your computer and physically replace the hard drive with SSD, then insert the recovery media and the device which contains the system image.

1. Boot your computer. If it can’t boot from the recovery drive, then press required key to enter BIOS and set it as the first boot option. Thus you shall be able to enter Windows Setup.


2. Choose language, keyboard, etc. and click Next > Repair your computer > Troubleshoot > Advanced options > System Image Recovery.

System Image Recovery

3. When the wizard pops out, your latest system image shall be detected automatically. Make sure it’s the one you want to restore, or Select a system image to specify the right one. Then click Next to continue.

Use The Latest Available System Image

4. Make sure Format and repartition disks option is ticked because you are restoring system image to another SSD, then click Next. Note if it’s not a blank new SSD, make a backup in advance to avoid data loss.

Format Repartition Disks

5. Confirm the operation and hit Finish to start imaging Windows 10 to SSD. Wait patiently till it’s complete.


What if System Image Recovery failed?

As mentioned before, there are chances that you fail restoring Windows 10 to new hard drive, and the reason varies. One possibility is that your target SSD is smaller than your old hard drive (often comes as error 0x80042407), thus it can hardly match the layout of the system image.

And this is not the only possible error. You may also receive “no disk can be used…” (error 0x80042412), “Windows cannot restore a system image to a computer has different firmware”, “Windows Backup is unable to determine the boot volume”, etc. in the recovery process.

Whether you end up solving these problems or not, troubleshooting can take a lot of time and effort. So personally, I would recommend you to use alternative software with simpler operation and less limitations.

Error 0x80042412

How to easily image Windows 10 to even smaller SSD

There is a quicker approach with backup and restore freeware - AOMEI Backupper Standard

◉ It comes with powerful yet easy-to-use system backup and restore features to help you move Windows 10/8/7 to another HDD or SSD.

◉ The default intelligent mode will back up only used sectors of file systems, and therefore enables you to restore Windows 10 image to smaller drive.

◉ You can restore Windows 10 image to a connected SSD directly without installation disc or recovery drive. The operation is much easier than Windows System Image Recovery.

In a word, the whole process of imaging Windows 10 to SSD could be all completed with the single tool. You can download and install it to get started.

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

*In case you have further needs like moving Windows 10 to computer with dissimilar hardware, you can upgrade to Professional edition to use the Universal Restore feature. 

*AOMEI Backupper is also a SSD cloning freeware. It supports you to clone hard drive with Windows installed to SSD, or use the System Clone feature (supported by Pro edition) to transfer only Windows 10 to SSD without restoration.

Method 1. How to image Windows 10 to smaller SSD

This method is carried out by system backup and restore. You can download the completely free Standard edition, then install the SSD alongside the HDD to get started. If your computer has only one slot, please use an USB to SATA adapter to connect it.

☛ Create a Windows 10 system image:

1. Navigate to Backup tab and click System Backup. If you want to image HDD to SSD in Windows 10, then choose Disk Backup to back up the entire hard drive.

System Backup

2. The system partitions will be selected automatically. You just need to specify a destination and Start Backup.

In daily use, you can also click Schedule here to set an automatic backup for continuous system protection.

Start Backup

☛ Image Windows 10 to SSD:

1. To restore Windows 10 image to SSD, switch to Restore tab, choose Select Task or Select Image File to locate the system backup you want to restore.

Select Backup Image

2. Select Restore this system image, tick Restore system to other location and click Next.

Restore System To Other Location

3. Select the target SSD as the destination and click Next to continue.

Select Destination

4. Then confirm the operation and Start Restore.

If you want to restore a system image to different/new computer, please tick Universal Restore (supported by Pro edition) in this step to make sure it can boot properly after restoration. And if the target computer cannot start properly, you can also create a bootable media to boot it into WinPE.

Preview Restore To Other Location

Then you can restart your computer and boot Windows 10 from the SSD. If your computer has only one slot, please replace the hard drive with the SSD. Otherwise you can simply enter BIOS to select the SSD as the first boot option.

Method 2. How to transfer Windows 10 to smaller SSD directly

Besides imaging, you can also use Disk Clone feature of this software to clone hard drive to SSD for free. If the new SSD does not have enough disk space to hold all the data on the original disk, you can upgrade to Pro edition and use System Clone feature to migrate OS to smaller SSD.

Now I’ll introduce how to perform Windows 10 system clone as an example.

☛ Move Windows 10 to smaller SSD directly:

First of all, connect the target SSD to your computer. If there’s more than one drive bay, you can install it alongside the old hard drive directly. Otherwise you may need to connect it using an USB to SATA adapter.

1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Professional and click Clone to choose System Clone.

System Clone

2. Choose the destination SSD and click Next. With the intelligent cloning technology, you can even transfer Windows 10 to smaller SSD.

Choose Destination Partition

3. Tick SSD Alignment to accelerate the reading and writing speed of the cloned SSD, then Start Clone. Optionally, you can click Edit Partitions to adjust partition size and drive letter of the destination disk.

In Professional edition, you can clone all data disks and system disks (MBR or GPT), copy dynamic volumes on dynamic disks, etc.
If your target disk has sufficient space, you can also tick Sector By Sector Clone to make an intact copy, which includes all the sectors even blank or logically bad ones.

System Clone Preview Align Checked

After cloning, you can boot from the cloned SSD. If your computer has more than one slot and you want to keep the old hard drive as a secondary storage, just enter BIOS to set the SSD as the first boot option. If it has only one slot, then you should disassemble the old hard drive and install the SSD properly.

Change Boot Order Bios


To image Windows 10 to SSD with built-in utilities, you need to complete 3 major steps - create system image backup, create recovery media and perform system image recovery. This process could be simplified a lot with the alternative AOMEI Backupper. But it's stll not the best way to move Windows 10 to SSD. 

Instead of imaging Windows 10, you can actually clone the operating system directly to another hard drive. With the powerful features of AOMEI Backupper, you are allowed to clone larger HDD to smaller SSD, or migrate only OS to new hard drive.

Optionally, you can also use AOMEI Image Deploy to deploy system image to multiple computers over network.