How best can I install an SSD solid state drive and transfer an existing installation of Windows 7/8.1/10 to it to boost boot times and performance?

PROBLEM: I want to install an SSD drive in my desktop PC to improve boot times and performance by transferring Windows 7 from my PC’s existing hard disk drive to it. Can you tell me the best way to do that and are there any serious pitfalls?

ANSWER: The best way to do that would be to make a backup of your system (not create a system image, which can only be restored in its entirety) so that you can restore folders and individual files from it. You would then open the PC’s case, disconnect the hard disk drive from the motherboard and install the SSD drive. Note that you have to have a 2.5-inch SSD drive installed in a caddy so that it can be installed in a 3.5-inch drive bay. Most SSD drives come with the required caddy. All drives must be connected to the power supply and to the motherboard. (Visit the Build Your Own PC section of this website for information on installing drives and other PC components. SSD drives use the SATA connection interface. The motherboard must have an SATA (not an older IDE) connection point on the motherboard for the SATA data cable and the power supply must have an SATA power cable. A standard Molex power connector provided by an old power supply can be converted into an SATA power connector by using a cheap adapter cable. (Web-search query: Molex to SATA power or data adapter cable.) Molex-to-SATA data cables that connect a SSD to the motherboard are also available.

With the SATA drive installed, you would then boot the system, enter the BIOS or the new UEFI BIOS and set the boot order of devices to boot first from the CD/DVD drive, place the Windows 7 (or 8.1 or 10) installation disc in the optical drive and reboot. The Windows setup will run and you will then be able to clean-install Windows 7/8.1/10. Note that if Windows 8.0/8.1/10 was a download, its installation DVD disc has to be created. You can also create a Win8.1 boot USB flash drive. The following two articles provide the instructions. For instructions to create either of those boot media with a Windows 10, download use a search query such as: create a windows 10 boot disc.

Download a bootable Windows 8(.1) Disc –…

How To Create a Bootable USB Disk For Windows 8.1-…

The boot order of devices in the BIOS/UEFI can be set as 1. CD/DVD drive 2. SSD drive 3. hard disk drive or SSD drive, hard disk drive, CD/DVD drive. The hard drive must be lower in the boot order than the SSD drive. If there is no CD/DVD disc in the optical drive and it is set as the first boot device, Windows will boot from the next device in the boot order of devices. If you only have the recovery disc provided by the PC’s manufacturer, ask it for advice. A recovery disc installs the PC to its factory state. Using a recovery disc is unlikely to make Windows optimise itself to use an SSD drive. You can then reconnect the hard disk drive and should be able to access its files. You will have to reinstall all of your programs to register them in the fresh Windows registry of a clean installation, but you can transfer data files from the hard drive to the SSD drive. You could also format the hard drive and install your programs on it and transfer the data files back to it. If you have an SSD drive with 100GB+ of drive space, installing everything on it except your data files would provide the best performance, because an SSD drive works much faster than a hard drive, so booting and loading programs are much quicker than if those actions are performed from a slower hard drive. Installing a fresh copy of Windows to an SSD drive makes Windows optimise itself for use on such a drive, which is why a clean installation is the best method.

Another way of doing the installation would be to create a system image using an imaging program that can implement the specific partitioning requirements of an SSD drive, such as Acronis TrueImage Home, creating it on an external hard drive, then restore the image to the SSD drive when it is installed as the boot drive.If you want to use an excellent free imaging tool, the free version of Macrium Reflect is recommended.

In theory, Windows should boot from the SSD drive without the user having to do anything else. Unfortunately, using this method is not desirable because when the image is restored to the SSD drive, Windows might not configure itself to optimise its use on an SSD drive, which would lead to reduced performance and greater wear of the most well used parts of the drive’s flash memory (similar memory to that used by a flash drive), thereby reducing the drive’s life span. The flash memory used by an SSD drive only has a finite number of writes before it cannot be used any more and if Windows doesn’t spread the use evenly over the whole drive, the most well used parts will wear out and render it unusable.