30 August 2023  —  Acronis

How To Move OS To Another Drive - Complete Guide & Software

Table of contents
What is an operating system (OS), and what does it do?
What is OS migration?
How to move OS to another drive?
What are the benefits of migrating your OS to an SSD?
What are some common reasons for moving OS to a new drive (SSD)?
Why is it important to back up your data before you clone OS to SSD?
Moving operating system to new SSD - Step-by-Step
How to clone Windows 10 to SSD?
How to boot Windows from a cloned SSD?
Potential challenges of transfering operating system to new drive
Testing and verifying a successful OS migration
Professional disk cloning software
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
formerly Acronis True Image

What is an operating system (OS), and what does it do?

An operating system (OS) is a program that manages all other application programs in a computer. To use an operating system, you need to load it into the computer via a boot program initially.

All applications and programs use the operating system to make requests for services through a defined application program interface (API). Moreover, you can interact directly with the OS via a graphical UI (GUI) or a command-line interface.

Operating systems are a cornerstone of computer software development. Without an OS, every app would need to run its own UI and all required code to handle the low-level functionality of the underlying PC. (network interfaces, disk storage, etc.)

Instead, an OS acts as an intermediary between programs and hardware. It covers many common tasks - displaying text or sending a network packet - to ease application load. System software allows programs to interact with the hardware consistently and repeatably without knowing specific details about the hardware.

The system software can service any amount of applications as long as each accesses the same resources and services in the same way. This significantly reduces the time and coding necessary to develop (and debug) apps. It also ensures you can control, manage, and configure the system hardware via an easy-to-use, simplified interface.

What is OS migration?

OS migration can define two different data management processes - moving a computer system managed by one OS to another or migrating your OS to SSD, a new hard drive, or another media carrier. You can migrate OS contents manually or clone Windows 10 OS to SSD.

OS to OS migration

Users can transfer an IT system managed by a specific OS to another operating system. This is done to upgrade to a newer OS version (e.g., Mac-to-Mac migrations via Disk Mode, Windows 7 PC to Windows 10 or 11) or to transfer data between different operating systems (e.g., from a Windows 10 to Linux)

How to move OS to another drive?

moving an operating system to a new drive is often time-consuming and carries risks like data loss, corruption, app incompatibility, and customization malfunctions. Such type of migration involves several steps:

1. Preparation

Before migration, users must implement comprehensive analysis to detect and identify potential issues with workloads, applications, or configurations and work proactively to remediate the problems.

2. Automation

Automated migration software can reduce risk and help successfully transfer all existing customizations, configurations, and preferences to the new OS.

3. Migration

Users must follow the most efficient process for their environment to clone OS contents correctly.

Moving OS to new SSD

Operating system migration (or just "system migration") can also refer to transferring data and applications from one computer system to another. The process often involves physical migration from an old disk to a new hard drive or SSD.

For example, an old hard drive may not meet your performance expectations, or some components on the HDD can be broken. In such a case, it's best to migrate OS contents to a new hard drive or, preferably, a new SSD to keep performance up and protect your data against hardware corruption.

What are the benefits of migrating your OS to an SSD?

SSD offers many advantages over a hard disk drive:

  • Much faster data access speeds
  • Enhanced reliability (SSDs don't have moving parts like an HDD)
  • Lower power consumption
  • Shock resistance

Migrating your Windows operating system from HDD to SSD will improve your PC's performance and ensure data protection. You can do so in two primary methods:

  • Either clone the OS to SSD via third-party software, or
  • Install a fresh OS via a Windows bootable media.

What are some common reasons for moving OS to a new drive (SSD)?

A solid-state drive (SSD) surpasses even a new hard drive in several components - data reading and writing speed, high performance, and low noise. Moreover, newer systems benefit from an optimized disk storage performance, making SSDs necessary for Windows users.

Below are the most common use cases of an SSD OS migration.

  • Migrate your OS to SSD for faster boot speed.
  • Replace an old hard drive without reinstalling the operating system.
  • Migrate the OS from a smaller SSD to a larger one to resolve issues regarding insufficient space on the source disk.

Why is it important to back up your data before you clone OS to SSD?

Data migration can involve several challenges, such as security, quality, compatibility, and performance. Data backup and recovery are critical for any data migration project. If failures or errors occur during the migration, you can safely  all your data from the backup.

You should perform a full backup of the source disk and all applications or systems that may depend on the OS before the migration. This way, you will have a baseline data snapshot to restore if the migration causes data corruption or inconsistency on the new hard drive (or SSD). You must keep backups in a secure and accessible location - an external hard drive, a USB, or the cloud.

Also, you can clean useless large files from the source disk to optimize the backup process. You can do so via File Explorer or Windows Storage settings.

Moving operating system to new SSD - Step-by-Step

Most Windows versions follow the same method to transfer OS contents to a new hard drive. Primarily, you can follow three approaches:

  • Use a cloning tool to copy the operating system from HDD to SSD
  • Create a system image of the PC and later recover it to an SSD
  • Download an ISO of your Windows operating system and install it fresh on a new SSD

If you want to use native Windows options, the safest approach is to create a system image of the primary drive. Let's explore how to do it below.

1. Prepare the source disk

If the OS-to-SSD migration fails, you may lose important data. Therefore, it's best to back up all critical data before migrating. You can upload the backup to an external drive or the cloud.

You can also use the native Windows feature to keep a backup of your system files.

  • Go to "Windows Settings" -> "Backup" to create a File History backup of all necessary data.

2. Prepare the destination disk

Before you migrate OS contents, you must ensure that the SSD can accommodate your specific Windows data. Firstly, you can connect the SSD to your computer via a USB cable. Once you plug in the cable, you can inspect the connected SSD via its "Properties" tab.

  • Go to the "General" tab -> fire the "Disk Cleanup" feature to free up more space on the SSD; you can also format the SSD.

3. Create a Windows System Image

Now that you've prepared, it's time to migrate OS content to the new disk. (from HDD to SSD)

  • Open the "Control Panel" -> "Backup & Restore" -> select "Create a system image" from the sidebar.
  • Select the destination disk for the system image and follow the on-screen wizard.
  • Select the OS partition (and any other drives you wish to include in the system image).
  • Start the system image process and wait for it to complete. Optimally, it would take up to an hour for Windows 10 to complete the system image.

4. Install the Windows Operating System on the SSD

Once the system image is ready, you must install a fresh Windows copy on the connected SSD. To do this:

  • Launch the "Windows Media Creation" tool on your PC to create installation media on another computer.
  • Select the connected SSD as the target disk to install Windows firmware.
  • When asked what to keep, you can choose to "Keep personal files and apps", "Keep personal files only", or keep "Nothing" if you want to use a fresh Windows copy.

5. Perform System Image Recovery

Now, you can:

  • Remove the hard drive from your computer
  • Install SSD
  • Restart your PC

Upon system boot, press the designated key to access advanced features instead of the standard boot. From the advanced options menu, you can select to boot the system from the connected drive. You will see a Windows setup display on your screen.

  • Configure the operating system to your liking and enter preliminary details to install the firmware. When ready, you will be able to install the OS. Instead, choose the "Repair" option to enter the advanced settings.
  • In the following menu, choose "Troubleshooting" -> "Advanced Options" -> click "System Image Recovery".

This will launch a wizard that will prompt you to select the image file you wish to restore. Locate the image file and wait for the system to recover it. You will be asked to restart the system to boot it in Standard Mode upon completion.

How to clone Windows 10 to SSD?

If you want to clone OS to SSD, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office offers more advanced features than a native solution. Below is a step-by-step guide to streamline the cloning process.

  • Run Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office -> go to "Tools" and select the "Clone disk" mode.
  • Select the "Automatic mode" to resize the partitions on the old hard drive to fit the new drive.

If you've purchased a smaller SSD, the new drive may not be able to store all OS drive data. So, if you wish to create an exact copy of your OS, double-check if the new SSD has enough space.

  • Select the old disk as the source disk and click "Next".
  • Select the new SSD as the destination disk and click "Next".
  • If the destination disk is properly connected and partitioned, click "OK" to allow the software to erase all data from the destination disk (a step required by the cloning process)
  • Review the clone disk configurations in the "Summary" window and select "Proceed" to clone the old drive to the new HDD or SSD.

If you want to clone a hard drive with currently active operations, the agent may require a reboot. If you press "Cancel", the cloning process will be aborted.

  • When cloning the current hard drive completes, you will be prompted to press any key to shut down the PC. After a successful shutdown, remove the old hard disk.

How to boot Windows from a cloned SSD?

Your Windows PC (or laptop) boots up in one of two ways - via BIOS-MBR or UEFI-GPT. Typically, older motherboards use Legacy BIOS and only support MBR disks. Newer motherboards typically support both BIOS-MBR and UEFI-GPT but often have only one enabled by default.

To ensure your desktop PC or laptop can boot from a cloned SSD, you must initialize the SSD first. If your PC relies on Legacy BIOS, initialize the SSD via MBR. If it uses UEFI BIOS mode, initialize the SSD via GPT.

  • Install the SSD in the hard drive slot or connect it to the computer via the USB port.
  • Right-click the "Windows" icon and select "Disk Management".
  • An "Initialize Disk" pop-up window will appear along with the "Disk Management" window. Select the SSD drive and choose the proper partition style - MBR or GPT. Click "OK" and wait for the SSD to be initialized.
  • Right-click on the space behind the SSD and select "New Simple Volume".
  • Follow the on-screen wizard to create a dedicated volume and assign a drive letter to the SSD.

Afterward, clone Windows 10 to the SSD following the steps we discussed in the previous section. Once cloning is complete, it's time for the final step - to boot from the cloned SSD.

  • Start (or restart) your PC and continuously press the BIOS key to enter BIOS settings.
  • Go to the "Boot" order tab. If using a Legacy BIOS motherboard, change the boot order to set the SSD as the first boot device. If the BIOS mode is UEFI, select the SSD as the boot drive.
  • Save the Boot option changes and exit the BIOS screen. Now that you've set the new SSD as your PC's primary boot drive, the old hard drive will become a storage device, and the computer will boot from the SSD.

Potential challenges of transfering operating system to new drive

The disk cloning process in Windows 10 carries some risks for users. Even if you simply want to clone a hard drive to a new SSD, it's important to follow a comprehensive step-by-step guide to transfer OS contents from one disk to another without damaging your PC. It also helps to use dedicated cloning software to streamline disk cloning.

1. Data loss or corruption

If you're attempting to clone a hard drive in Windows 10 for the first time, it's imperative to create a reliable backup copy of your disk data beforehand. Otherwise, if the migration fails to transfer all required data to the new drive, you may irreversibly lose important files and configuration settings.

2. Security breaches

Hard drive cloning can impact security even for home users. Suppose you're using a native Windows 10 antivirus tool. If the OS to SSD migration fails or is corrupted, the new SSD may not carry all necessary system files and settings to safeguard your data post-migration. If you keep personal and financial data or intellectual property on your PC, they will be exposed to cyber threats.

This is why securing all upgraded devices with the latest OS and installed programs packages is crucial before using them.

3. Downtime and operations disruption

When you clone OS data from your hard drive to a newer disk or transfer data between different operating systems, you won't be able to use your PC until the clone-drive process is complete.

If you don't use reliable cloning software, the migration can take longer or fail, hindering day-to-day processes.

Testing and verifying a successful OS migration

When you clone OS contents to another system, the migration can raise network, configurations, interface, and compatibility challenges. To ensure unhindered processes, it's best to evaluate the results of your migration.

  • Check if all data is transferred completely and successfully.
  • Check if the data is accurate and consistent with the target system (or format).
  • Check if the data is integrated and aligned correctly with the migration goals.
  • Check if user experience and performance are enhanced.
  • Check if the functionality and usability of the new system (or format) are satisfactory.

Professional disk cloning software

A dedicated cloning tool is a powerful ally when you want to transfer OS files to a new hard drive or SSD or migrate your entire OS to a new system.

Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office simplifies disk cloning and data migration tasks via user-friendly, quick, secure, and reliable cloning software for IT specialists and home users.

The cloning tool can streamline hard drive upgrades and PC-to-PC migrations or create a replica of your hard drive to keep in secure storage. You can also clone OS contents and store the backup on the Acronis Cloud to have it readily available for recovery.

In addition to transfer-OS operations, you can initiate full system migration with complete data and settings transfer without reinstalling applications, adjusting settings, or battling with unallocated space on the new hard drive or SSD.

About Acronis

A Swiss company founded in Singapore in 2003, Acronis has 15 offices worldwide and employees in 50+ countries. Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud is available in 26 languages in 150 countries and is used by over 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.