Add SSD for OS, keep hard drive for data, plus move Dropbox

I have a 1TB hard drive that is getting full. I am thinking about reconfiguring to add an SSD that would have the OS and applications, and another (or the existing) hard drive that would have data.

First, I am not sure what folders and files I would have to move to the SSD to make it the boot drive and have Windows plus applications. On my current hard drive there is the main partition (931GB) plus another labeled System Reserve (100MB) and another with no name (449MB). The SSD would be smaller than the current drive (I am thinking 500GB) so I can’t just clone it and then move things around afterwards.

Is there a clear definition of what I would have to do to create a bootable SSD and copy Windows plus applications? Will that just work, or will this be incompatible with current Registry entries?

My other thought is to use another drive to offload the data until the used space is small enough to fit on the SSD, then clone the drive to the SSD, then move things back to where I want them.

To complicate matters this would also include moving my Dropbox folder, which I have never done. Dropbox doesn’t recommend moving it out of the main drive but it seems like it would work if it moves to another internal drive. Moving it to an external drive can be a problem on boot if the Dropbox app starts before the disk is mounted.

I don’t use Dropbox, but I do run Windows and apps (except games) off of an SSD. What I did was install windows clean on the SSD, then use the “Libraries” feature to aggregate appropriate folders on the 3 TB hard drive into the usual locations.

games are enormous, so I configured Steam to install games into a folder on the hard drive.

What definitely will work is if you can reduce the files and folders on your current drive to below 500 gigs. You most likely have massive data files like movies or documents eating up space. Then you can just clone the drive over using numerous tools, Acronis is a popular one.

Once you clone the drive it will be bit for bit the same as the original and you won’t have to mess with anything. Just yank out the old drive, maybe format it and put it back in as data storage.

Just a comment, but 1 Tb SSDs from Samsung were on sale today for $230. That’s what I’d do, unless the price difference (the 500 gig ones are $130) was significant to me.

I do not know about other SSD manufacturers but the Samsung 850 Pro and 850 Evo can use Samsung’s Magician software. Just install the SSD, run Magician and it will seamlessly copy your whole old drive to the new drive…bootable and everything. Reboot, tell your BIOS/UEFI that the SSD is the primary drive and you are good to go. I’ve done it several times. Easy peasy.

Then erase your old hard drive and move the data you want to move off the SSD to the old drive.

Otherwise I would unplug the old drive, install the SSD and do a clean install of Windows. Once that is up and running re-install whatever programs you want (Ninite is a real help for some things) and then plug in the old drive and copy whatever data you want off that to the SSD. Re-format the old drive (which erases it completely and makes it not bootable) then copy the data from the SSD to the old drive.

I am not familiar with the Libraries feature, but I would prefer to avoid a clean install so I don’t have to reinstall all my apps, reset all my configurations, etc., etc.

That is my current thinking, although it still leaves open the Dropbox question.

I considered that too. It’s not whether I have $230 to spend but more about whether that gives me $230 worth of value for my situation. Thanks for the ideas.

This is what I did on my laptop when I swapped in an SSD for a possibly failing hard disk, although the SSD was a different brand and I used EaseUS Todo Back to clone the drive to the SSD.

Here’s what I would do.

  1. Copy a bunch of the data to the new SSD.

  2. Using Acronis or similar software, shrink the main partition on the HD to well below the size of the SSD. (You need room for the other two system restore/UEFI partitions.)

  3. Make a new partition on the HD for your data. Copy your data from the SSD to the new partition.

  4. Clone the main partition and its friends onto the SSD.

  5. Boot, test, etc. from the SSD. Make sure it’s okay. Double check that it’s okay. Triple check to make sure.

  6. Clear out the no longer needed partitions on the HD and expand the data partition.

(This should work a lot faster than going thru a series of shrinking the main partition on the HD, expand the new data partition, copying data to the data partition, repeat.)

Libraries first became available in Windows Vista; essentially they let you include multiple folders in the library so when you open it, the contents of all included folders are visible in one place. e.g. you have your docs and stuff in your “My Documents” folder, and on another drive you have “work documents” and “tax documents” (just for example.) you’d open a File Explorer window, find the Documents library icon, right click on it and set it to include the folders “C:\Users*(you)*\My Documents,” “E:\Work Documents,” and “E:\Tax Documents” (again, just as an example.) Then, any time you double click on the Documents library icon, you see the contents of all three included folders as though they were in one single place. It took a bit of getting used to, but ever since Vista I’ve used the libraries as the way to muck around with my personal data. since I have a smaller SSD I have all of my docs, music, etc. in folders on a second hard drive, and include just those folders in their respective libraries. so any time I save e.g. a Word document, I save it to the Documents library which automatically puts it into my “E:\Documents” folder instead of the “My Documents” folder on the boot SSD.

valid point.

it’s fairly easy to “clone” your windows installation over to a new drive, ftg and Whack-a-mole mentioned a couple of options. Some SSDs even come bundled with a utility (or a free download) to do that.
unfortunately since your drive is already getting pretty full, you’ll either need to buy an SSD with as much or more capacity than your current drive, or move your personal data/documents onto an external drive in order to clone your Windows installation to a smaller SSD.

Well, there is another option, but it’s a pain in the ass. You shrink your current partition as much as possible, then create another partition in the blank space, and start copying things over. Then rinse and repeat until the system partition is small enough to fit on your SSD, and then you can clone it.

That said, it’s always a good idea to back up your data before changing partition sizes, and, if you’re going to do that, you might as well just copy all the data off at once, and shrink the main partition once before cloning it.

Be sure to use something that is aware of how to clone a system partition, though. Because you will also need a separate boot partition.

Personally, I just found it easier to do a full reinstall. But I also don’t have that many programs I need at all times: Other than a few essentials, I just plan to reinstall as I need the programs. That’s always how I’ve handled changing computers.

Plus it’s just nice to start with a fresh Windows without all the unneeded junk from the past.

Half the fun is relocating some specific data.

For example, iTunes likes to tell you where it will put its music (etc.). You move the file collection to a new drive, it’s supposedly simple to tell iTunes “your data has moved”.
Also, “My Document” / “Documents” (and (My) Pictures, Videos, etc.) likes to be on the boot drive (C:\Users<username>). If you have thousands of stupid files that have accumulated over the years - you don’t need those on c:
However, it is a good idea to keep your profile - NTUSER.DAT - and assorted other crap like email files.
Multiply this by a dozen or more other fussy applications.
Cut down drastically on the amount of “Temporary Internet Files” space (Tools - Internet Options in IE); before doing a copy, delete files (but not cookies etc. unless you want to lose shortcuts, passwords…)
Empty recycle bin before copying system disk.
Simplest thing - copy to a backup drive anything that’s obviously not critical, like your documents and pictures and music. Delete them off the system drive. Don’t mess with Windows system stuff. I recommend WINDIRSTAT, a free download, as a good way to see where all your disk space is being used.
The smaller the amount you have to copy, the smaller the system drive SSD you can use. You don’t need SSD speed for music, Word, or even video.

Another potential approach, if you can borrow a 1 TB portable drive temporarily (or somewhat smaller could work):

  1. Copy everything that “belongs to” you (i.e. doesn’t “belong to” Windows - your data, not the programs) onto the borrowed drive

  2. Fresh install of Windows on the new SSD

  3. Erase your original drive

  4. Copy back from the borrowed drive onto the original one

Where are you seeing this?

I checked MicroCenter and the cheapest Samsung 1TB is $330. They have an mSATA for $275 but I need one for a desktop.

Side note, the price range for these is huge. Samsung has another model that is on sale for $480. The performance specs all seem pretty close.

pricing largely depends on whether they’re using MLC or TLC flash chips. TLC packs more bits into a single flash chip, and lowers the cost per GB. Downside is that TLC flash has a shorter overall lifespan, but for normal use cases they’ll last a long time. The Tech Report did a “torture test” of different types of SSDs, and the TLC Samsung drive still required nearly a petabyte of data being constantly written and erased before it gave up the ghost. and keep in mind that this was after constantly filling up the drive to its stated capacity, erasing it, and filling it up again over and over.

What is your total storage system? Is it currently just the 1TB drive and Dropbox? Or are you also backing stuff up on an external drive? Is everything you have backed up on Dropbox or just the important stuff? How many GB there?

There is Dropbox forum where you can ask questions; see for example:

So I bought a 1TB SSD, cloned my hard drive, then disconnected it, and after a reboot the machine came up with no other changes whatsoever. The SSD was automatically assigned as the C drive so everything “just worked.” Because I went with an SSD that could hold all the contents of the hard drive, Dropbox and partition-size problems were a non-issue.

I still want to keep the hard drive and not sure what will happen when I reconnect it. I have to make sure the machine continues to boot from the SSD, but I imagine a little BIOS configuration will take care of that.

Thanks to all for your advice.

The only problem I know of that could happen (assuming you set up your BIOS to boot the SSD) is that it still assigns the C: drive to the old drive. But since it’s already assigned the C: drive to the SSD, I don’t think that will be a problem, as that would suggest the entry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices has been changed properly.

I presume your plans are to go through and delete a bunch of content off the SSD and only leave it on the HDD, since you don’t want it to be as full as your old drive was. That’s fine. But I would suggest holding off on deleting anything off the old drive for a while. Wait a month or two to make sure the SSD isn’t going to fail. Sure, it will be under warranty, but you’ll have to clone the drive again on the replacement.