Installing an SSD: Reformatting vs. Imaging, Windows Key Questions

Okay, so I finally (welcome to 2011, I know) went ahead and ordered an internal SSD for my desktop.

It comes with a product key for something called Acronis True Image HD, which appears to be imaging software.

Does anybody have any recent experience with installing an SSD? When I upgraded to Windows 10, it didn’t accept my product key and I had to spend over an hour on the phone with tech support while they did everything manually, which was an enormous pain in the ass.

Also, am I better off just straight-up doing a clean install?

Any tips, caveats, or experience with migrating Windows to the new drive would be appreciated.

The spinning disk HD in my Lenovo Ideapad ate it over Christmas. I bought an SSD, pulled out the dead drive, stuck the new drive in, booted up the laptop and it did everything automagically including installing to the SSD and upgrading back to Windows 10.

And I learned a valuable lesson to include C:/Program Files in my backups.

Booted up the laptop from what? A recovery flash drive that you’d previously made?

Regardless of anything else, I do want to keep the original drive in my machine and use the SSD for the OS and certain games.

I did have a recovery drive that I’d made previously but I don’t think I used it.

Bottom line, you can pretty much install the SSD and have the same software issues you have in installing an HD wrt things like the system drive, drive letters, partititioning, etc.

In Win 7, you want to make sure that it is recognized as an SSD. A good quick check is to see that Windows does not want to schedule defragmentation on it (defragmenting a SSD is useless, and shortens the SSD life by wasting writes swapping sectors around). Bring up Disk Defragmenter, choose “Configure Schedule” -> “Select Disks”, and verify that your SSD is NOT listed. You also want to make sure “trim” is running.

I have not personally moved to Win 10, but it seems that they have streamlined things a bit:

So how do you boot up the laptop with the old drive removed and a new (presumably blank) SSD installed?

Acronis is good software and its pretty straightforward. In pretty much all respects, windows sees it like any other hard drive (just an unholy fast one).

If you are not having any specific problems just clone it, it gives you the minimum annoyance process. Trying to rebuild a long serving machine from scratch is always a challenge and you invariably end up with half a dozen “shit I dont know where I got that useful little app from that I used to have” moments.

I’m sure there are a few missing pieces to the story, as a PC tech I agree, an O/S does not appear from thin air.

I am told a Windows 8 installer usb drive was used.

I replaced the HDD in my wife’s laptop with an SSD a few months ago, and used Acronis True Image to clone the drive. It appeared to transfer properly, but soon afterward the laptop started freezing up randomly. I started over with a clean install of Windows 7 and it’s been fine since. Just FWIW.

The problem is, when you buy a new PC now, it doesn’t come with an OS install disk. There is a recovery partition on the hard drive, but that doesn’t help you when you want to replace the drive. Some come with software to create recovery disks or flash drives, but last time I tried it on a Windows-8 system, I could not get it to work (it seemed to create a “rescue” disk of some kind, but not with the ability to install the OS onto a fresh new drive.) I share the OP’s frustration on the lack of clarity on this matter.

Yeah, for me that ended up being the main benefit of using Acronis to image the disk: it copied the recovery partition to the new SSD.

I recently added SSD to an old system running Win 7. I did a clean installation with the old drive removed (so that I wouldn’t format it by accident). No problems encountered, and I kept the old Windows around for a week until I got everything working smoothly.

If you have already activated Win 10 on your PC, just download Win 10 installation disk from Microsoft and do a clean install. The activation should now happen automatically in the background.

Also, am I better off just straight-up doing a clean install?

Maybe… the biggest problem with a clean install is that you will have to re-install all your applications currently residing on your C drive. But when you’re moving to an SSD that’s not necessarily a bad thing because you will probably want to keep what is stored on the SSD to a minimum.

What I did was take out the old hard drive, did a fresh install of the new SSD as my C drive and once that was up and stable, I put the old drive back in the case as an auxiliary drive (G), and then re-installed my programs… but when the installers prompt me to let them install on C, I change the installation to a folder on the auxiliary drive, keeping C as free as possible. They still register and all that, but they don’t hog space on the C drive. Basically you want to keep C for Windows and that’s it.

One of the benefits of Windows 10 is that whatever computer you activated it on will automatically activate, even if you start over from scratch. So that shouldn’t be a problem.

Imaging is only an option if your new drive has enough free space to take the entire drive of the old one, or you don’t mind uninstalling or removing enough stuff to make it fit. And, evne then, it sounds like you plan on removing a lot of stuff from the SSD.

So, at least in your case, I think you’d probably be better served doing a clean install on the SSD. It’s a lot less hassle.

Ever since Windows activation first started (with WIn XP) they have always given users a little of ‘wiggle’ room to make hardware changes and still activate, the hard drive always being one of them. I’ve replaced entire motherboards and still had it re-activate ok.

And I would disagree that it would be easier to do a clean install instead of imaging. I bought an SSD soon after buying a new desktop and the Intel imaging software the SSD came with worked perfectly transferring everything from the old drive to the new one. You just boot from its CD with both drives connected, do the transfer, tell it you want the new SSD drive to be bootable, shut down and disconnect the old drive, boot up with the new one and you’re done.

When I did my switch, I went from a nearly full 2TB hard drive to a 120GB SSD. Imaging wasn’t an option.

Thanks for all the advice.

I ended up opting to do a clean install. After connecting the SSD and backing up my personal files, I created an installation USB, disconnected the original hard drive, and just rebooted the computer. Everything worked like a charm and I’m up and running with no problem. Tomorrow I’ll plug the old hard drive in, reformat it, and use it as my secondary drive.

It always surprises me when anything computer-related works the first time.

I bought a clever switch that cost $20, that lets you plug in up to 4 drives. It mounts in an empty card slot in back. You can choose any combination of drives you want to boot to, just by on/off push switches at the back. I have a reserve (reinstall drive i use for a clone of a fresh windows install) drive that gets used when i want to reload windows and all my frequent programs. My main drive (hybrid) and one with windows 10 on it already.