Question about adding SSD to an old computer


Hello all,

I am looking to replace an old hard drive with an SSD. However I am not looking forward to it as it seems to be a complicated and time consuming process of moving files/OS from one disk to the newer one. Would it be possible to keep the OS on the old harddrive and move files that require speed (games etc.) to the SSD or is that a useless move. Any other ideas to make this easier?

Comments (9)

9 responses to “Question about adding SSD to an old computer”

  1. evox81

    I wouldn't bother with keeping the spinning disk as your primary boot device. You're on the right track thinking about putting things that need speed on the SSD, but your operating system is the most important piece of that puzzle. Since you're already going through the effort here's what I would do:

    • Disconnect the spinning drive and hook up the SSD.
    • Clean install Windows and your software. (A lot of work but worth it to have your OS on the SSD.)
    • Reconnect the spinning disc (make sure you boot from the SSD when both drives are connected) and transfer your content to the SSD.
    • Once your sure you've copied everything over, format the spinning drive and keep it for backup or data storage purposes.

    A lot of SSD's come with software that makes it relatively easy to do a 1-to-1 transfer of your data to the new drive. This is an acceptable option, but it comes with a lot of caveats as well. This is especially true if your HDD and SSD are different sizes. Plus, if your Windows installation is more than a couple years old, you'd just be transferring over years of junk you don't need.

  2. wunderbar

    you should absolutely move the OS to the SSD. IF you go with a Samsung Evo drive (those are the current best price/performance consumer drive), it actually comes with free software that will completely clone your current windows drive to the SSD. I've used this tool many times at work when we were moving older machines to SSDs, and it's dead simple.

    Re-installing the OS is absolutely *not* necessary.

    • Polycrastinator

      In reply to wunderbar:

      So I agree it's not necessary, but my experience is that the results are usually better doing a clean install. Especially with how simple Windows 10 makes this, you almost might as well, then just copy across the files you need. It's really not the intimidating hassle it used to be.

    • evox81

      Does the software you mention now properly handle drives of differing sizes? Last I tried, (which has admittedly been years) drives larger than the new drives refused to copy (even if there was sufficient free space) or create small partitions on the target drive equal in size to the source drive.

  3. jimchamplin

    I'd like to echo the suggestion to clean install. Especially if you're running 7 or 8, this is a good chance to start fresh with 10. The Anniversary Update ISOs still activate with a 7 or 8 key.

  4. rtodd_us

    I guess I should have been more clear. It is a Windows 10 machine.

  5. rameshthanikodi

    It's going to be painful, but you only have to do this once and you aren't looking back. Windows takes on a completely different life when it's on a SSD becasue of SSD-specific optimizations that really take advantage of the higher disk speeds (e.g. superfetch and disk fragmenting is turned off completely)

    Windows used to have a built-in migration capability called Windows Easy Transfer, but it required specific hardware and was generally found to be slow (USB 2.0 days) and now they removed that feature in Windows 10.

    You could try this guide on how-to geek to clone the drive, but you need a SATA to USB connector. Windows is actually pretty good these days with dealing with hardware swaps, i've seen people swap out processors with no issue.

  6. jwpear

    Most folks make their primary OS disk the SSD and use HDD as secondary storage for things like media and games.  An SSD as the primary disk will be the most beneficial in my opinion.  If you have a lot of RAM (>-= 16 GB), then maybe not so much after the OS gets fully up.  But I've never tested that.

    Are you just looking at cloning the disk or are you also hoping to expand storage?   What size is your current HDD and what size SSD do you have in mind? 

    Usually HDDs are much larger than SSDs, but it depends on the age of the HDD.  It is more difficult to clone a large HDD and move to a smaller SSD.  It takes some work to shrink your primary partition down to fit.  And if there are hidden partitions beyond it, those have to be addressed.

    If you are going from equal size, or up to larger, that's trivial and there are a number of tools available to help with that.  And as somone else said, these are often included with SSD's for free.  Crucial used to provide a copy of Acronis True Image.  Macrium Reflect is free for home use.  I've used both and they work pretty well.  I hate that they actually install on the working OS rather working truly independently of what's on the disk.

    If you are moving to a larger disk and your current drive has a lot of hidden partitions for things like Intel RapidStart and an OEM recovery image that is beyond your current primary partition, it can be tricky to expand your storage space.  I usually just blow those away and recreate as necessary if I really want/need a larger partition.  The other option is to just mount the free space as a separate drive.  I don't feel that's very clean.  It's not my preference.

    A clean install is a great option if you can do that.  You will have to reinstall everything.  It is not a requirement by any means.  I personally believe it will only help if your current install is very old and your registry and disk have a lot of residual app/OS update crud that is slowing down the machine.  Do you feel like the machine is running roughly at the same speed as it was when new?  If so, a fresh install may not be all that helpful.  If it is substantially different, then a fresh install may be a good idea.  Regardless of what you choose, you will notice a huge difference going from a HDD to a SSD, even with the Crucial, which is slower than the Samsung drives.