(Pocket-lint) - If you're thinking of upgrading your Windows hard drive and moving to a faster SSD or NVMe SSD then you might dread the idea of installing Windows on the new drive and having the hassle of having to start from scratch again.
The process of upgrading can be frustrating if you already have everything the way you like it including settings, software and shortcuts.
A fresh copy of Windows is great for speed, it's not so great for productivity when you have to spend yonks getting everything in order again.
Fret not though, as there is a solution. Cloning. That's right, with the right software you can clone (i.e. copy) the entirety of your current hard drive onto another drive. This is great if you're running an old platter hard drive and want to move to a super-fast NVME drive. It's also really simple to do, so stick with us as we explain how.
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Purchase and install a new drive
For the purpose of this guide, we're assuming you have a current hard drive you're using. Perhaps it's the only drive in your gaming machine or workstation and you want to add something faster, upgrade and remove the old drive or simply move everything to something larger.
If you already have Windows installed on a hard drive, you can still add another drive then use this process to clone everything from the old hard drive to the new one. You can then format the old drive to use it for something else (files, games, whatever you like) and it'll be just like nothing changed.
The first step is to find a new drive. We have a guide to the best NVMe drives you can buy, but you could also use something affordable and nifty like this RGB-tastic drive from ADATA (the XPG Spectrix S20G).
You don't need an NVMe SSD for this process, it's just a sensible upgrade.
Once you've got the new drive, install it in an available slot and prepare for the next step.
Download cloning software (Macrium Reflect)
There are various bits of software available to clone your drive. Some are free, some are paid.
We like Macrium Reflect for this process as it's easy to use and you can even do this process with the free version. The paid options also allow you to easily back up your machine regularly if you should need to.
So the next step is to download Macrium Reflect and install it on your Windows machine. Once that's done open the software and make sure you're in the backup tab, then find the drive you have Windows on and want to clone.
You should see a small button underneath it that says "clone this drive" click that and follow the onscreen prompts.
You'll see when you've done that you have an option to select the drive you want to clone to, so select that and start the cloning process. This will then clone everything from your current drive to the new one.
The great thing about this is it'll copy across all your software, settings and everything else too. Software licences are copied across too, so you won't have to dig out your Windows key or worry about other licences. As long as you're using the new drive on the same computer with no other significant hardware changes then everything should work smoothly.
Once the cloning process is complete, you then have two copies of Windows on two different drives. You'll need to make some final tweaks to your BIOS in order to ensure your machine starts up using the right drive in future. So restart your PC and mash the delete key on your keyboard until it opens the BIOS (before Windows has a chance to load).
Changing boot options in the BIOS
Once in the BIOS, you'll see there's an option under settings that allows you to set the boot order of your drives. Essentially this tells your computer which drive you want to use to load Windows or at least which one it should attempt to load Windows from first.
This option is usually located under advanced options > settings > boot. There you'll likely find two settings. Hard disk drive boot priority and fixed boot order priority.
With two identical copies of Windows on different drives you'll probably find both drives are in the list. What you want to do now is to set the first boot option (boot option #1) to the new drive and ensure it's set as the first drive to boot from.
We'd also recommend removing the other drive from the list and disabling it from being another drive option.
Once that's done, click save changes and exit. This will then restart your PC and attempt to load Windows.
Congratulations, you now have a shiny new drive with your usual Windows installation on it.
You're now free to either format the old drive and use it for other things or remove it entirely from your system.
It's worth noting that cloning your drive will not save you from problems. If you have a virus on your machine, for example, cloning the drive will just copy the virus across to the new drive.
Also, a fresh install of Windows is a good way to remove junk, old files and more from your machine drive and it can be worth doing if your PC is running really slowly.