One of the quickest and easiest methods for gaining additional performance from a PC is to switch from an older mechanical hard drive to a newer and much faster SSD Drive!
In fact, even if you are already using a solid state drive (SSD) in your device, there might still be various reasons to switch a newer SSD, one providing more storage space and making use of the latest technologies including 3D NAND memory and the NVMe interface which will help to enhance your PC or Macs performance even further!
Despite bringing with it many performance enhancing benefits, even to a relatively modern PC, upgrading to a newer and faster SSD drive will always bring with it the issue of migrating the existing system, as is, over to the new disk without the need to re-install the operating system, re-install applications and re-instate any users’ settings and data. In this guide I will be looking at some of the specialist disk cloning software which is available and will help in making this migration process quick, simple and help mitigate the need for moving files manually or having to re-install Windows, a task which might otherwise be the only way to make use of a newer and faster SSD!
Finally, at the end of this guide, you will find some of my favourite choices for SSD migration software as are tested and reviewed right here on BestBackupReviews.com, Let’s go!
What is SSD Migration Software?
SSD migration software is in many ways the same as regular disk cloning software, albeit with special provisions included for cloning from regular (mechanical) hard disks to the newer generation of super-fast solid state hard disks (SSDs).
Disk cloning software in itself will allow one hard disk to be copied exactly (1:1) to a secondary hard disk, this includes not only the user’s data stored upon the disk but also the operating system and settings alongside any applications which might have been installed as well. Once the process of cloning to a new disk has been completed, the newly cloned disk will be an exact replica of the original disk and can then be used to replace this same older disk in the PC (and said PC will then immediately be ready to use with the original Operating system, applications and any user data available on the new disk just like it was on the old).
NB – Whilst cloning software will replicate the data exactly on the new disk, it can also be configured to make use of and integrate any additional space on the newer disk if this is available.
When cloning from existing mechanical hard disks across to SSD drives, Specialist disk cloning software is needed due to the way that SSD drives operate and store data (more on this issue later on). With all of this in mind, when wanting to migrate away form an older style mechanical drive (or even an older SSD) to a new SSD drive you will need such specialist cloning software with SSD support to make this task safe and reliable.
What is the Alternative to SSD Migration Software?
Without special SSD migration software available, the only ways to migrate your system across to a newer SSD drive would be to re-install the operating system (from scratch) using the newly installed SSD drive or, alternatively, make use of a disk image backup using software which supports recovering to dissimilar hardware.
NB – In this particular guide I will be focusing on direct disk to disk cloning to SSD drives! For more information on making use of disk image backup software and the dissimilar hardware recovery process (an alternative method for migrating to an SSD drive) then be sure to read my guide to The Best Backup Software for Recovering to Dissimilar Hardware!
When considering the re-installation of an operating system (e.g., Windows 10), such a measure would also involve re-installing all applications, moving over any user data and settings across from the old disk to the new disk and then configuring the system as it was beforehand manually. This is, of course, a very time-consuming process and runs the risk that you might never get the system exactly how it was before due to software installers or licence keys going missing or becoming deactivated in the process (some software is licenced to a specific PC only once).
If you make use of system image backups then these could also form an alternative approach to the use of disk cloning software, an alternative which could possibly involve booting your PC via some recovery media and then restoring form the latest available image backup set to the new SSD disk which will now be installed into the machine. Whilst this recovery method is a possibility, it should be noted that a lot of backup software which supports system image backups will also feature specialist disk cloning modules as well. With this in mind, this recovery method probably shouldn’t be used whenever a direct disk-to-disk cloning alternative is available.
Look out for Free SSD Migration Software
Whenever you purchase a new SSD drive, it is important to note that you might also be eligible for some free SSD drive migration software which is provided directly by the SSD disk manufacturer themselves (usually this is available on a disc which comes packaged with the SSD drive or as a download form said manufacturers support website). Such migration software, when available, is usually a great way to get your entire system migrated over to your new SSD drive in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible!
Although such software is free to use, there are still some important things to be aware of when using this free approach! For example, such software is usually locked in such a way that it will only support migrating to said manufacturers SSD hardware and will usually be set-up in such a way that it can’t be used for anything else except the migration process itself (meaning it isn’t ideal for larger projects involving disk image backups, file archiving etc.).
As such, if you simply want to migrate your existing disk over to a new SSD drive and nothing else, then this included SSD migration software could be a good option. If, however, your SSD manufacturer doesn’t provide such free migration software or you want software with more features included (such as the ability to store a disk image file of the old disk as a backup), then you will need to look at some more professional SSD cloning software as a result.
What Happens after SSD Migration Finishes?
When you have finished migrating from your old hard drive to your newer SSD drive there is, unfortunately, still some work to do before your migration is finalised!
Firstly, after the cloning process has completed, you will need to ensure that your system is now set to boot from the newly cloned SSD drive as opposed to the older mechanical drive from which the data has been copied from. The easiest way to do this is by simply opening up your PC case (after switching it off and disconnecting the power) and then physically removing the old disk drive from the PC entirely, this way you can be assured it is only the new disk which is being used at this point going forwards (and the data on the existing disk will remain safe for the time being)!
The main problem with removing the old disk is that it is (of course) no longer usable by the PC anymore! Many older disks which are replaced are still perfectly usable and often make for useful secondary disks for storing large files such as photos and videos on which would otherwise take up valuable space on a new SSD disk. If you do want to keep your old drive installed and make use of it as a secondary drive then you must tell your PC to boot into the new SSD drive and (preferably) then re-format the old drive to regain the full allocation of storage space and make it usable again.
This process begins in your PCs BIOS (or UEFI) system, from here you can set the boot order for any installed disk devices, a process which tells you system which disk drive to boot from first, second and so on until a working operating system is found. It is also here that we would tell the PC to boot form the newly migrated SSD drive as well (although many PC manufacturers will have their own BIOS / UEFI systems in place, so you will need to look up the specific instructions for doing this for your own make and model of PC or motherboard).
After updating the PC to boot from the newly available SSD disk drive, the next step would be to reclaim any disk space form the old disk by deleting any old operating system partitions and then fully re-formatting the disk. The Windows Disk Management tool will allow all of this to be done up to and including re-assigning the newly formatted drive with a new drive letter so as it can easily be used as a secondary drive within Windows.
Once formatting has completed and the drive letter has been set, this old disk drive will be usable within Windows just like any other additional disk drive might be (e.g., available in the same way as an external hard drive might be).
NB – Before deleting and re-formatting any old drives, be sure that all data has copied across successfully and that all important information is accessible from the new SSD drive. In many cases, if possible, I would advise making use of the new disk for several weeks (or longer) to ensure everything works as intended before deleting data and re-provisioning an existing disk into a storage disk!
Does Cloning to an SSD Drive Affect Performance?
One big concern which many PC users might have when migrating from an older style mechanical hard disk to a newer style SSD drive are performance issues with new drive once the migration process has completed. This is, indeed, a valid area of concern given that issues relating to differences in physical sector sizes between mechanical disks and their alignment on newer SSD disks with larger sector sizes (typically 4K) can occur (and will, in-turn, mean the newer disk performs much slower than it would otherwise should do).
NB – All of the SSD migration software listed further down on this page have special provisions for safely handling and optimising the migration of an operating system to an SSD disk drive. This means any of the choices listed below will make a suitable choice for cloning a disk across to an SSD drive!
When installing an operating system such as Windows onto an SSD drive from scratch, the process of initially formatting the drive will ensure that all partitions on the drive are aligned correctly and performance will be optimised from the start. When cloning an existing system across form an older mechanical drive, this is not automatically the case due to the way mechanical drives handle free sectors found before the partition starts storing data being different to the way SSD drives handle them (in-turn, causing these 4K misalignment issues).
Whilst this is too deep a topic to go into in this particular guide, it is important to know that this issue does exist and that disk cloning software specifically supporting SSD 4K alignment (such as all of my top choices below) is the quickest and easiest way of countering this particular problem!
SSD Migration FAQs
Most SSD drives will come with free access to specialist SSD cloning software directly from the disk manufacturer themselves (this will usually be included on a disk which comes packaged with the SSD drive itself or downloadable from the manufacturers website). Not all SSD drive manufacturers do provide such software so the need to find 3rd party SSD cloning software does still exist!
No, specialist disk cloning software (with support for SSD drives) will copy all data to the new drive, this process will automatically include taking care of any formatting issues with the SSD drive, even if it is a larger size than the original disk and the additional disk space is to be made use of!
Assuming that specialist disk cloning software supporting SSD dives is used, there should be no negative effects resulting from the cloning of an existing drive (mechanical or SSD) across to a newer SSD drive. One of the biggest performance related issues relating to cloned SSD drive involves 4K sector alignment, an issue which will automatically be negated when using SSD supporting disk cloning software!
Yes, it is possible to clone an existing hard drive to a smaller SSD drive! This operation is possible providing that the total size of the used part of the source disk (i.e., the data which is been copied across) is smaller than the total size of the smaller SSD target drive.
My Favourite SSD Migration Software
In this final section are listed some of my favourite SSD Migration software titles as per the testing and reviews made right here at BestBackupReviews.com!
As was mentioned a little earlier on, if all you require is basic SSD migration software then you might want to check your SSD manufacturers website first and check if they have any free offerings available for this task. If you want something much more than just basic SSD migration software, such as software capable of also making full system image backups, partition management, advanced encryption and compression settings plus the ability to save a cloned drive as an image file, then some of these professional software tools listed below could be much better suited.
Remember, any ratings given below reflect my own opinions and are intended only for use as a guide! Always be sure to check the details for any potential SSD cloning solutions before making a purchase and, if possible, always try and make full use of any free trials before making a decision!
1) EaseUS Disk Copy
EaseUS Disk Copy is a highly focused disk cloning tool providing all of the necessary tools and features necessary to complete virtually any disk cloning operation!
One of the key features of Disk Copy pertaining to this particular guide is its comprehensive support for working with and cloning to SSD drives. This includes the ability to copy a working Windows system directly across from mechanical drives to SSD drives as well as full support for migrating from older style SATA SSD drives to newer and faster drives using M.2 NVMe technologies.
Other disk cloning features found within the Disk Copy software include one-click OS migration technology for easily transferring working systems to a new disk, full support for MBR and GPT disks, sector-by-sector cloning, automatic re-sizing of partitions when transferring to larger disks plus a powerful yet easy to use WinPE based recovery system.
EaseUS Disk Copy is priced from just $29.90 / year or form a one-off cost of just $59.90 on a lifetime licence with any future upgrades included for free! More details on the Disk Copy software including the 30-day money back guarantee can be found via the official EaseUS website.
2) Acronis Disk Director 12
Acronis Disk Director is the fully featured disk management solution form software experts, Acronis. In addition to providing a whole host of disk and partition management tools and features, Disk Director 12 also features a comprehensive disk cloning module with full support for migrating active Windows systems across to modern SSD hardware!
Acronis has for a long time been known for providing very safe and stable disk imaging solutions, both in the form of direct disk-to-disk cloning (as is the case here with Disk Director) as well as via their comprehensive disk image-based backup software, currently in the form of Cyber Protect Home Office.
NB – The core disk cloning module found within Acronis Disk Director is also available within the Cyber Protect Home Office backup software also from Acronis (albeit missing some of the additional disk management features of Disk Director such as MBR / GPT conversion and the ability to recovery lost partitions amongst other features).
In addition to top-rated support for virtually any type of disk cloning functionality which might be required (including full support for SSD drives amongst this), Disk Director also includes additional functionality for converting, re-sizing and recovering partitions, the ability to split and span disk partitions, tools for detailing advanced disk drive information and the provision of specialist Acronis recovery media for working with un-bootable or new systems.
Acronis Disk Director 12 is priced at a one-off cost of just $49.99 per PC with a 3x PC licence also available for a one-time purchase cost of just $79.99! More information on both Disk Director 12 and Cyber Protect Home Office can be found via the official Acronis website!
3) AOMEI Backupper Professional
Another one of my favourite all-round disk imaging-based backup tools, AOMEI Backupper Professional, additionally features a specialist set of disk cloning tools providing full support for migrating active systems across to newer SSD disk drives!
Whilst the Standard (free) version of Backupper features a partial implementation of the disk cloning suite, Backupper Professional features the full set of disk cloning tools. This full suite of tools provides the additional ability to migrate active Windows systems across to SSD drives, support for SATA, M.2 NVMe and PCI-E SSD drives, support for UEFI boot modes and support for both MBR and GPT partition types amongst many other features.
Other useful tools found within AOMEI Backupper (aside from the excellent disk imaging backup software) include secure disk wiping tools, a bootable recovery media builder, real-time folder synchronisation between devices plus support for applying strong AES 192-bit encryption to any disk image backups taken using the tool!
AOMEI Backupper is available in a free-to-use version with a limited set of disk cloning tools available alongside the Professional version featuring full use of the disk cloning suite. AOMEI Backupper Professional is priced from just $39.95 / year or from a one-off cost of $69.95 for a lifetime licence including free upgrades to any future versions. More information on both versions can be found via the official AOMEI website.
4) MiniTool ShadowMaker Pro
Another leading disk imaging backup tool with support for cloning and migrating active systems across to SSD hardware is ShadowMaker Professional form software makers, MiniTool!
Featuring a well-designed and easy-to-use application interface plus great support for making secure disk image-based and file-level backups (with automated scheduling and AES encryption included amongst various other features), ShadowMaker Pro is a very versatile tool. The built-in disk cloning module supports both basic and dynamic disks plus the direct migration of active systems running on older mechanical hard drives across to newer SSD drives amongst other features.
Also available from MiniTool is the Partition Manager application, a piece of software with a more focused approach to disk management which also includes a comprehensive set of tools for managing, resizing and cloning disks and partitions alongside full support for working with and cloning to modern SSD hardware amongst many other related features.
MiniTool ShadowMaker is available in a free-to-use version with a limited set of disk cloning features included or from just $36 / year (or a one-off $79) for the Professional version with a higher degree of cloning functionality available. MiniTool Partition Manager, which also features full disk cloning support, is priced from $59 / year or a one-off payment of $159 with free lifetime upgrades included. More information on both tools can be found via the official MiniTool website.
5) O&O SSD Migration Kit 7
O&O Software, makers of the top-rated DiskImage 18 image-based backup software, also offer SSD Migration Kit 7 as a specialist and stand-alone tool designed specifically for the safe and effective migrating of active systems and disks across to SSD hardware!
As was mentioned earlier on in this guide, one of the biggest risks when migrating from older mechanical disks across to newer SSD drives comes from misaligned partitions which can lead to noticeable performance loss and reduced lifespan from SSD hardware! SSD Migration Kit 7 is specially designed not only to address such cloning issues but also to make the cloning process as simple and stress-free as possible for all PC users.
Also available from O&O Software is DiskImage 18, primarily a disk image-based backup solution which also supports direct disk-to-disk cloning to newer SSD hardware including SSD drives with different operating systems operating thanks to the built-in support for dissimilar hardware!
SSD Migration Kit 7 is priced at a one-off cost of just $29.95 per PC, more information on the tool and the DiskImage 18 application can be found at the official O&O Software website.
6) Paragon Hard Disk Manager
Now incorporating the functionality of the retired Paragon Drive Copy line of software as of 2020, Hard Disk Manager is a compressive system management suite containing many tools which cover disk cloning, disk partition management and system image backups amongst many other PC utility functions.
As per all other entries on this list, Hard Disk Manager provides full support for migrating active Windows systems across to modern SSD hardware. it also provides many other disk management features including a full suite of partition management tools, secure drive wiping tools, disk image-based backup functionality, support for converting between MBR and GPT disks and support for VHD and VHDx containers amongst other features.
Also included as a part of the Paragon Hard Disk Manager suite are both WinPE and Linux based recovery systems. These are tools which can be can be used for various system recovery related tasks up to and including for recovery of SSD drives in certain situations where installing the full Hard Disk Manager suite might not be possible.
Paragon Hard Disk Manager is priced at a one-off cost of $79.95 for a single licence covering usage on up to 3x PCs. More information on Hard Disk Manager and the full suite of tools it encompasses can be found via the official Paragon website.
DiskGenius is a powerful software suite containing various disk management tools, this includes not only a powerful SSD migration and cloning toolset, but many other tools for taking disk image backups, partition management and data recovery amongst others.
The SSD support found within DiskGenius is particularly very good, not only are safe migrations from older (mechanical) hard disks to SSD supported, but DiskGenius also includes a specialist and easy-to-use SSD 4K alignment checking tool which can help to spot any potential SSD alignment issues with already migrated drives.
Also featuring within DiskGenius are a solid set of disk and partition management tools including support for converting between MBR and GPT disks, secure drive and free space wiping, Windows disk image backup functionality plus much more in what is a very powerful and useful application!
DiskGenius is priced from a one-off cost of just $69.90 for a single PC licence with lifetime free upgrades and support included alongside a Pro version with more advanced functionality priced at $99.90 for a 1x PC lifetime licence. More information on both editions of DiskGenius can be found via the official DiskGenius website.
8) Macrium Reflect 8 Home
Whilst Macrium Reflect has become very well known for its excellent disk image-based backup capabilities in recent years, it is a tool which also supports direct disk-to-disk cloning alongside full support for modern SSD hardware as a cloning target.
Providing comprehensive disk imaging and cloning support, including support for migrating active systems directly to SSD hardware alongside both MBR, GPT and basic / dynamic disk support, Reflect 8 Home is a solid choice both as a backup tool and a disk cloning utility in a single package!
Other useful functionality built-in to the Reflect application include ransomware protection from the Macrium Image Guardian, support for restoring disk image backups to dissimilar hardware, the ability to mount disk image backups as drives within Windows and a powerful recovery environment utility amongst many other great features.
Macrium Reflect 8 is currently priced at $69.95 for a single perpetual licence or $139.95 for a 4-pack licence covering use on up to 4 individual devices. More information on Reflect 8 Home can be found via the official Macrium website.
Migrating an existing system across to a newer and faster SSD disk drive will bring with it many benefits over sticking with a mechanical disk or an older SSD alternative. Some of the main benefits of upgrading can include an overall faster and smoother running system alongside many other smaller benefits such as extended battery life on portable devices and faster disk image backups amongst many other things.
In order to ensure that the SSD migration process works as safely and efficiently as possible in such cases, it is always advisable to make use of professional disk cloning software with specialist support for cloning active systems to SSD hardware! Whilst some SSD manufacturers will include such cloning software to anyone purchasing one of their SSD drives (often for free), professional disk cloning tools often bring with them more advanced cloning functionality alongside many other disk management tools making for a much more powerful SSD migration alternative!