Upgrade to SSD without reinstalling Windows

It used to be that my first suggestion for a computer upgrade was “Bigger Screen” or “More RAM”.

Not anymore ! I announce that SSD is the next thing ! (If you can tolerate the craziness)

I just got a new Dell XPS 17 with a i7 Processor and 12 Gigs of RAM. I’m planing to use it for testing memory-hungry programs. Since I will use virtualization a lot, I figured I would need to give these SSD drive a try. Dell upgrade hard-drives prices were ludicrous for “no-name” SSDs, so I decided to buy a OCZ Vertex 3 120G drive from a local store.

For the record : SSDs rocks.

But since I forgot/did not bother to ask for a real Windows CD from Dell… I have a problem.

How can I upgrade my classic 500G HD to a 120G SSD without losing the OS ?

First, make sure you have this available:

  • A usb key/CD with Clonezilla installed (CZ)
  • A usbkey/CD with SystemRescueCD installed (SRCD)
  • A “self-made” Windows Repair CD (either 32 or 64 bits) (WRCD)
  • I assume you have access to 2 classic SATA hard-drives. I my case, I also had the good luck to have two SATA drives slots on a laptop. If that is not your case, try to use a USB external drive adapter or enclosure.
  • I assume you are replacing the first drive of a two hard drives system.
    • The main drive is going to be replaced by the new drive;
    • The second drive will remain in place at the end of the process.

Here are the simple, not-at-all-excessive-steps list to follow:

  • CZ: Before booting the system the first time, backup the main drive to the second drive
  • Figure out witch is the main drive (apart from the second drive) (In my case, Dell documentation was helpful)
  • Boot one time using the original main drive
  • SRCD: Resize the main drive so that the partition would fit on the (smaller) SSD drive
  • Reboot Again : Windows will react by a drive test (this is required or the next steps will fail)
  • CZ: Backup one more time (optional)
  • Remove 2nd drive
  • Move main drive to 2nd drive former socket
  • Install SSD drive in first socket
  • CZ: Clone form main drive to SSd drive
  • Remove main drive, and store in safe place (from now on, this will be your backup)
  • Install second drive in second socket
  • Reboot, again . Windows should react by a drive check
    • At this point. you witness your quickest. reboot. EVER.
  • Optional cleanup steps
    • SRCD: Delete “special” and “recovery” partitions
    • SRCD: Resize main partition to maximum size (all disk)
    • SRCD: Set boot flag on remaining “main” partition
    • WRCD: Boot with Windows Repair CD twice
      • First time will trigger an auto-repair feature
      • At second time, ask for “Repair startup” option to repair the OS
  • Reboot, cleanup again
  • CZ: Backup one last time.
  • Done.