how to clone my hard drive?

I want to clone my windows 7 ide hard drive to an SSD drive.  What software do you recommend to do this job?  Also, what happens to my original hard drive?  Can it still be used?  Any cautions that you would advise in doing this?
Who is Participating?
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> What software do you recommend to do this job?

I recommend Casper for cloning:

It's not free, but it is reasonably priced and is excellent software, definitely worth the cost (and it works on W7, W8, and W8.1, all in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions). I run it every evening in the wee hours on several machines to clone the hard drives (a mix of HDD, SSD, and hybrid). It has an intelligent cloning mechanism so that it copies only the necessary tracks. The first run takes a while, but after that, it's extremely fast. It can clone to the same size drive or to a larger one or even to a smaller one, as long as there is enough space on the smaller one to house the used (non-free) space from the larger one. As a disclaimer, I want to emphasize that I have no affiliation with this company and no financial interest in it whatsoever. I am simply a happy user/customer.

Another well-regarded (also non-free) product is Acronis:

I used it previously, but now prefer Casper.

If you're looking for something that is free, I've heard good things here at EE about these two:

But I haven't tried either as I do all of my cloning now with Casper.

> Also, what happens to my original hard drive? Can it still be used?

Nothing happens to it. Yes, it can still be used. I usually put mine in an external USB enclosure, but sometimes re-deploy it in another computer. You may want to keep it around for a while (unmodified) until you're certain that the new SSD is working fine. Then you may want to clone the SSD to it occasionally so that you have a ready-to-go backup drive in case the new one fails. In fact, as I mentioned above, I use Casper to clone my primary drive to a backup drive every day in the wee hours.

> Any cautions that you would advise in doing this?

One issue is Windows activation. I had never thought that this was a problem, but it came up in this very interesting recent EE thread:

This may be one of those "your mileage may vary" situations, but I'm passing it along for your consideration. Regards, Joe
Kyle AbrahamsSenior .Net DeveloperCommented:
Here's an article on how to do it:

they recommend  Clonezilla or EaseUS Parition Manager for the software.

As far as what happens to the ide drive . . . you can use it as a data drive.  What I would personally recommend doing is to not use the drive for a week or 2 just to test out the SSD.  After you're sure it's working properly put your IDE drive back on as a secondary drive.  From there you can format it (don't need the windows, directories, program files, etc), and just use the drive as a data drive.
Use Paragon's Migrate to SSD utility:

Once you have finished that, you can use the old disk for data.

Of course knowing you have good backups is always good, but as backups should be done at least daily anyway, that is really an unnecessary thing to say.
capreolAuthor Commented:
Excellent answers.  Thanks a lot.
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
You're welcome. Happy to help. Good luck with the new SSD! Regards, Joe
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.