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Questions on cloning a HDD to a SSD for Windows10

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Last Modified: 2020-03-27
One of my clients received a brand new DELL Workstation along with a 3D pano Xray machine from a vendor. The Dell Workstation is equipped with a regular HDD installed with Windows 10 plus the necessary pano xray software, and a capture card. When we asked if they could provide a system with SSD instead, given how fast SSDs are compared with regular HDDs, the vendor declined to provide another system. They said that we could clone the HDD to an SSD.

I have never cloned a HDD to a SSD, so I need your expert opinion in figuring out any risks associated with this process, as I can't imagine that cloning from HDD to SSD is a risk free process. Aside of the risks during the cloning process, I am also concerned with side effects post cloning with the Windows Operating system during normal use (e.g possible blue screens, hardware errors, etc).

Should a clean install of the OS and application on a new SSD, rather than cloning, be advised, I would't mind doing the work (and the client wouldn't mind paying for it) as this would be a critical component of their business.

Hopefully some of you have enough experience in this particular area, and would be kind to provide feedback, tips and recommendations on how to go best about replacing a brand new HDD with a brand new SSD in a brand new DELL Workstation on W10

Thank you.

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Hayes JupeIT Director

You comments are dead on.

A fresh install is always a better approach - if that is an option, than that approach is by far the lowest risk and has the highest probability of success - but will take more time.

As far as the process, replace the HDD with the SSD, boot from your bootable windows 10 media... use this - https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/windows-usb-dvd-download-tool to make a bootable USB stick from your Win 10 iso.
then install required software....

You can always swap back to the "old" HDD to check programs, recovery files etc... an external plug-in caddy would be handy there.... you may even wish to take a copy of the the drive files using robocopy first - just incase.


Thank you for responding, Hayes. Installing fresh the operating system is not an issue. I would like to understand what possible risks that perhaps you, or someone else sees with the cloning process, so I can bring them with the vendor and ask them to re-install their software once the new SSD drive is installed. They may be reluctant to do so, and I would like to go in prepared with all possible arguments if it comes down to a refusal from them to re-install their proprietary software.
IT Director
ahhh ok.

Cloning has inherent risks - as your obviously picking up everything that is on the old drive and laying it down on the new. So there is always a possibility of a driver incompatibility - especially as you are changing the disk subsystem. To be fair, Windows 10 is much more accepting of this than what XP was (for example) - but its still a risk.

Even if the clone works and everything appears ok, there can be instance of something that didnt like the process (generally driver related) that might turn into a niggling issue....

unfortunately there is no "home run" agrument here.... cloning generally works.... but if its a high importance system (and this sounds like it is) - then adding the additional risk is just silly (IMO) for the sake of a few hours work... but that might not be enough for the vendor.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

Easiest way to find out is to try it.  A 1 TB SSD now sells for less than $400, so it is not an expensive proposition and you can always use the SSD somewhere else if it does not work in the intended application.

One potential problem is that with proprietary software of this type the software maker usually ties it to the hardware just as tightly as possible.  That locking may go so far as to check the disk drive to see if it is still the disk drive originally supplied with the system.  There may also be hidden files on the system or identifying information written in supposedly-empty areas of the drive.

So I would get a drive as close to the size of the original as possible, and use the manufacturer's cloning software first rather than a third-party tool like Clonezilla.

If you do get a successful clone, the first thing that Windows will do when the SSD is booted is invalidate the Windows license.  Again, this may cause issues with the application software.  You'll need to reinsert the Windows key to reauthorize the system and this might be an issue if the Windows key was not supplied to you.

In this situation you must use enterprise-class SSDs, not consumer-grade SSDs.  Enterprise-class SSDs are twice the price and more of consumer-grade SSDs but the extra cost is worth it.  Enterprise-class SSDs are overprovisioned and may use better flash (SLC or TLC as opposed to MLC or QLC).  Flash memory ain't what it used to be (cells used to have a 100,000 cycle life and now some only have a 100 to 1000 cycle life) and when an SSD starts to wear out, it goes bang! all at once.

So you must also keep an eye on any SSD as you won't get much warning when it fails.

It goes without saying, so I'll say it, that in a medical application there must be a second drive, identical to the primary, no matter what type of drive it is, as a ready-to-go backup.
NVITEnd-user support

"...the vendor declined to provide another system. They said that we could clone the HDD to an SSD. "

I've had great experience with Samsung SSD drives. They even come with cloning software which you download online as well.
You'll still have your original drive.
Worst case, you'll lose the time cloning and the price of the SSD drive.


Thank you so much to Hayes, Dr. Khan, and NVIT for the feedback provided. Definitely installing clean will be the way to go, and now I have enough information to ask the vendor to install their proprietary software on the new SSD. I will buy a professional grade SSD from Dell, they have them exactly for the Dell Workstation that was shipped to my client. Dealing with very large 3D files will take time, and I feel that an SSD drive will help speed up the process of processing the 3D data (these 3D files usually are in the 500MB range or larger). For monitoring the SSD drives, there are some free utilities, but over the last year, I deployed to all my clients Hard Disk Sentinel. It is very inexpensive, and it does the job on all sorts of HDDs and SSDs, plus more. Thank you.
Distinguished Expert 2019

Cloning has no implications. It just works as long as the target disk is as big as or bigger than the source,
The only problem one may run into is licensing. Some licenses detect a disk change and refuse to work, afterwards or will at least require reactivation.

No clean install needed, definitely. Did that process surely several hundred times.