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Moving old SSD to a new PC without reinstalling OS & apps

How do I move an old SSD to a new PC without reinstalling Windows 10 and apps?

Hi everyone, 10 years ago I built a very high end liquid cooled desktop and was very pleased with it. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and the poor computer decided its components could no longer take the beating. I’m starting my next build and would like to know if there are methods to use my existing SSD drive in the new computer so I don’t have to reinstall Windows 10 (64-bit) and all the applications I currently use. Reinstalling the OS and all of my software will take weeks and not something I want to spend my time on. Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

--Submitted by Dennis M. (aka mrozde)

Post was last edited on May 3, 2019 3:30 PM PDT

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cannot be done

different computer, different motherboard, different drivers, and you got efi, will have to be reinstall.

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There are issues. Here's a few.

1. Your license is for ONE PC so you can't expect the License to move without some strict rules. Microsoft has only issued a new key under one condition. You tell them your old motherboard died and this is your new PC. Your old PC shall NEVER boot again.

2. finds methods to move but these are iffy since many change to different CPU makes and other factors like (old) BIOS to UEFI (BIOS).

3. Apps can fail for the same and more reasons that the OS does. For example, Microsoft Office (most versions) are locked to your old PC and may deactivate.

Possible but with hard limitations PLUS that call to Microsoft to reactivate your OS. That is unless you want to buy a second license.

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moving license

If you login with MS, then you can cancel the lic and move it to a new device. I don't know if they have to do it for you, but you can do it with their help via live chat.

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Tons of cloning choices to do this.

While there will be a ton of folks telling you how horrible or even impossible that is, it actually works quite well when you use a commercial package like Acronis. These companies have made a fortune helping people do exactly what you are looking to do. Is it without rough edges? No, you might have to call MIcrosoft to get the licenses reactivated, but rest assure all the little bumps in the road can be overcome. I have done exactly what you are trying a dozen times since windows 10 was released. Desktop to Laptop, HDD to SSD, Home PC to desktop, etc

Suggestion: avoid freeware solutions because if you need telephone assistance, freeware has none. Go with any of the bigger commercial choices and you’ll be fine.

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Yes, I've done it with Acronis

When I replaced my machine I simply moved the old SSD to the new machine and restored the OS. Not a single hiccup. I did not contact Microsoft.

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I Thought Acronis is for Cloning

From what the OP said, I think he doesn't want to clone; he wants to move the SSD from his old computer to the new one physically. Or am I reading that incorrectly?

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You are reading incorrectly.

You are reading incorrectly.

The original post says, " I don't [ want to ] have to reinstall Windows 10 (64-bit) and all the applications I currently use. Reinstalling the OS and all of my software will take weeks and not something I want to spend my time on. Any and all advice would be appreciated. "

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No, you are reading that correctly - even if ...

... it may sound a bit naive to those of us who have battled with any number of the issues that have been discussed in here so far.

Well, okay, how naive ist it really? Somewhere back in the dark ages of - I believe - Windows 95 or even before I have actually done just that and it actually "kind of" worked. Of course there was no activation in those days. But knowing now what happens I would definitely want to make sure of two things: One, there should be a good deal of free space on the drive, and two, you need a backup of the drive before you start - because ...

When I installed the drive in the new machine it booted and then went to town trying (and partially succeeding in) to find and install drivers for all kinds of hardware. Some items were not found and thus I got a few (yellow, I believe) exclamation marks in the device manager. Digging around for drivers, mostly on diskettes of even CDs that came with the hardware, but sometimes on the internet as well, got the machine into a good state. After that, you wouldn't want to put that drive back into the old machine, though, and have it try finding all the old drivers again.

But what with current systems I wouldn't want to try that (except as a research project to see what happens, not being afraid to do a fresh install afterwards to get a clean machine.)

You would rather have to use one of the tools mentioned (I have heard the name Acronis before in this context but have no real experience of my own.) And if you play your cards right you could end up with a good backup and everything restored to your SSD in the new format ready to try and run on the new machine - provided the SSD is indeed big enough. And that "big enough" can actually become a problem, like it did for me very recently.

(Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with and SSD or with migrating to new hardware, but it may well prove to be relevant here, anyway.)

A 2TB boot drive breaks (I do suspect a failed Win10 upgrade but can't prove it.) I get a 3TB drive and try to migrate to that (that alone could constitute a migration to a new computer, just about.) I am told the easiest way would be to do a fresh install on the new drive (to get the GPT and all that right) and then to restore over that, Windows and all. Sounds reasonable to me. Somehow I don't get Windows to install on the 3TB drive, for reasons that don't seem relevant here. So I get me a 2TB drive like the one that broke. I restore to it (boot and Windows partition) - won't boot. I remember the trick about fresh install and the restore over it - great idea!

Yes, until I try to do the restore and I am told that the image is too big for the partition - between the two versions of Win10 the size of the boot partition has grown and ther is not enough space for the Windows partition as it is in my image - and it won't shrink; apparently Win10 writes something to the last clusters of the partition that prevents it now from shrinking. There you are!

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It can be done, but

If you have OEM license of Windows, you can't because OEM license is tight to the hardware. "R. Proffitt"'s post stated Microsoft will issue you a new key when you tell them the motherboard had failed.

I had Windows 7 Ultimate. Upgraded to Windows 8, then 10 Pro. Unfortunately, like you, my motherboard / CPU failed. I build another one, move my drives (SSD, HDD, DVD, etc). When my build is complete, I start it up. Within a few minutes, my system is up and running. The old one (Q6600) did not have UEFI, but the new does, so I didn't encounter that problem. Once it's up, I check Device Manager under Computer Management, all drivers are OK, there are no missing drivers. BUT, I do see some old one hanging around after showing hidden ones and searching registry.

Now my Windows is running fine but Event Log is kind busted, Performance Counter is not working. I did plan to reinstall / refresh my build but never get around it.

BUT, before you do anything, perform a complete backup. EASEUS ToDo Backup (FREE) works great and it has incremental backup (save space and time). People swears by Mericum Reflect. I used it, it works. But I prefer other solutions. I am now using Paragon Backup and Recovery 16 while evaluating ToDo Backup.

Please go to your motherboard / GPU / interface card manufacture to download all device drivers, BIOS update, etc and put them on your SSD so you can update them once your system is up and running. I "believe" Microsoft installs generic drivers when you perform this type of "upgrade". Acronis Image, I used previously, has the restore to different hardware function. I have used it and Windows needs to be reactivated. Other software, some needs to be reactivated / deactivated. Office comes to mind on that aspect.

Before you do it, please be sure to backup - complete backup is needed.

I have my data drive separated from my OS drive, so I only have to backup the OS drive. Save me a lot of trouble / space.

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I have had it FAIL THREE TIMES!

We bought the SERVER version at the lawfirm I work at. At one point we found about 10,000 files lost--we never found out why.

1) When we tried restoring from a backup, all over the place we got "path too long". I would have to manually restore subfolders to a PC, then from there move the restored subfolders to the server. The consultant we hired said there was no way around that--it would have taken a week, so we just didn't restore.

2) Another time it stopped for "trial period expired"--even though we had the full license, and didn't give a warning.  We noticed after about six weeks.

3) I had it on my home PC Todo backup and uninstalled it when I got Acronis. Several years later the PC started giving blue screens.  I did a full restore.  The restore blue screened.

My PC's are set up to dual boot with completely independent SSD's, one with Win 10-64 bit and one with 32-bit. I did the Acronis restore from the other O/S SSD.  The PC still blue screened at the end of the restore.

I did the Acronis restore on a different PCThat blue screened at the end of the restore.

I bought a new SSD and did the restore to that.  It still blue screened.

It turned out Todo did not completely uninstall. It left a driver that crashed every PC once the PC rebooted after Acronis would finish--even though the PC was not booting to the restored SSD!

Once I removed that driver, the various PC's worked fine again.

Meanwhile, it took me about 50 hours to find the problem and I wound up buying a new SSD and a new data drive and an additional backup drive because I didn't know when things might crash and didn't know none of those were the problem--about $150. (I already had 1.5TB, 2TB and 4TB backup drives.  I bought a 3TB.)

Plus, the repeated crashes did cause some damage to the file system, so I had to do some repair on that.

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Yup. Use Acronis + Universal Restore

Yup. Use Acronis + Universal Restore

No hiccups. Saved me about 3 or 4 different times.

Plus you get great tech support.

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If the new computer comes with Windows 10

You can use an app like Laplink to connect your SSD to the new computer and transfer files and settings. I've done this with the old drive in a USB caddy, and the software picks everything off of it. There is a list of applications that could not be moved that is automatically generated, and fortunately for me, some were installed a long time ago and putting in the registration code worked. If the new computer is not an SSD (and I would not get one without it!) you could use another app like Acronis to clone the hard drive back to the SSD (wiping it out, of course,) then installing the SSD back into the new computer. This would work as the hard drive would have all the drivers and EFI partitions to match with the new computer. All of that could then be copied back, bit for bit and your SSD could be installed as the boot drive.

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I think It's a New Build So No New SSD

So there would only be ONE drive?

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Not really worth the trouble.

Technically, it can be done but it depends greatly on how divergent the old and new machines are. Even if it succeeds, the likelihood off strange lingering erratic behavior is high. I could only imagine justifying the effort if something irreplaceable was in danger of being lost. Just do the fresh install and plan to make the phone call to Microsoft to transfer your license to the new system. Whether this will be allowed depends on how the original license (which I assume is for Windows 7 if the machine was built ten years ago) was obtained. If it is a manufacturer license tied to the custom BIOS in a big brand system such as a Dell or HP, you're probably out of luck. A clean install is really the best bet if the previous system had gone ten years without one.

As for the time to install, why would it take weeks? Windows itself should take less than an hour if you have all of the drivers ready that the installation doesn't download automatically. How much software do you actually use regularly. It would probably take about 24 hours to completely install everything in my Steam library (about 1900 items) but far less time to get the process started. The bigger question is why I would bother. With a decent broadband connection all but the largest games are mere moments from being playable. Most productivity software is far smaller. A full install of the most complete version of current MS Office took less than 15 minutes the last time I did it a few weeks ago.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to treat your new system as exactly that: a new system. Get an external USB adapter or full enclosure for the old SSD, so you can access stuff that will transfer without issues, like data files and save games. It can also be useful with certain utilities for retrieving activation codes you may not have in any other location or on paper. Prices and capacity on SSDs have improved so much it may not be worth the trouble to have that unit serving as anything other than an archive until you're absolutely sure it's safe to put it to other use.

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Depending on how your software is organized...

Depending on how your software is organized, it may be worth the trouble. I have done this sort of task for clients, because it saves us both a lot of time (hours? days?) to reinstall all the software and copy all the data. Remember that this is not a corporate setting where the IT department rules and standards make it easy to reinstall.

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It often takes a long time

On a pumped-up power-user machine it often takes a long time. Years ago a program at work wiped out a lot of stuff on my C:\ drive and I had to do a full-blown reinstall. Overall it took about 40 hours.

In 2016 my main home PC kept crashing, so I did a fresh install of Win 10 64-bit to my spare PC, which is newer. With all the programs and all the upgrades for each it took about 100 hours. (I have about 6 different image editing programs, 3 office suites, 2 PDF editing programs, video conversion and editing software, 4 genealogy programs, several website-generating programs, and many other "various and sundry" programs.)

(About a year later I found out that the original problem was Nvidia drivers were incompatible with the video card. I put in an AMD card and it fixed the problem.)

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Acronis + Universal Restore only takes a few Hours

Acronis + Universal Restore only takes a few hours or less.

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Convert to VHD

Post was last edited on May 3, 2019 7:51 PM PDT

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That happened to me and

I did the rebuild. Moved the drives with oem Win 10 and after all the updating was done Windows wouldn't verify. Called MSoft and the tech after I explained gave me a new key and has been purring ever since.

And yes the Tech did say that Microsoft considers one OS per computer. I countered that that is like saying when the motor in my car dies I can't rebuild it without paying for a whole new car. That is when he gave me the reg number.

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don't always work out

I have known people who got keys from microsoft then a few months later lost their activation because of it violating microsofts terms. It is always something you have to be wary of in cases like yours.

per your example, always remember you own your car. microsoft still owns windows, you just have a license to use it under their terms.

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I think It's a Case of Just ONE Computer

If you create the new computer, you can call them and they should let you use the new key. But the assumption is that the OLD computer goes bye-bye forever. If you give it to someone or try to use it yourself, they don't allow that. Also, it is weird how they determine this. They check various serial numbers in your hardware and you are only allowed to keep one or two devices.

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Yes, one license covers just one computer, but ...

... as you point out, this doesn't have to be the same computer - or at least not in all jurisdictions around the world. There was a time (and that may still be the case in some places, like maybe even the US) when MS tried to sell a new Windows license with every PC or motherbard being sold. At some time I heard they were even putting pressure on manufacturers to buy and ship a Windows license with every unit they sold or face much higher license fees. In the EU now it would be illegal to not allow a software license to migrate between hardware units. But you definietly can't expect a license for one machine to be active on more than one machine at a time. (The fact that I find it petty to extend that to virtual machines has no relevance here.)

The way they determine the identity of a computer for licensing purposes is not all that strange, but it turned out to be a bit tricky after all, since they didn't really want to get involved everytime someone added memory or replaced a hard drive. But a network adapter (with its MAC address) is a bit different already. It seems that they don't trigger as long as there is only one change at a time.

And no, you don't have to trash the old machine just yet; you could put some other system on there - Linux or even old Windows that has its own license (or is old enough not to fall under activation - in that case you still need a license just to be legal, though.)

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Other than saving some time on re-installing OS and applications it is not such a good idea. Why do you want to put an older, slower, SSD drive in a new build? SSD drives prices are dropping right now, and you will find that the newer M.2 drives will out perform your older drive. I completed a build for a friend last week with a 1TB M.2 SSD it cost $139.00. Loaded Windows 10 in less than 15 minutes and boots from off to ready to use in around 30 seconds.

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clone old drive to new drive

I updated a 1T drive to a 4T drive with a drive cloner (Wavlink, under $50). This will give you a new, larger drive to go with your new machine. Took less than 4 hours and all programs and data moved automatically. These were all games from grandsons gamer computer. Will probably need to work with Microsoft since you will have a new motherboard. Also need to assign additional space as this type of cloner requires moving to a large drive.

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Something I Read

I remember seeing (far too long ago to be able to find a link to it) that the MajorGeeks guy, Tim, simply lifted his SSD out of his old computer and put it into a new one he got and it simply worked. Evidently Windows 10 is sharp enough to use generic drivers long enough to replace them with the correct drivers for the new system. It evidently even moved the license over.

I personally find this hard to believe and have not tried it myself. For myself, I would install the O/S from a new distribution that I presume you have purchased with your new computer components, and then reinstall all of the applications you actually use from their own original distributions, making sure that you update them after installation.

Now, you can simply install the disks that contain your user data into your new computer, and copy your Users/[username]/AppData directory, or at least the individual folders in that directory for the applications you wish to retain.

When I get a new computer I want it actually to be new. Copying over the system files will preserve all the old system's warts and wounds.

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Yes, move it!

Windows 10 is smart enough to boot up most of the time when the HDD or SSD attached to a different hardware configuration. After that, install the drivers for the new hardware and then enter in your new Windows license key that you bought. Worst case, I have been told you can run the sysprep utility from the command line to make it happen. Here is a Microsoft link about sysprep.

One caveat, some very very expensive software like AutoCAD, Creative Suite and even Microsoft Office associate themselves to the system motherboard manufacturer and serial number when activated and won't run properly on a different hardware set.

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Thanks for all the good advice! Here is my new build!

Thanks for all the good advice! Here is my new build!

Motherboard: ASUS ROG Rampage VI Extreme Omega X299-II Gaming Motherboard LGA2066 (Intel 9th Gen X-Series)
CPU: Intel Core i9-9820X X-Series Processor 10 Cores up to 4.1GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA2066 X299 Series
Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance RGB PRO 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 LED Desktop Memory
SSD: Intel 660p M.2 2280 2TB NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 3D NAND Internal Solid State Drive
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower iRGB Plus 1050W 80+ Platinum Digital RGB LED Smart Zero Fan SLI/Crossfire Ready ATX12V v2.4 / SSI EPS v2.92 Power Supply
Liquid Cooling: Thermaltake Water 3.0 ARGB Motherboard Sync Edition Intel/AMD 360 All-in-One Liquid Cooling System 3X 120mm High Efficiency Radiator CPU Cooler
E-ATX Case: Thermaltake View 71 RGB 4-Sided Tempered Glass Vertical GPU Modular E-ATX Gaming Full Tower Computer Case
GPU: I'm using my existing ASUS EAH4870X2 Series and will look to upgrade the GPU as some point down the road.

Like my last build, I'm hoping this build will lasts 10+ years!

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How did you do it? What worked?

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Even if

Even if you manage to hack your ssd with the configuration etc. It will run poorly and likely to crash/do strange things in the near future. Reformat and re-install is the ONLY reliable way to get it working properly in the long run.

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Use Acronis Software

You can use Acronis software. They are an enterprise company with fantastic support. I have had 3 or 4 computers blow up on me, and I was able to transfer my Windows OS, all the settings, configurations, softwares, file etc.

EVERYTHING from one PC to another that had a completely different motherboard and completely different hardware.

AND the best part is that the software is not that much.

Like around $50 to $99 .

You will want to make certain that you get " Acronis Backup and Recovery with Universal Restore " .

Another cool feature is that you can clone your original PC without using Windows interface. You can do this via its BIOS.

Hope this helps.

It's save my bacon 3 or 4 times.

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