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It is possible to set a new, faster, SSD drive as the main drive in your computer. Many of the steps are the same as reformatting, so you'll start by backing up...

Hi, there. These days I'm hearing a lot about Solid State Drives (SSD) and their advantage over HDD (in spite of being costly.) My question is: if SSDs are way faster than HDDs but more expensive, can I install Windows on a separate, cheap 40 GB SSD and use another HDD of like 2 TB for storing other stuff? Is it possible to do so? How? I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate on a desktop.

In this excerpt from Answercast #32, I examine the steps needed to install a new SSD drive as a main drive and then configure a larger drive for data.

Use an SSD for main drive

It absolutely is possible and you'll find that it's a very common configuration when PCs are using Solid State Drives. The scenario is actually fairly simple.

Backup

Assuming that you have everything backed up (you've got whatever's on your machine right now backed up), you end up installing the Solid State Drive, first, as a second drive.

Set the boot drive

  • It becomes the primary drive, the boot drive, as part of your selection when you install it.

  • Then, you simply install Windows on that drive.

Move Windows components

After Windows is installed, you can then move certain components of Windows:

  • Like the documents folder,

  • Or the paging file,

  • Or the temporary files,

  • Those kinds of things (depending on how much room you find you have leftover)

to the second hard drive.

Move working files

What's more important is that you keep:

  • Your documents,

  • Your videos,

  • The things you're working on,

  • The things that make it big,

on that second drive.

SSD as primary drive

But ultimately, yeah, it's very simple to do.

You simply:

  • Install both drives (a Solid State Drive and a Hard Disk Drive),

  • Install Windows from scratch on the Solid State Drive,

  • and set up your machine.

Next from Answercast 32 – My printer stopped printing, what do I do?

Article C5545 - July 5, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Connor
July 6, 2012 9:38 AM

When I switched to a SSD, what worked great for me was using the clone a disk feature in Macrium Reflect. You need to make sure your HDD has less data on it than the SSD's capacity. To do this, I just moved most of my data files to a third drive before cloning it. That way you do not need to re install Windows or any other program.

Mark
July 6, 2012 10:43 AM

You tell us to move all of this to the second drive but do not tell how to move any of these items. It is not so simple - I'm sure you know that. How about links to info to help with the moves, redirection and such to really help to make this a success.

I have read that changing your Programs Folder to be on the second drive is a big NO-NO. If I install a lot of apps like Office and CS6 I would kill a smaller ssd drive... I am using a 128 GB SSD and am worried that it will be over loaded soon. My second drive is a 640 GB drive that is essentially empty.

Like the documents folder,
Or the paging file,
Or the temporary files,
Those kinds of things (depending on how much room you find you have leftover)
to the second hard drive.
Your documents,
Your videos,
The things you're working on,
The things that make it big,
on that second drive.

Lester
July 6, 2012 11:10 AM

Ditto to Conner's comment. That's exactly what I did a few weeks or so ago, except my data all fit onto the SSD, so I scrubbed up the HD later. Raised my Experience Score to 7.4 from 5.9. One thing I ran up against, my motherboard only had one SATA III plug in so I had to demote my HD to SATA II. Works great though.

Mikey
July 6, 2012 11:45 AM

I tried to use Macrium Reflect (trial version) to clone the old HDD onto a new HP 64-bit system to the SSD, but MR saw only the SSD. Wondered if it might be because the HDD was a GPT disk or something, but since I couldn't ask Macrium about that ("free" means "free from support of any kind"), I just gave up and reloaded Windows 7 from scratch. That actually worked out OK; just pointed any requests for drivers to the old system drive (still installed) and everything transferred over just fine. One glitch: the Product Key that a couple of free product key finders (Magical Jelly Bean, ProduKey) found was not the correct key for this system. I used the key on the sticker on the case and that seems to have worked. Speed difference is stunning.

Steven
July 6, 2012 2:59 PM

What about the SSD write limit with windows being on it?

connie
July 6, 2012 4:01 PM

@Steven
Leo answers that in this article (fortunately they have the technology up to the point where the limit is so huge it's workable...)

Do SSD drives have a limited life expectancy because they are flash memory?

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