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It is trivial to install an SSD as another drive, but typically, people want the faster drive for their operating system. That involves swapping around your operating system from one drive to the other.

How much of a job is it to install a new SSD while still keeping my old one running as before?

In this excerpt from Answercast #69, I look at the steps involved in adding an SSD drive to a current computer system and how it can be used to speed up a computer.

Installing an SSD drive

Well, it depends on your computer more than anything else. You would need of course two drive slots.

If you've got a laptop, you probably don't have another drive slot so you're kind of out of luck. You can only have one drive in that machine and you would need to make the choice between the hard drive that's there now or the replacement SSD because it would be a true replacement.

On a PC, on a desktop PC where you may have additional slots, it's very easy to do exactly what you described. In other words, to simply add an SSD to that machine is usually a simple matter of connecting up the cables, installing the drive into the box, and powering it all up.

Take advantage of the speed

The problem is that that's typically not what you want.

You indicated that you wanted to keep your old one running as before. I don't think you do.

What you want typically from installing an SSD is to have your operating system installed on the SSD - so that it runs faster. That means moving it from your old hard drive and that means that it is not running as before. It may be present in the box, but it is definitely not running as before.

Install the SSD as your primary drive

In my opinion, the right thing to do for adding an SSD to an existing desktop PC is to first:

  • Do everything you can to reduce the amount of space taken up by things on your hard drive to be smaller than the size of your eventual replacement SSD.

  • Then back up that regular hard drive. Create a backup image of it using something like Macrium Reflect or any of other commercially available disk imaging utilities.

  • Now, replace the hard drive. In other words, install the SSD in place of the hard drive in the machine.

  • Restore: using the recovery media for your disk-imaging program. Restore the backup image that you took from your old hard drive and place it on the new one. Place it on the replacement SSD.

Once that's working, then install your old hard drive back into your machine as a second drive. The net result is that what you will have is a C drive that is much faster, that will contain your operating system, on your SSD.

Then, you'll have another disk drive (most likely drive D) that is your old hard drive; with everything that either was on it or everything that you want to put on it. That would be accessed slower than the SSD, but still be relatively fast for things like data files and so forth.

There may be some tweaking involved in making sure that the operating system is treating the SSD as an SSD. Windows 7 should auto detect that properly, but in case it doesn't, you may need to make a couple of additional settings changes to make sure that Windows 7 doesn't, for example, try and defragment that disk every week.

But that's what it boils down to. So you know, how much of a job is it? Well, it depends on what you think about what I just described.

It is trivial to just install it as another drive, but that's typically not what most people want. What most people want is typically something significantly more involved that involves swapping around your operating system from one drive to the other.

Article C6017 - November 11, 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.

Not what you needed?

Daniel Lauber
November 13, 2012 1:15 PM

Good solid advice, but a few cautions are in order. It is very possible that you will have to reactivate Windows when you start using the SSD. Also you many need to reactivate other programs. You would be very prudent to first deactivate Adobe Acrobat (not the reader, the full program) before making the back up image and then reactivate it on the SSD. Also you might be very prudent to move all data to a secondary "D" drive before imaging the primary drive and restoring it to the SSD. That will keep you data safe. You can reassign where your Documents, Music, etc. folders are before imaging the primary drive.

Vanja Marin
November 13, 2012 3:11 PM

Another little "confuser" that can slow you down is the fact that most SSDs (at least 4 different ones that I've purchased), come unformatted (as disks usually do)....
So, you will probably have to install it to your comp first, format it from your existing Windows "disk management", and then keep on with OS-install operation. Thing is that some computers react differently (my experience is that it depends on MOBO or BIOS on the board) - to fact whether your comp will or will not "see" new empty unformatted disk...
That doesn't have to be the rule - but it surly can happen.
Just to add - what is not so obvious - and what makes it even more confusing some times... If you have only one, new SSD in machine - without Windows present on some other disk, then, Win-install disk figures out "unformatted space" and "new disk", and considering that - it easily runs you through the process of Formatting... But - if it's "add on" disk, problem from above can appear....
Of course, I would be honored if Leo woud just prove me very wrong and ignorant of some simple path to solving this problem! Cheers

November 13, 2012 4:22 PM

I purchased a new desktop computer with an SSD as c: drive running Win7, and a normal HDD as d:.
I then transferred My Docs, My Downloads, My etcs to d: which was a fiddle.
The annoying consequences of doing this arise from the "Libraries" feature of Win7 which hides the actual disk/directory of a file from the user. It is a feature I don't like and don't use.
However Libraries assumes all the files use c:\...\My xxx directories and I haven't found a fully effective way of redirecting Libraries to d:\.
Since Windows Explorer assumes everyone loves Libraries and list its subdirectories at the top, I have to scroll down to list the d: directories.

And some programs assume documents are under Libraries and will take you to those My xxx folders when saving opening.

November 13, 2012 4:31 PM

I have installed SSDs and moved the OS a dozen times. It is a bit more involved than described above. As a guidance, I have written a tutorial that you find here:

I hope that helps.

November 13, 2012 7:43 PM

Bevin, If you select the "Documents" library, for example, and right click and select Properties, you can add new directory locations to the library and delete ones which are no longer valid.

Leo has a full article on Libraries for more information.

I use Libraries and in fact have created a couple libraries of my own. I find them to be convenient shortcuts to some of the directories that I use on a regular basis.

James S
November 14, 2012 2:45 AM

I have two HDD. To backup the system partition onto the second drive and make it bootable, I use XXClone (freeware for private use). Can't why this wouldn't work for an SSD. Then you simply have to edit the BIOS so it looks at the SSD first.
You might also find EasyBCD useful, also free for non-commercial use.

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