Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
a hard-disk image to an SSD
by Alan German
A friend was
thinking of buying a new laptop and really wanted it to
have a solid state drive; however, the manufacturer's
pricing for this option was considerably more than it
ought to have been, especially given today's prices for
SSD's. My suggestion was to buy the off-the-shelf
machine, with a 1 TB HDD, and simply replace the
hard drive with an SSD. The 1 TB drive could then be
dropped into a USB drive enclosure and used as
backup/extra storage. "Fine,..." my friend said
"...go right ahead!"
Before doing anything drastic, a few preliminary steps
were necessary. Firstly, I used Macrium Reflect to make a
disk image of the original hard drive in the
"as-received" condition. I used an external USB
disk to store this image in order that it would be
available for restoration should any of the subsequent
operations go south.
Secondly, I made a rescue disk, in the form of a bootable
USB drive, using the Windows Preinstallation Environment
(PE) option. The latter is a mini-version of Windows that
runs Macrium Reflect directly from the bootable USB and,
most importantly, provides access to backup disk images
stored on the external USB drive.
It should be obvious that a 1 TB disk image isn't
going to fit onto a 250 GB SSD. Even though the
1 TB drive has much less than 250 GB of space
in use, we still can't simply restore the disk image to
the new SSD. At least, we can't do this easily.
Previously, I have worked around this issue using a
bootable version of Clonezilla (see ("Cloning"
a hard drive to a smaller SSD; Ottawa PC News, November,
2013) but, this time, I decided to see if I could use
Macrium Reflect to both make an image of and transfer the
hard drive's contents.
The web has mixed messaging about such a task. Some
people simply say it can't be done, others insist that
the Professional version of Macrium Reflect is required,
while a third group suggests that the Free Edition can
indeed be pressed into service to perform the task. I
chose to take a run at the latter.
While I wouldn't have been able to restore the original
824 GB Windows partition onto the 250 GB SSD,
the Windows partition was only using 64 GB of the
assigned disk space. Consequently, it was necessary to
shrink the partition (by simply reducing the amount of
free space). I decided to shrink the partition to
120 GB, thus leaving lots of space for future
software installation. The Disk Management utility
(Control Panel - System and Security - Administrative
Tools - Disk Management), when run as an administrator,
made this process simple. Right-click on drive C:, select
Shrink Volume, and choose by how much to shrink the
In determining the final size for the Windows partition,
it was also necessary to consider the other partitions
present on the disk. In particular, the disk was set up
as a GPT (GUID Partition Table) volume and had several
hidden partitions in addition to that used by the
operating system. These are essentially recovery
partitions, containing the information used to reset the
machine to its original (factory) settings should this
become necessary. These data required a total of
26 GB of disk space. A further 16 GB was
assigned to a dedicated data partition (drive D:). Thus,
by reducing drive C: to 120 GB, even with these
additional space requirements, there was still about
100 GB of available disk space on the SSD - left for
future expansion (think Linux!)
The final backup step was to make a new disk image of the
resized hard drive. This image would be used to copy the
now-smaller hard disk partitions onto the SSD once the
latter had been installed.
Now it was time to get serious about switching the
drives. Replacing the HDD with the SSD was quite simple,
if a little nerve wracking. A YouTube video showed how to
remove the screws from the back of the laptop in order to
access the internal components. What the video didn't
show was the "touchy" part where, once the
screws were out, one has to pull the base away from the
retaining clips. The base flexes as moderate force is
applied, accompanied by unnerving snapping sounds as the
clips release, until the base is fully detached. A few
more screws; the HDD is removed, and the SSD inserted.
With the SSD installed, and the large Windows partition
resized, you would think that restoring this smaller
image to the new SSD would be child's play - wouldn't
you? If so, think again! Macrium immediately indicates
that it is unable to perform the restore operation with
the error message "Not all partitions copied.
In our case, this isn't really because there isn't enough
free space. The error message is telling us (or trying
to!) that one of the source partitions starts at an
offset greater than the size of the destination disk.
This results from reducing the size of the Windows
partition, but leaving the data partition (drive D:), and
a "PBR Image" (recovery) partition, after the
free space that we created, and near to the end of the
disk. An article from Macrium's Knowledgebase indicates
the specific problem: "The 'Copy selected
partition' option will always attempt to place the
restored partition at exactly the same offset as
source." Clearly, if one of the partitions
would end up beyond the last sector of the SSD, this
won't be possible, and the error results.
However, the fix is very simple - if somewhat
non-intuitive. Select just the initial partitions, up to
and including the resized drive C:, and restore these to
the SSD. Next, select the drive D: partition, and
drag-and-drop this partition onto the unallocated space
on the SSD. Finally, do the same for the PBR Image
partition (I didn't try doing both of the latter
operations at once.)
So, take special note of the drag-and-drop
"trick" noted above, This can be the key to
"cloning" a large hard disk to a smaller drive
even after the larger disk has been "resized"
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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
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