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Migrating Windows 10 from HDD to SSD using Linux

Nowadays, with the price of SSDs getting cheaper all the time, we would often upgrade an existing laptop HDD into an SSD. And most of the time, in order to do that, it is best to migrate the existing Windows installation on the HDD.

Migrating a Windows 10 installation from HDD to SSD is usually done using Windows tools like the Samsung Data Migration Software or various forms of AOMEI Partition Assistant. I never trusted the latter application 100%, to be very honest.

Also, this time I don't have Admin access on the laptop to be migrated. At least not on Windows 10. But the BIOS (UEFI) is unlocked, so we can at least boot a Linux live ISO.

Hardware preparationโ€‹

First, we prepare these tools:

  • screwdrivers
  • an external HDD case
  • a bootable Linux live ISO
  • a bootable Windows 10 installer

:::warn If the original Windows 10 installation is 32-bit, then you have to use a 32-bit Windows 10 installer for the last step. :::


For the Linux live ISO and the Windows 10 installer, use Ventoy. Then you can have both on one single USB stick.

We remove the existing HDD, and then install the new SSD inside the laptop. This is usually done together with a RAM upgrade, because RAM is relatively cheap nowadays.

After that, install the old HDD into the external HDD case.

Do the migrationโ€‹

  1. Boot the laptop into the Linux live ISO.
  2. Plug the external HDD case into the laptop.
  3. Use lsblk to help identify the HDD and SSD device nodes.
  4. Use fdisk -l /dev/sdX to verify the identities of the HDD and SSD device nodes.
    • Let's say the HDD is /dev/sdc and the SSD is /dev/sda
  5. Copy the partition layout of the HDD and apply it onto the SSD: sfdisk -d /dev/sdc | sfdisk /dev/sda
  6. Open gparted, and copy the original partitions on the HDD onto the SSD. Usually, there will be at least 2 partitions on the original HDD, one for the EFI partition and another one for the Windows partition.
  7. Still in gparted, resize the Windows partition to fill up all the available space (if needed).
  8. Reboot into the Windows 10 installer, and then repair the Windows boot manager:
    bootrec /RebuildBcd
    bootrec /fixMbr
    bootrec /fixboot
    bootsect /nt60 SYS

Read the sfdisk man page for more options, and also consider backing up all partition tables before doing anything.

What if...?โ€‹

What if the original Windows partitions don't fit on the SSD?โ€‹

Resize your Windows partition before replacing the HDD. Make it as small as possible, and don't worry because you can always extend it using gparted later.

Alternatively, you can try to resize your Windows partition using gparted. Others have had success, but I haven't tried it yet.

What if I don't have a Linux live ISO with a desktop?โ€‹

You can still copy the partitions using dd. Then you can use parted or sfdisk or even fdisk to resize the partition, and ntfsresize to grow the filesystem.