Tag Archives: Windows 7

Migrating an existing Windows 7 installation to an SSD

With the advent of affordable and reliable high performance SSD storage, the possibility of running Windows on an SSD for lightning quick boot times and highly responsive applications is becoming more and more attractive. But the thought of reinstalling Windows from scratch is not so appealing, regardless of how good your backups are and how organised you might be. There is a regularly cited argument that in order to get the best possible performance from new storage, you should reinstall Windows. I don’t disagree with that, but we don’t live in an ideal world where we all have unlimited free time. And in the case of migrating from a fairly old desktop HDD to a brand new SSD, I’m not sure how noticeable the performance improvement will be if you take the extra time to reinstall Windows from scratch, compared to just migrating your existing installation.

Lots of SSDs are now available in a “retail kit” or “reseller kit” form, which include a bundle of helpful accessories selected by the manufacturer. These usually comprise a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adapter for desktop PC cases, a standard SATA data cable, an adapter from a 4 pin Molex plug to an SATA power connector, and some free cloning software. Clearly the manufacturers expect at least some users to migrate their old operating system across to the new drive, and have tried to make this easy. Some of them (including Samsung), also provide a USB to SATA adapter cable, allowing you to connect your new SSD to any machine with a USB port in order to migrate data to it. These kits usually only cost a little more than the barebones OEM packs, making them excellent value for money.

The two main migration software packages provided in these kits are Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost, or a rebranded manufacturer-specific derivative of them. If you are trying to migrate data from your OS disk, these software tools usually provide the ability to create a bootable CD version which allows you to gain full access to your existing OS disk by booting into a separate self-contained mini operating system (usually based on Linux). From this environment, you can clone your main OS partition directly to the new SSD.

If you elect to follow this approach and migrate your Windows 7 installation to your new SSD, what are the main steps you need to perform?

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Reclaim space by removing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Backup Files

Once you have confirmed that Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is working correctly, after using it for a few weeks without any problems, you may as well uninstall the backup files it left behind. Most people can reclaim 500MB to 1GB of free disk space by doing this. If you’re running on a small hard drive (e.g. a brand new SSD!) this may well be really useful.

Here is the easiest way to remove the backup files left over by the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 installation:

  1. Open an elevated privileges Command Prompt by right-clicking on “Command Prompt” in the Start Menu and selecting “Run as Administrator” from the context menu.
  2. Run the following command in the new Command Prompt window to remove the SP1 backup files:
dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded

After a few minutes, if the process is successful you will see the following message:

Service Pack Cleanup operation completed.
The operation completed successfully.

NOTE: After removing these backup files, you will no longer be able to uninstall Service Pack 1, so please make absolutely sure everything is working correctly before removing the backup files.

If you would prefer to use a GUI to remove the Service Pack backup files, this is now possible using the built-in “Disk Cleanup Tool”:

  1. Open the Start Menu and type “cleanup”, then click on the “Disk Cleanup” program when it appears.
  2. Select the C: drive from the list.
  3. Click on the “Clean up system files” button at the bottom of the dialog.
  4. Select the C: drive again (if prompted).
  5. Scroll down the list and ensure the “Service Pack Backup Files” checkbox is selected.
  6. Click “OK”.
  7. Accept the warning message.
  8. The files will now be deleted.