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Help Me, LAPTOP: How Do I Move Windows 7 to My New SSD?

Some say the best thing you can do for yourself is get a massage or start an exercise program or go on a (gasp) diet, but if you really wanna improve your life, get an SSD. Reader Osama plans to buy a new Corsair SSD at the same time he purchases an HP dm1z laptop, but he's wondering how he'll move the Windows 7 OS and programs from the old drive to the new. He writes:

A few months ago, I read an article in LaptopMag which suggested installing an SSD to improve a PC's performance, among a list of other changes and upgrades. I have done a fair bit of research, and wish to install an SSD in the next laptop I purchase, in order to get a faster boot time and slightly better battery life.

I am about to purchase an HP dm1z (Specs: AMD E-350 Processor, 4GB RAM, 750GB 5400rpm HDD). I want to change the HDD with a Corsair 120GB SATA Solid State Drive. The HP will ship with Windows 7 installed on the 750GB hard drive (along with the other usual 'bloatware'), and I intend to swap the HDD with the SSD before any installing any additional software. The HDD will later be formatted for use as a data storage drive.

My problem (or question) is: How can I smoothly transfer the Windows 7 on the 750GB HDD to the 120GB SDD, without causing any major problems for any of the related hardware? Bearing in mind that the HP dm1z does not have a DVD drive and I do not plan on buying an external DVD drive.

Most of the articles and/or forum posts I've read so far recommend a clean install of Windows 7 on the SSD. How can that be accomplished legally, without purchasing another copy of Windows 7?

Another circulating opinion suggests shrinking of the partition containing Windows 7 and using Acronis to clone that partition on the SSD. How will it be possible to go about this approach, and how feasible will it be?

The answer to Osama's problem is really simple; he just needs the right disk imaging program and a wire to connect the SSD to the notebook while he performs the cloning. There's no need to reinstall Windows or any other program on the SSD as the software will copy every piece of data bit by bit to the new drive.

Before you begin, purchase an external enclosure that will let you connect your SSD to the notebook's USB port and use it as an external drive during the copy process. You can get a SATA to USB hard enclosure like this Vantec NexStar for under $10 on sites such as NewEgg. You'll also need to download and install cloning software on the notebook. We recommend Acronis Migrate Easy, which costs $39.99, but has a free trial version that may run long enough to do the copy for you.

We have a full tutorial with pictures and video that explains how to do the drive cloning and SSD install. Follow those instructions and you should be good to go.

If you have a question about fixing a technical problem or buying a new product, drop us a line at helpme@laptopmag.com and we’ll respond to the most interesting questions in this section.

The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.