If you’re tired of waiting for your computer to boot up or your programs to load, then you want a solid-state drive (SSD) in your machine. If you’ve used a laptop with an SSD, you know how quickly Windows can boot when it’s not slowed down by disk access. Now that SSDs are more affordable than ever, you should consider getting one for your desktop machine—but you may not look forward to the task of transferring Windows from your current spinning-platter hard drive to an SSD. That’s the problem that Paragon Migrate OS to SSD is designed to solve. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s vastly better than anything else I’ve found, and it may be exactly what you need to get an SSD into your system.
Why a Windows SSD?
One barrier to switching to an SSD is that you’ve probably got more data on your current platter-based hard drive than can fit on an affordable SSD. I’ve a 1 TB hard drive in my desktop, more than two-thirds filled, and I don’t want to spend more than $600 to get an SSD the same size. But I can afford an 80GB SSD, and it makes sense to switch my Windows system to an SSD while leaving the rest of my data on the old hard disk while I wait for prices of large SSDs to drop to the point where I can afford them.
Here’s where Migrate OS to SSD comes in. It uses a wizard-style interface to copy a partition or some of a partition from your existing hard disk to a new SSD, with an option to copy just the operating system and user data so that you can boot from the new SSD and access your other files on your old existing drive. You’ll need to know a bit about how Windows organizes data to make this work correctly, but you can’t do any damage while trying, so if anything fails to work the first time, just try again, changing the settings until it does.
Migrating with Paragon
To make migration work, you’re going to write down the model number of your new SSD so that you can be absolutely certain that you’re copying to the right disk. Then turn off your machine, open its case, find a drive bay for your new SSD, and attach the drive to a SATA data cable and power cable. Almost any SSD that you might buy will come with the needed cables and mounting hardware. And make sure your machine has spare SATA connectors on the motherboard; some small-format desktop boxes don’t have room to install an SSD in addition to the existing hard drive.
After you’ve closed up your machine, start it up, and run the Migrate OS to SSD app. The app first displays a list of Windows operating systems on your disk. Normally you’ll have just one. Because of my reviewing work I have four different Windows versions on separate partitions, but the Migrate OS to SSD app wasn’t fazed by this. You select the operating system you want to copy to an SSD, then proceed to a screen where you select the SSD you want to copy to. You probably won’t get this wrong, but consult the model number you wrote down in order to be sure you’ve chosen the right one.
Files and Folders
If the app tells you that you’re ready to copy files, go ahead, because you’ve got enough room on the SSD for all the files on your existing disk. More likely, the app will tell you that you don’t have enough room for all your files, and that should copy only the OS itself. Click on a link that lets you select which files to copy, and uncheck everything that you can leave on the existing disk. You’ll need to check at least the Windows folder and the Users folder (and the Documents and Settings folder if you see one), but you can uncheck folders like Pictures and Music that probably contain more data than can fit on the SSD. You should probably leave the Program Files folder checked (though you can uncheck subfolders that contain programs you don’t want).
When you’ve whittled down the list of folders to the point where they’ll fit on your SSD, the program will let you proceed to copy them. This process takes around twenty minutes or more, and when you’re through, your existing disk is unchanged, but your SSD should be bootable. The last screen in the wizard tells how to change your BIOS settings so that the new disk will boot instead of the old one. If you’re not experienced with BIOS settings, you’ll need to write down the essentials because Paragon, annoyingly, doesn’t let you print out the page.
Paragon’s instructions for changing the BIOS may or may not match your system’s actual BIOS, but they’ll point you in the right direction. When you’ve made the change, Windows will boot from your SSD a lot more quickly than it did before. Your old disk will still be accessible, but with a different drive letter from the one it had before, so you may need to do some exploring in Windows Explorer to find the data you want.
For most users, Paragon’s app gets the job done more quickly and cleanly than anything else. For advanced users, however, it may fall short. For example, if the OS that you want to migrate to an SSD is not on your boot partition—which is likely to be the case in a dual-boot system—then you’ll need to perform some additional steps to make the SSD bootable, and those steps require you to create a bootable USB drive using a separate download from Paragon. This isn’t a task for beginners, but beginners don’t have dual-boot systems, so it’s an annoyance, not a show-stopper. But there’s no good reason why Paragon couldn’t have built this ability into the main app itself.
Worth the Effort
Paragon Migrate OS to SSD isn’t as polished or complete as it should be, but it’s the only tool I know that makes it relatively easy for non-experts to migrate their operating system to an SSD while still using a traditional hard disk in the same system. The speed bonus that you get from an SSD is worth the effort, and this app reduces the effort to something close to the absolute minimum. It could be better, but it’s the still the best tool of its kind.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc