Consumer SSDs (solid state drives) have been transformative for the PC world. Their massively smaller size, temperatures, and power requirements have made ultra-thin laptops possible, nearly double battery life, massively increase drop resistance, and their speed has increased performance of disk operations/booting by 10x or more.
The only down side is that they’re fairly limited in capacity. While platter-based drives are selling consumer-priced 8-10 terabyte drives, your average consumer-level SSD is a paltry 512GB for the same price. As prices drop and one upgrades their SSD, one is faced with a terrible upgrade procedure. Upgrading your SSD often means backing up your data, making a windows re-install usb, re-installing your OS, and restoring all your data and re-installing your apps. Annoying to say the least.
It would be great if one could just copy the current image to a new drive, expand the partitions, and just swap drives – but that doesn’t seem possible…or does it.
Equipment you’ll need:
First you need to know what kind of SSD your system has. Is it SATA, PCIe, M.2, U.2, mSATA, or SATA Express, or a soldered-on drive? There is a lot of confusion here, because there is the interface type (SATA, NVMe, PCIe) but there is also the plug type (SATA, M.2, etc). Often you will find guides that interchange or equate them in confusing ways.
Once you have determined your drive type, you need to buy an appropriate drive-to-USB adapter.
Hardware you’ll need
Get one of the following that matches your system configuration:
- SATA to USB – use this if you have a standard 2.5″ form factor SATA SSD or SATA hard drive. I have had good luck with the Sabrent models.
- M.2 NVMe to USB – these are also sometimes called M-keyed M.2. I’ve had good luck with this off-brand one.
- XT-XINTE NVMe PCIE USB3.1 HDD Enclosure M.2 to USB Type C 3.1 M Key SSD Hard Disk Drive – $35.99
- M.2 SATA to USB – also sometimes called B keyed, or M+B keyed M.2. I have not tried one of these, but this is what you’re looking for:
- mini-SATA/mSATA to USB – I have not tried this card, but this is what you’re looking for:
Software you’ll need:
- EaseUS Todo Backup Home – the free trial version is more than enough
- DiscGenius – used to wipe any old SSD (if you want to erase your drive and sell it)
- Make a backup. No, seriously. You should make a full backup of your system and all those important photos and documents. Go buy an external hard drive and download a free backup program, or buy a cloud storage solution right now, and back up your system. What you’re about to undertake could result in a dead drive if something goes really wrong (static discharge, select wrong source/dest drive, etc). Besides, you have already been doing backups of all your stuff already – right. RIGHT?
- Plug in your new SSD/M.2 drive into your USB adapter and plug it into the USB port. To be safe, unplug ALL unnecissary drives – including USB, external backup drives, etc. The less confusion the better.
- The procedure I’m going to use is more fully outlined here. And more discussion here.
- Start up EaseUS Backup Home (free version).
- Click on the ‘Clone’ operation in the lower left sidebar.
- Select your SOURCE drive. Proceed to the next step.
- Select your DESTINATION drive. Make SURE this drive is your brand new, empty drive.
- When you click next here, you’ll see the partition layout of the source and destination drives. You’ll notice there is a tiny partition at the start of the drive – this is the boot partition and doesn’t need to be touched. The next, largest bar will be the system drive. Many laptops will have a 3rd, very tiny partition as a backup partition.
- While not immediately clear, you can actually click, move, and resize these partitions! If you can expand the second/larger partition to the end of the space, do so. If you cannot, you need to carefully MOVE (not resize) the 3rd/recovery partition to the end of the drive. Then you can resize the larger middle partition until there is no more free space between the tiny first and tiny 3rd partitions.
- Click proceed to image the source drive to the new destination drive. This could easily take 30-90 minutes or longer.
- Once you are done, shut down the program and power down the system.
- Take your new cloned disk out of the USB adapter.
- Physically swap the old drive in your laptop/PC with the newer drive. Unplug the system/disconnect internal batteries to avoid accidental poweron while doing this.
- Plug back in and boot. If you did everything correctly, you should be able to power up with the new drive and boot right back up like nothing changed. When you check the free drive space, you should notice all that new capacity!
Wiping and selling
If you wish to sell your old drive, then I recommend using the program DiscGenius to wipe it before selling it. Simply deleting the partitions doesn’t actually wipe the data – and it can all be read by crafty people. Don’t do this wipe of the old drive until you’ve used your new SSD for at least a week to make sure it won’t prematurely fail.
- Take the old, smaller drive you wish to wipe+sell and plug it into the USB adapter you used above. Plug this into your PC.
- Start up DiscGenius
- Delete all the partitions on the old drive. Make SURE you are picking the correct, old drive and not your current boot or a spare drive that’s plugged in.
- Right click on the now empty drive, and select ‘Erase Sectors’. Fill the sectors with random data and then click proceed. This will overwrite EVERYTHING on that drive with junk data. It will take around an hour or two. Once you’ve done this, nothing can be recovered from the drive. Safely unmount the drive, shut the program down, and unplug the drive.
- You can now sell or use the drive for some other purpose.