What is the boot drive?
The boot drive is the primary hard drive that your computer uses to load the operating system and boot up. When you turn on your computer, it looks for system files on the boot drive to begin the startup process.
The boot drive is often the C: drive on a Windows PC. It contains critical system files like Windows, your device drivers, the registry, and programs that run at startup. The boot drive is the most important drive in your system.
Why would I want to change the boot drive?
There are a few common reasons why you might want to change your computer’s boot drive:
Installing an SSD
One of the most popular reasons is that you installed a new solid state drive (SSD) in your computer. SSDs are much faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Switching your boot drive from an HDD to a fast SSD will significantly improve your system’s overall performance.
Old hard drive is failing
If your current boot drive is an old HDD that is starting to fail, you’ll want to switch the boot drive to a new, reliable drive before the old one dies completely. Trying to rescue files and reinstall Windows on a failing drive can be a nightmare.
Upgrading to a larger/faster drive
You may also want to change the boot drive if you are upgrading to a larger or faster HDD or SSD. Moving the system to a new higher-capacity drive allows you to keep all your data and programs on one larger volume.
Troubleshooting drive issues
Sometimes changing the boot drive can also help resolve persistent hardware-related issues that may be caused by a faulty drive.
How to change the boot order in BIOS
When you install a new drive, it won’t automatically become the boot drive. You have to change the boot order in your computer’s BIOS settings. Here’s how:
Access the BIOS
The process for entering the BIOS will vary depending on your motherboard manufacturer. Common ways include:
– Pressing F2, F10, F12, or Delete immediately after turning on the PC
– Tapping a function key during the manufacturer splash screen
– Accessing through Windows (advanced restart)
Consult your motherboard manual for the proper keystrokes.
Find the boot sequence section
Once you access the BIOS, you need to find the section related to boot sequence or boot priority. It may be under a Boot, Boot Order, or Hard Drive Priority tab.
The boot devices will be listed from highest to lowest priority. Very often CD/DVD drives are at the top.
Change the boot order
To change the boot order, move the new SSD drive to the top position in the list. This will make it the primary boot device.
Move any other drive(s) like the HDD down the list. Make sure the SSD is in the first position.
Save changes and exit BIOS
After adjusting the boot order, save your changes and exit the BIOS. When your PC restarts, it will now boot from the new SSD.
How to change the boot drive with bootrec.exe
If for some reason you can’t change the boot order in BIOS, you can use the bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment:
Boot into the recovery environment
Insert the Windows installation media and boot your PC from it. On the Install Windows screen, click Repair your computer.
Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt.
Run the bootrec.exe tool
Type the following commands at the X:\Sources> prompt:
These commands will rebuild the boot configuration data, locate Windows installations, write a new MBR, and repair the boot sector.
Restart your PC
Close Command Prompt, then select Continue to restart your PC. It should now boot from the new SSD.
How to change the boot drive usingEasyUEFI
You can also change the boot drive using an automated tool like EasyUEFI:
Download and install EasyUEFI
Grab the latest version of EasyUEFI and install it on your Windows machine. The free trial allows changing boot order.
Open the program and go to Boot tab
In EasyUEFI, click the Boot tab. Here you’ll see the current boot order of drives and devices.
Drag and drop to rearrange order
Simply drag and drop devices into the desired boot order. Move your new SSD to the top #1 position.
When done, click Exit and choose Yes to save changes. The updated boot order will now take effect.
How to change the system drive letter
When you switch the boot drive, Windows will retain the old system drive letter (usually C:) for the new SSD. If you want to change the drive letter assignment:
Go to Disk Management
Open Disk Management (right-click Start menu and select Disk Management). Locate the SSD.
Right-click SSD and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths
In the context menu, choose Change Drive Letter and Paths.
Assign a new drive letter
Click Change, select a new drive letter, and click OK. Avoid using already assigned letters.
The change will take effect after restarting your PC. The SSD will now have the new drive letter.
How to do a clean install of Windows on the new SSD
For best performance, it’s recommended to do a fresh Windows installation on your new SSD boot drive:
Backup data and install SSD
First backup all important data to another drive or external storage. Then install the blank SSD in your computer.
Boot from Windows installer media
Connect the Windows installation USB or DVD. Boot your PC from it.
Delete existing partitions
When prompted, delete any existing partitions on the SSD to start with unallocated space.
Create new partitions
Create a new primary partition and format it with NTFS. This will be your new C: drive.
Perform a clean install
You can now do a clean install of Windows on the empty SSD. Follow the on-screen directions.
Install drivers and restore data
Once Windows is setup, install drivers as needed. Restore your files and programs.
How to clone HDD to SSD as boot drive
Rather than clean installing Windows on the SSD, you can clone your existing C: drive HDD to the new SSD:
Use drive cloning software
Use a dedicated tool like Macrium Reflect, Clonezilla, EaseUS Todo Backup, or AOMEI Backupper. These allow cloning one drive to another.
Select source and destination
Connect both the HDD and SSD. In the cloning software, pick the HDD as the source drive and SSD as destination.
Clone HDD to SSD
Follow the on-screen directions to perform the cloning operation. All data from the HDD will be copied to the SSD.
Swap hard drives
Shut down your PC. Physically replace the HDD with the SSD by swapping SATA cables. The SSD is now the boot drive.
Boot from SSD
When you turn on your PC, it will now boot up from the cloned SSD. Verify the boot order in BIOS if needed.
Potential issues changing boot drive
Here are some common issues you may encounter when changing the Windows boot drive:
Blue screen errors
You may get a blue screen / stop code when booting from the new drive. Use safe mode and run sfc and DISM scans to check for system file corruption.
If the system won’t boot properly from the new SSD, check that the drive is detected in BIOS. Confirm the boot order is correct with SSD first.
Existing improper drivers may cause conflicts with the new drive. Use safe mode to uninstall problematic drivers and reinstall the latest versions.
Cloning the old drive can carry over corrupted windows files that cause crashing or freezing. Clean installing Windows on the SSD is best.
You may need to reactivate Windows if the hardware change is substantial. Call Microsoft support if activation fails on the new drive.
Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some common questions about changing the Windows boot drive:
Does moving boot drive delete programs?
No, changing the boot drive won’t delete apps and programs as long as you clone the old drive or do a clean install keeping the old drive as extra storage.
Is a new Windows license required?
Usually not. The digital license associates with your Microsoft account. Just be sure to reactivate Windows after the hardware change.
Can C: become D: drive after changing boot drive?
Yes, the old C: drive will become a different letter like D: after changing the boot drive. You can change the drive letters in Disk Management.
Is data kept when changing boot drive?
Yes, data remains intact on the old drive when you clone it or install the new boot drive keeping the old as extra storage. Back up data as a precaution.
Can you change boot drive without reinstalling Windows?
Yes, by cloning the old drive or swapping in the new drive and correcting the boot order. Reinstalling Windows on the new drive is recommended though.
Changing the boot drive is straightforward once you know the steps. With a new fast SSD installed, make sure to change the boot order in BIOS so the SSD becomes the first boot device. You can optionally do a clean Windows install or clone the old drive. Check for issues like driver conflicts or system instability, and troubleshoot problems like blue screens or activation errors. With a few simple steps, you can enjoy the speed boost of booting from your shiny new SSD.