How do I clone my hard drive to SSD Windows 11 for free?

Upgrading from a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) to a solid state drive (SSD) is one of the best ways to significantly improve your Windows 11 computer’s performance. SSDs have much faster read/write speeds compared to HDDs which makes them perfect for installing operating systems and running programs.

However, reinstalling Windows 11 and all your programs on the new SSD can be time consuming and result in data loss if files aren’t properly backed up. To avoid this, cloning your HDD to the SSD allows you to seamlessly migrate everything over including the OS, applications, settings, and personal files. This preserves the exact contents of your original drive.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the steps to safely clone your HDD to an SSD on Windows 11 using free software.


Before cloning your hard drive, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary hardware and accessories. Here are the main items you’ll need:

Compatible SSD – Make sure the SSD you plan to clone to is compatible with Windows 11. Most modern SSDs from brands like Samsung, Crucial, WD, etc. will work. You can use a compatibility checker to verify the SSD will work with Windows 11.

SATA Cables – You’ll need SATA data and power cables to connect the SSD inside your computer or external enclosure. Make sure you have spare SATA ports on your motherboard and spare power connectors from your PSU.

External Enclosure (if needed) – If cloning from an old HDD to a new SSD for your system drive, you may need an external enclosure to connect the new SSD via USB before swapping into your computer.

Back Up Data

Before cloning your hard drive, it is crucial to back up your files and data. A full backup creates a copy of everything on your hard drive so you have a restore point if anything goes wrong during the cloning process. There are a few options for backing up your data:

Use the in-built Windows File History tool to back up files to an external drive. File History continuously saves copies of your files as they change over time. Enable this feature in Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Plug in an external USB hard drive and it will automatically start backing up your files.

Use backup software like Macrium Reflect to create a full system image backup. This makes an exact copy of your entire hard drive that can be restored if needed. Connect an external hard drive then select “Create Backup” in Macrium Reflect.

Manually copy important files to an external drive. Navigate to key folders like Documents, Pictures, Videos and copy them to a removable USB flash drive or external hard disk. Though this doesn’t backup your full system, it saves your personal files.

Backing up beforehand avoids data loss issues if anything goes wrong when cloning. Having a redundant copy of your files and system gives you a restore point to revert back to.

Create Bootable USB

The first step is to create a bootable USB drive that we can use to install Windows 11 on the SSD. To do this, we’ll use the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.

The Windows 11 Media Creation Tool allows you to easily create a bootable USB flash drive that can be used to install Windows 11 on your PC (How to Use the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool). The tool downloads the latest version of Windows 11 and creates the bootable installation media for you.

To use the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool:

  1. Go to the Windows 11 download page and select “Download tool now” under Create Windows 11 installation media.
  2. Run the Media Creation Tool once it finishes downloading.
  3. Select “Create installation media for another PC” and click Next.
  4. Select “USB flash drive” as the installation target and click Next.
  5. Plug in a blank USB flash drive with at least 8GB of space.
  6. The tool will download Windows 11 and create the bootable installation drive for you.

Once complete, you’ll have a bootable Windows 11 USB flash drive that can be used to install Windows 11 on your PC. Be sure to label it so you know it’s the installer drive.

Connect Drives

Before cloning your HDD to the new SSD, you’ll need to connect both drives to your computer. The HDD is likely already installed internally, but you’ll need to connect the new SSD. There are a few options for connecting the SSD:

– Install the SSD internally by mounting it in a drive bay and connecting the SATA cable and power cable. This will provide the fastest transfer speeds during cloning as both drives are connected directly to the motherboard via SATA. Make sure to refer to your computer manual or SSD documentation for exact installation instructions.

– Use an external SSD enclosure to connect the new SSD via USB. USB 3.0 or later will provide fast enough transfer speeds for cloning. Connect the SSD to the enclosure, then plug it into your computer via USB.

– Use a SATA to USB adapter to connect the new SSD. This also allows connecting via USB similar to the external enclosure method.

Once both the HDD and SSD are connected to your computer properly, you can proceed with cloning the drive. Make sure you know which drive is which before cloning to avoid deleting data from the wrong drive.

Launch Cloning Software

The most common and recommended option for cloning a hard drive in Windows 11 is to use a dedicated third-party cloning software. Windows 11 does not have a built-in cloning utility. Using a specialized cloning software provides a streamlined process with helpful wizards and optimization for cloning drives.

Some of the top third-party SSD cloning software options include:

  • EaseUS Todo Backup Free – A popular free cloning software with support for cloning HDD to SSD. Cited source:
  • Macrium Reflect Free – Provides sector-level cloning and SSD optimization options. Good for beginners.
  • Clonezilla – Open source disk imaging and cloning tool. Advanced options available.

These third-party softwares offer cloning-specific features like SSD alignment, partition resizing, boot optimization, and incremental backups. Using them streamlines the cloning process without needing to use command line tools.

Clone HDD to SSD

This is the main step where you will clone all the data from your old HDD to the new SSD. Here are the key things to do in this step:

Select the source drive (HDD) and destination drive (SSD) in the cloning software. Make sure you select the correct drives to avoid deleting data from the wrong drive.

Choose the cloning options in the software. For example, most cloning software will give you options like sector-by-sector cloning, intelligent cloning, or file cloning. Sector-by-sector cloning makes an exact clone, while intelligent cloning copies only used sectors. File cloning just copies files/folders over.

Double check that the source and destination are correct before starting the clone. The cloning process can take from several minutes to a couple hours depending on drive size.

Some cloning software like EaseUS Disk Copy also have options to optimize the SSD by aligning partitions and enabling TRIM.

Swap Hard Drives

Once the clone process is complete, you will need to physically swap out the hard drives by disconnecting the old HDD and connecting the new SSD. This involves opening up your computer case and accessing the drive bays where the HDD and SSD are installed.

First, disconnect the power and data cables from the HDD. Refer to your computer manual if you need guidance on how to access the drive bays and identify the correct cables. Be gentle when disconnecting the cables to avoid any damage.

Next, slide the HDD out from its drive bay. Most HDDs are installed into either 3.5″ or 2.5” drive bays with screws on the sides or brackets that need to be removed. Again, consult your computer manual if you are unsure of how to remove the HDD.

Once the HDD is removed, slide the SSD into the same drive bay in the same orientation as the HDD. Reconnect the power and data cables to the SSD. Make sure the connections are snug but do not over tighten them.

After double checking that the SSD is correctly installed and connected, you can close up the computer case. You are now ready to boot from the SSD rather than the old HDD.

Boot from SSD

Once the cloning process is complete, you will need to swap out the old HDD for the new SSD inside your computer. Be sure to properly disconnect the HDD and connect the SSD in the drive bay. Then reboot your computer.

At this point, your computer should automatically boot from the SSD since it now contains a bootable copy of Windows. However, if it still tries to boot from the old HDD, you may need to change the boot order in your system’s BIOS.

Enter your computer’s BIOS setup, typically by pressing a key like Delete, F2, or F12 during bootup. Navigate to the “Boot” section and reorder the devices so the SSD is listed first in the boot order. Save changes and reboot (1). This will force your system to boot from the SSD instead of the old HDD.

Once you successfully boot from the SSD, you should see your Windows desktop and programs load normally. The OS and applications were cloned over so they will function the same. You now have your Windows system running on the faster SSD.

Restore Files/Settings

After installing Windows 11 on your SSD, you’ll likely need to restore your files, settings, and applications. Here are some tips for restoring your data:

Reinstall apps – Many apps will need to be reinstalled after a clean Windows install. Re-download apps from the Microsoft Store or original developer sites. For software with license keys, you can often retrieve keys from your account for easy reactivation.

Restore user profiles – Your user folders like Documents, Pictures, Downloads, etc. can be restored from your backup external drive. Connect the drive, navigate to your user profile folder, and copy the folders back to the corresponding location on your SSD C: drive. Personalization settings like desktop background can be imported from the Windows.old folder on the old HDD if still available.

You can also use backup software like Macrium Reflect [1] to restore images of entire drives or partitions during Windows installation. This can restore your full system state including files, apps, and settings.

If you don’t have backups, try file recovery software like Recuva [2] to scan the old drive and recover deleted files after reinstalling Windows.