How to clone a Windows 11 system disk for free
This guide walks you through the steps of cloning the system disk (or any other disk) of a Windows 11 PC for free. The method should work on devices running previous versions of Windows as well.
I bought a new Windows 11 PC this week for Office work and noticed that the Solid State Drive was slowing things down. It had a good amount of space, 512 Gigabytes, but as soon as write processes would start, it would slow down things on the entire system considerably.
I had a good 256 Gigabyte Solid State Drive still lying around from an old PC and decided to replace the slow SSD of the new PC with the fast SSD of the old. Cloning copies all data from one disk to another. Since I did not want to reinstall Windows or apps, I decided to clone the disk as this would speed things up significantly.
While there are many guides on cloning available on the Internet, most appear to advertise paid products. This guide uses a free disk backup software, Macrium Reflect Free to be precise, to clone the system partition of the slow SSD to the fast SSD.
First thing you need to do is download Macrium Reflect Free. You can do so from the developer website, but need to supply an email address to do so. You may also download the software from third-party sites such as Softonic.
Note: you may want to decrypt an encrypted partition before you start the process, as the encryption software may not play nicely because of the changed disk.
Installation should not pose any issues. One thing that you need to do is connect both hard drives to the PC as you will copy data from the running system disk to the new disk.
Macrium Reflect Free displays all disks and their partitions in its interface. Select "clone this disk", which you find under the main system disk in the interface.
The clone window opens and the main disk is displayed at the top as the source disk. Activate "select a disk to clone" to pick the destination drive.
Use the "delete partition" action to remove any existing partition from the second disk. Since you want to copy the system disk, you need to make sure that the entire disk is free.
Once done, select the copy partitions button and then "exact partition offset and length" from the selection menu.
You should see an exact copy of the disk structure after the selection. Note that you need sufficient space on the new disk so that all data that is on the source disk can be copied. The two disks do not need the same amount of space, but there needs to be enough free space available.
Select next to proceed and then next again to skip the scheduling part. Since this is a one-time operation, there is no need to schedule the task so that it can be executed again in the future.
Macrium Reflect Free displays an overview on the final screen. There you find information about the cloning and each of the partitions that the backup app will copy in the process to the new drive.
Select the finish button to complete the configuration. Macrium Reflect Free displays a "what do you want to do now" prompt next. Just select "ok" on the screen to start the cloning right away. You may also select cancel to postpone it.
The program warns you that all data on the target disk will be overwritten in the process. You should close all other programs now and save all work before you continue.
You get another option to cancel the process. Check the "All target volume data will be overwritten. Confirm to proceed" box and select continue to start the process.
The length of the process depends on a number of factors, such as the performance of the source and destination drive, and the amount of data that needs to be copied.
You get a clone completed message in the end if everything processed without major issues.
Once done, all that is left is to power down the Windows PC, remove the old disk and replace it with the new. The PC should boot from that disk and Windows 11 should start as it has before if everything worked out well.
Now You: have you cloned disks before? How did you do it?Advertisement