Upgrading to a Larger Hard Disk

After increasing memory, upgrading to a fast SSD is the best way to improve system performance. The problem is, it’s kind of hard to upgrade a disk. I’ll get into two common ways, imaging and reinstallation, and a hack using RAID 1 if you have Windows Pro.

Windows 10 Home: Disk Imaging

Disk imaging preserves the existing installation, including all the software and data, but that also means all the junk you installed is on there. So, it’s a mixed bag.

This page lists numerous different disk imaging tools, but I stick with Clonezilla.

Clonezilla can boot off a CD, and will make a disk-to-disk clone to an external drive. This will take hours.

If you value your time, you can use a tool that uses the Windows Volume Shadow Service (VSS), to clone a disk. This way, you can keep using your computer during the cloning.

I don’t know many of these programs, but have used Acronis and Easus. They work. Cloning a disk isn’t particularly intricate.

Windows 10 Home: Reinstallation

Reinstallation will give you a clean system, but it’ll also take a long time to bring your system back to functionality. I used to reinstall biannually, and it would take three days for all the software to be installed, and the updated.

The system would be usable in a few hours, but it would take days for all the little work apps to be installed.

If you want to undertake this, you must first get software to create reboot/reinstallation media.


You should also get a USB thumb drive if you don’t have one handy. Downloading and creating the media take a long time.

Next, you should back up your files to an external disk. This can take a long time.

Shut down and install the new disk into the computer, and then boot with the reinstallation media. Follow the instructions, and reinstall the OS. Use the external backup to recover files.

Windows 7 Pro: Upgrading to a Larger Hard Disk, using Windows Software RAID 1 Mirroring

If you want to keep using your system, RAID 1 is a way to upgrade with the least interruption. There will be several interruptions, as hardware is installed, and reboots are performed, but each one can be less than half an hour. In the meantime, you have a fully functional computer.

Here’s how to upgrade to a larger disk, using mirroring to copy the data over. I’m going to assume you want to go from a single disk to two larger disks: a spare disk is cheaper than dealing with hours of disk recovery in the event of a crash, no matter how rare crashes are.

Start by making a full backup of your disk to an external drive.

Install a new internal disk and create a RAID, using the original disk and new disk, making a mirror onto this new disk.

Then, remove the boot disk, and see if it’ll boot off the second disk (aka, second plex). If that works, great. Reboot.

You’ve now upgraded to a bigger disk.

Adding a Second Large Disk to Create a RAID Volume

As nice as a larger disk is, it’s better if you operate your computer with RAID.

Unfortunately, you cannot extend a RAID partition. You can only extend a single disk partition. This section will explain how to clone your data using RAID, then break the set, extend the partition, and rebuild the set.

First, add the second new disk. Go into Disk Management. It’ll ask to initialize the new disk – choose whatever works, probably MBR.

Then, delete the missing volume (the disk you removed). It’ll still show up in Disk Managment, but that’s just the data about the missing disk. Deleting it breaks the mirror.

Then, re-establish a new mirror. I don’t think this is strictly necessary, but it’ll only take an hour or two, and it’ll create another copy of your data. (When this is done, you’ll have three copies of your data.)

Next, break the set by unplugging the second disk (aka, Disk 1, or whatever is on the second SATA port). Boot, and then go into Disk Management and remove the missing disk from the list.

Now, that disk is no longer in a mirror, so you can extend the partition. Extend it in Disk Manager.

Shut down. Plug the second disk back in, and then boot.

Back in Disk Management, you can now see the new disk, and it won’t be working (the partition tables differ, so you can’t RAID). Reactivate it so it’s empty, and then make a mirror for the C: volume. (When you reactivate, don’t do anything to restore the data from it.)

Finally, go into the Computer -> Properties -> Advanced Settings -> Startup and Recovery… and select the second-to-last plex to boot. (The ones before it were created each time you mirrored the disk.)

There you go. It’s a lot of steps, but you can use the computer between reboots. So the impact is only a half hour to an hour, not the half-day that a USB disk backup and restore would take.

Removing the nonfunctional plexes

Your mirrored disks are the last two plexes on the boot loader’s menu. You can remove the invalid entries with the “BCDEdit” too. You run a shell as administrator, and type “bcdedit” to get a list of the boot options. Then enter a command like this, using the appropriate identifier. This is in PowerShell:

bcdedit /delete "{832abe23-40f2-11e0-b869-89f15cc42e86}"

The quotes protect the braces from interpretation.

If you’re uptight about the name of the plex, you can rename it like this:

bcdedit /set description "Windows 7"

Run “bcdedit /? set” for help on the set command.