How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 1
Introduction
 
By now most of us will be fully aware of the benefits that using a Solid State Disk in place of a traditional mechanical Hard Disks brings. Improved performance, diminished noise levels, cooler operation and lower power consumption. This not only makes the SSD a worthwhile upgrade for the desktop PC as we've already waxed several times here on OC3D before, but as almost all SSD's are based on the 2.5" form factor it also makes them even more suited for use in portable Notebooks and Netbooks. In fact, I'd probably go as far as to say that users on the road are likely to see the greatest benefits out of any user group, with SSD's being light years ahead in performance compared to the clunky 5400RPM drives while also offering increased battery life. In short, you can work faster for longer.
 
But unless you fancy loosing all of your data there really is very little information on how to successfully move all of your files and operating system to a shiny new SSD. Today, after almost a week of downloading every single tool available on the internet I'm going to take you through the process step-by-step using only FREE software and cheap + readily available tools. 
 
So what a better place to start than the shopping list....
 
 
The Shopping List
 
OCZ Agility 120GBFirst and foremost you're going to need an SSD! There's literally hundreds out there to choose from these days with prices ranging from just over £100 to well over £500 depending on the size and performance you are looking for. Today I'm going to be using the recently released OCZ Agility 120GB SSD which is available for around £250 depending on the retailer. Obviously you'll need to make sure that your notebook is capable of accepting an SSD drive, but in most cases so long as the interface of your existing hard disk is SATA or SATA-II it will work.
 
Next up you're going to be needing an SATA-to-USB converter. As very few Notebooks support more than one Hard Disk, this will be used for plugging your new SSD drive into a spare USB port on your Notebook allowing you to access both your old hard disk and the new SSD at the same time. These little gadgets are generally very cheap(~ £5.00) on places such as eBay and the only decision you really need to make is if you just want the barebone device that will just get the job done, or if you'd also like to turn your old Hard Disk into a portable disk drive - much like a high capacity USB memory stick. Either way hop along to your localized eBay and do a search for "SATA to USB". Devices that look like this or this will do the job.
 
Now we come to the all important software. It is crucial to remember that these choices are FREE/GPL software and therefore they may not look the prettiest or be the easiest to use, but with the instructions over the next page, they'll get the job done.
 
SystemRescueCD is first on the list. This bootable CD contains way, way more tools that we'll ever need, but it is one of few freely available boot CDs that uses a totally graphical user interface. In fact the interface is actually a trimmed down version of Gentoo Linux and as such the disk has a whole host of useful software installed along with a copy of Firefox that you can use to access the internet! We're going to be using this tool for it's partition resizing functionality, but you only need to download this CD if the size of your SSD is smaller than the size of your original hard disk (for example your SSD is 64GB but your notebook currently has a 200GB disk installed). Now that we've cleared that up, here's a download link to the CD ISO.
 
CloneZilla is the second utility and as suggested by the name, its only purpose in life is to clone Hard Disks. Luckily for us CloneZilla is also based on Linux and therefore has built-in support for a massive range of  SATA and USB controllers, minimising our chances of running into any "Device Not Found" issues. Additionally CloneZilla also supports just about every major filesystem known to man, with the most interesting to us being NTFS (For XP/Vista/Win 7) and HFS+ if you happen to own a Mac. You can grab the CD ISO here.
 
The Tools
 
 
So, just to recap. You'll need:
• An SSD of your choosing. We're going to be using the OCZ Agility today.
• An SATA-to-USB converter. Either just the cables or a full 'caddy'. I'll be using the latter.
• Two blank CD's (or DVD's) and a CD Writer!
• A copy of the SystemRescueCD ISO. Only if your SSD drive is smaller in capacity than your existing Hard Disk.
• A copy of the CloneZilla Live ISO.
 
 
 
With all of this checked off the list let's move on to the next page where I'll briefly discuss burning the ISO files to your CD's and installing your SSD drive in its converter.


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 2
Burning the ISO files to your CD's
 
Now that you've downloaded the CloneZilla (and possibly SystemRescueCD) ISO's it's time to burn them to the CD's. There are literally hundreds of tools capable of performing the task, and if you are fancy enough to be running Windows 7 or Mac OS X you already have the necessary tools at your fingertips without having to download any additional software. With this in mind I'm only going to briefly cover a few of the more popular ones as anything else would be a tad beyond the scope of this article, so let's get cracking...
 
Windows 7 Disc Image Burner
This one couldn't be simpler. Just locate one of the ISO files you downloaded, click on it and you will be presented with the following box:
 
Win 7 Burn
 
Press the "Burn" button and off you go.
 
Mac OS X Disk Utility
This is located in the Applications>System Tools folder in Finder. Once again a pretty simple affair. Just click the "Burn" button at the top of the window, select the ISO file that you downloaded and hit the "Burn" button.
 
Disk Utility 1 Disk Utility 2
 
An options box will appear asking you what speed to burn the CD along with other options to Verify/Eject the CD after burning is complete. There's really no reason to deviate from the default options, so just hit the "Burn" button once more and go make a cup of coffee.
 
Nero Burning ROM
Nero is the Granddaddy of the burning scene and comes free with just about ever retail packaged CD/DVD Writer on the market. Thankfully it's also a piece of cake to burn ISO's with. Simply open up Nero (that's Nero Burning ROM - and not any other of its pre-packaged junk), Click on "Recorder" at the top of the screen and finally click "Burn Image".
 
Nero Nero
 
Once again you'll be asked where the ISO file is saved on your PC. SImply give it the path, go along with all the default "Burn Compilation" options on the following screen and press the "Burn" option.  There's a pattern emerging here....
 
Free ISO Burner
Is exactly what it says on the tin - A free ISO burner for Windows XP, 2003 and Vista. It's small, doesn't need installing and operates in pretty much the same way as the Windows 7 Burner. Browse for the file you want, select the write speed and hit the "Burn" button. Simples eh?
 
Free Asshole Burner
 
Now that you've hopefully managed to burn the utilities to a CD/DVD without to many coasters let's move to to the next page where we prep the SSD for it's brain transplant.


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 3
Prepping the SSD
 
Now that we've got all of the tools to do the job, the first step is to connect the SSD drive to the SATA-USB converter. This is an extremely simple process and undoubtedly one you will have already done without my help. The images below show the SATA-USB caddy I picked for the task which simply pulls apart to reveal the circuit board within. The connectors on the SSD drive then need to be lined up with those on the circuit board and pushed into position.
 
SSD Caddy OCZ Agility SSD Caddy
 
Caddy Installed SSD Caddy Installed
 
Once you've successfully married the two it's good practice to place the drive back inside the caddy enclosure to prevent any accidental damage to the circuit board or SSD. Depending on the caddy you purchased you may have more than one style of connector on the back of the caddy. Be sure to connect the USB version to your notebook as many caddies feature eSATA connectors which may not be detected by the software we're using over on the next pages.
 
SSD Caddy Plugged Into Dell Clonezilla DVD 
 
With any luck everything should work perfectly. However if you want to double check that your SSD is installed in the caddy correctly, it is a good idea to boot your Notebook into Windows / OS X one last time before we begin the cloning process. For Windows users you should receive a 'bubble' in the notification area at the bottom-right of the screen informing you that new hardware has been detected/installed successfully. OS X users will more than likely just see a new Hard Disk icon appear on their desktop labelled as "NO NAME".


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 4
Resize PartitionResizing your existing partition
 
Now here's the tricky part. In order to perform a direct disk-to-disk image of your existing data CloneZilla requires the source disk (the one with all of your data on it) to be smaller than or equal to the size of the destination disk (your new SSD). As you will have undoubtedly already found out by the large hole in your wallet, the difference in cost between a 250GB conventional hard disk and a 250GB SSD is astronomical and therefore the chances are that your SSD will be smaller than your existing hard disk. If this is not the case, move on to the next page. Otherwise stick with me right here and we'll go through the stages of resizing your existing hard disk to match the SSD.
 
However, before we go any further YOU MUST MAKE A BACKUP OF ALL IMPORTANT DATA. Resizing a partition does not have a 100% success rate and there is a small chance that you could loose data. Neither myself or Overclock3D can be held responsible for this, so BACKUP, BACK UP, BACK-UP!!!
 
The first step is of course to insert the SystemRescueCD that you burned back on Page 2. You will need to do this with your Notebook switched off, so that we can boot directly from the CD when you power it back on. The chances are that your Notebook / Macbook won't automatically boot directly from the CD and will instead try to boot from the hard disk. To force your system to boot from the CD you will more than likely need to press a 'Function' key while the manufacturer logo is on the screen. Below is a list of known boot menu keys which may work with your Notebook:
 
Dell: F12
Apple: ALT
Acer: F2
Toshiba: c
HP: ESC
 
This is obviously by no means a comprehensive list and you may need to refer to your notebook Instruction Manual if your manufacturer isn't listed above, or the listed key does not work. However, once you've managed to get your system to boot from the CD you will be presented with the SystemRescueCD screen shown below:
 
Boot Menu SystemRescueCD Main Screen
 
After a few seconds the CD will begin to boot and detect your hardware. You may be asked to select your language and keyboard layout, but providing you are happy to use a US based setup (also fine for UK) the CD will automatically select these as the default settings should you not attempt to select any alternative.
 
BASH Desktop Selection
 
Things will appear to grind to a halt when the CD has finished booting and you are left with a root@systemrescuecd /root % command prompt. To get things moving again all you need to do is enter the word 'wizard' and press enter to display the desktop environment list shown in the image above-right. Most Notebooks should work fine with the default Xorg-run option, whereas users of MacBooks may find that they need to use Xvesa-run option in order to boot into the desktop environment. Of course, if neither of these work, feel free to try the other options. There really is no right or wrong selection on this screen.
 
Desktop Environment GParted
 
Once inside the Gnome-like desktop you will want to head straight for the utility called GParted. This is located under System menu which can be displayed by clicking on the CD-like icon at the bottom-left of the screen. Users of MacBook's may find that their mouse does not work at this stage and therefore the only option is to use the keyboard. To navigate using only the keyboard you will need to use CTRL+ESC to bring up the main menu, the arrows to navigate to GParted and ENTER to select it.
 
Windows/NTFS Partitions
 
Wundows NTFS Part Windows NTFS Part
 
 
OS X/HFS+ Partitions
 
OSX Parition Parition Menu
 
Providing your hard disk contains only one partition it should be displayed in a similar way to the images above. Some Notebooks may have several small partitions also on the disk (used for manufacturer system tools) so be sure to select the largest partition in the list. Once again, if you're using a MacBook with a non-functional Mouse, using the TAB key will allow you to select the desired partition and pressing ALT+P will display the 'Partition' menu where you can select the Resize/Move option.
 
Resize Partition Resizing Partition
 
The final step is to set the size of your partition. This is entirely dependent on the size of the SSD drive you've purchased and for the sake of not overcomplicating things in this review we're going to forfeit 1GB of space on our SSD drive to ensure that the disk clone works perfectly first time. In the 'New Size' box enter the size of your SSD drive in megabytes minus 1000. So if your SSD drive is the 64GB variety enter the number 63000, 120GB enter 1190000, 250GB enter 2490000...etc.
 
It is important to note that you cannot shrink the size of your hard disk to any smaller than the size of the files contained within it. So for example if your existing hard disk is 200GB and you have 190GB of files contained within it, you WILL NOT be able to shrink the size of the disk to 120GB. If you run into this problem, the only way to progress is to delete some of the files from your hard disk or move them elsewhere (to a USB stick / NAS drive...etc).
 
Success
 
After pressing the Resize/Restore button it may take some time for your disk to be resized. Once the process is complete you will be presented with the "All Operations Successfully Completed" box above, at which point you can safely shut down your Notebook and move on to the next page. 


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 5
Imaging with CloneZilla
 
If you've been lucky enough to skip past the disk resizing section on the previous page you're in for a fairly easy ride. Firstly you'll need to make sure that your Notebook is switched off, the caddified-SSD drive is plugged into one of you USB ports and the CloneZilla CD is inserted in the drive. When switching your Notebook on the chances are that it will completely ignore the CD and try to boot from the Hard Disk. If this happens refer to your Notebook's user manual on how to change the boot order, or have a quick read of the 3rd and 4th paragraphs on the previous page for some basic guidance.
 
Boot Menu - Again CloneZilla Splash Screen
 
The first screen you'll see once your Notebook has successfully booted from the CD is the CloneZilla boot menu. Simply press enter on the default option or leave it to automatically boot after 30 seconds.  While the system is booting and detecting your hardware you'll see a lot of white text scrolling down the screen. 
 
CloneZilla Language CloneZilla Keymap
 
Once the system has finished booting you'll be presented with is the language selection and keyboard layout options. For both of these screens its safe to accept the default options (unless you have some specific requirements), but if you're reading this review I can pretty much safely assume you'll also be able to read the basic CloneZilla prompts.
 
Start CloneZilla CloneZilla Device-to Device
 
On the next screen CloneZilla will ask if you want to start CloneZilla. No prizes for guessing what you select here!
 
CloneZilla offers two methods of cloning:- to an image file, or direct to another device. We're going to be cloning directly from the Notebook Hard Disk to the SSD drive, so on the following screen (above-right) we need to select the device-device option.
 
Beginner disk_to_local_disk
 
Once again some fairly simple options. We want to go for the 'Beginner' mode (as the advanced options aren't of any use to us) and when prompted we want to choose disk_to_local_disk as the cloning method as performing unicast and multicast cloning over the network is way way way beyond the scope of what we're doing here! 
 
Source Drive Target
 
Next up it's time to select the source and target drives for the cloning process. The source drive is the drive that you want to copy the existing data from (your old Hard Disk), whereas the destination drive is where you want to copy the files to (your new SSD). Get things round the wrong way on this screen and you'll end up with two blank drives SO BE CAREFUL. In fact: Neither myself or Overclock3D can be held responsible for any loss of data, so BACKUP, BACK UP, BACK-UP!!!
 
WARNING Process
 
CloneZilla will also give you give you suitable warning about what you're about to do. If you're confident that you selected the source and destination drives correctly and you've got a backup of all of your important data then just press 'y' and hit Return. After a few seconds the Partclone screen (above-right) will be displayed along with an estimate of how long the clone process will take.
 
Once the process has finished it is safe for you to shut down the machine and move on to the final page of this guide...  


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 6
Final Steps
 
Now that we've cloned all of the data from your Hard Disk to the SSD, the final step of this guide is to install the SSD into your Notebook. Unfortunately almost every Notebook is designed slightly differently so there is no way to cover every make and model on this single page. However most manufacturers do make the Hard Disk easily accessible (as it's often the part that dies the most), so with a bit of hunting around on the base of your Notebook you should be able to find something similar to the images below.
 
Dell / Generic Notebook
 
Remove Hard Disk Screw Hard Disk Removed
 
Almost all Notebooks have the Hard Disk retaining screw(s) on the underside of the of the casing, so this is definately a good place to start. In the case of the Dell Inspiron 1525 I'm using here, the Hard Disk compartment is on the opposite side of the notebook to the DVD-RW drive. If you look closely, you can also see two cylinder-like symbols beside the screw holes which represent the Hard Disk.
 
With the screws removed, all that's left to do is slide out the Hard Disk tray. Sometimes this takes a bit of force or even leverage, but be careful that the tray doesn't also have some kind of latching system before you try to prize it out. Once again, the best thing to do is refer to the Notebook service manual if you are unsure.
 
Scorpio and Agility Removed from Caddy
 
The Hard Disk will more than likely be secured to the tray with a few small screws. Remove these carefully (as they have a tendency to vanish if you drop them) and slide the existing drive out. Reverse this process for installing the SSD drive into the tray, making sure that the SSD has its label facing the same way up as the original Hard Disk and the SATA connectors are also pointing in the correct direction.
 
Caddy Installed
 
With the SSD drive securely in its tray, slide it back into the Notebook, secure it into place with the screws you removed earlier and cross your fingers while powering the Notebook back on for the first time.
 
 
MacBook (Unibody Version)
 
The MacBook Unibody (in this case the 13.3" version) is a completely different kettle of fish to most standard Notebooks. In fact, with its almost seamless aluminium and glass construction, some would even say it is possibly a work of art. In this respect a lot of Apple products follow the no.1 rule for priceless artwork: look but don't touch, by making any 'tinkering' or maintenance tasks almost impossible. However, luckily for us Apple needed to make the battery and hard disk easily accessible, so let's find out just how...
 
Macbook Compartment Latch
 
Compartment Open MacBook HDD
 
First things first, flip the MacBook over so you've got a good view of its underbelly. Over to the right of the base you will notice a little latch that can be pressed down and then lifted to release the latch on the Battery / Hard Disk cover. With the cover completely removed the Hard Disk becomes visible. But don't try to pull it out by the plastic tab just yet as there's a single screw holding everything in place.
 
HDD Unscrewing MacBook HDD Removed
 
Screws MacBook Screws Out
 
The screw is positioned just above the plastic tab and you'll notice that while unscrewing it,  a whole plasitic construction will come free at the same time. The hard disk can now be lifted out using the plastic tab and unplugged from the SATA connector.
 
Going in for a closer look at the Hard Disk you will notice four hex head screws on each corner of the drive. These help to hold the drive in place inside the Macbook and will need to be transferred over to your SSD drive. 
 
Screw Into SSD Install Drive
 
Once all four of the hex head screws have been installed into your SSD drive it's time to place it back inside the Macbook. The first step is to plug the SATA cable into the SSD drive before inserting the SSD back into the compartment at a 45 degree angle. The hex head screws should sit comfortably inside two black rubber vibration dampening mounts. Finally install the plastic brace, screw it into position and replace the compartment cover. Job done!  


How to clone your Notebook / MacBook Hard Disk to an SSD Page: 7
Benchmarks
 
Now that we've got the installation out of the way let's check out some of the benchmark results from our Dell Inspiron 1525 Notebook before and after the SSD upgrade.
 
 
 
Starting off with some results from CrystalDiskMark, the performance difference between the OCZ SSD and the WD Hard Disk in the read results is astranomical. Both the sequential and 512k read results are over 100MB/s higer, and even when reading small files (4k) the SSD is over 40x faster. The 4k and 512k write results are a little bit closer, with the SSD edging out the HDD by just a small percentage, but this is soon put to rest in the sequential results where the SSD performs over 30MB/s faster.
 
 
PCMark is a real world benchmark that automates and measures some of the tasks commonly performed on a PC. Once again the OCZ SSD wipes the floor with the Western Digital Scorpio Hard Disk in all of the tests with the Virus Scan results being the most pronounced due to yet another >100MB/s advantage for the SSD drive. The rest of the results are all between 5-10x higher for the SSD drive aside from the File Write results, which as we saw from the CrystalDiskMark ones above, were a slightly closer call.
 
 
Finally I'm going to round things off with some actual 'Loading Time' results which will hopefully put all of the above figures into some perspective. These results were collected using a stopwatch after a clean start-up of Windows (to prevent anything from being cached to RAM). Although I can't throw around any wild 100MB/s faster or 10x quicker  stats this time, the SSD did boot into Windows a whole 12 seconds faster and load Photoshop CS3 10 seconds faster. However, for applications such as Firefox and Microsoft Office, the difference of 2-4 seconds was less easier to notice.
 
 
Conclusion
 
Hopefully you will have already seen quite a substantial increase in performance on the start-up of your Notebook and opening of applications now that you're up and running on an SSD. However, there are certain things you need to make sure you do/don't do to ensure that the performance isn't degraded over time and that the life of your SSD drive is prolonged. For example, you should NEVER run a standard Hard Disk defragmentation tool. These can drastically reduce the life of your SSD, which is something you certainly don't want after forking out all that money. Instead look up tools such as TRIM and diskpar (if you're running Windows XP).
 
Unfortunately the amount of information surrounding the maintenance of SSD drives is way beyond the scope of this article, so your best bet is to head over to our forums for any specific advice. Of course, you can also drop by the forum and try to grab my attention if you have any issues with this guide or need any help picking the tools for the job.
 
Jimbo out!