How to Clone Windows 11 to an M.2 SSD: 2 Free Methods

SSD cloning

If you just bought a new M.2 NVMe SSD that you want to use as your operating system (boot) drive, the easiest way to get there is to make a clone of the one you are currently using. After successfully cloning your Windows drive, you will essentially be up and running like nothing happened – but with a new and improved SSD.

There are multiple ways to clone your operating system (OS) to a new SSD and in this article, we will examine the two easiest methods. One is using Acronis True Image, which is included as a free OEM version with SSDs from several major brands. Another is using Samsung’s Data Migration tool for cloning to a Samsung SSD.

Requirements

We will look at how to use the best free SSD cloning software alternatives in a minute. However, you also need some way for the drives to interface simultaneously in order to copy your Windows 11 drive and all its data to the new SSD. The easiest way to connect the new drive will depend on what you have available.

  1. If you have a spare PCIe/NVMe M.2 slot, simply shut down your PC and install it there.
  2. If you only have one M.2 slot and it’s currently occupied by the OS drive, the easiest way to clone is by using an external M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure.

Note that after cloning, two identical system drives. Read more about cleaning up and reusing the old drive at the bottom of this page.

Alternative #1: Acronis True Image

Several manufacturers offer a free copy of Acronis True Image with their SSDs. The catch is that you can only use it with the individual manufacturers’ products, but this is probably a minor issue for users who don’t swap SSDs all that often. In any event, True Image is one of those apps that “just work”, being both versatile and easy to use. If it’s available from your SSD manufacturer, don’t hesitate to use it. Cloning with Acronis True Image is very straightforward:

Step 1: Install Your Free OEM Version

Download and install the free OEM version of True Image that works with the drive you will be cloning to. Get it here:

Step 2: Open Clone Disk Tool

Acronis True Image 1 Overview

When opening up Acronis True Image, you will first be greeted by an interface that may look slightly different depending on your OEM version but will be functionally similar. Select the Tools tab and click on Clone Disk.

Step 3: Select Clone Mode

Acronis True Image 2 Clone Mode

First, you will be prompted to select Clone Mode. Choose Automatic, then click Next. If you are cloning to a larger SSD, the partitions will be resized automatically to utilize the additional capacity. It can even clone to a smaller SSD as long as it has room for the data you will be moving.

Step 4: Select Source & Destination

Acronis True Image 3 Source and Target Disk

Acronis True Image 5 Warning Message 2

The next two steps consist of selecting source and destination disks. Normally these will be the first and last drives on the list. Double-check that the destination (target) disk is empty and that the model name matches your new SSD. If your new drive already contains data, you will see a warning message reminding you that everything will be wiped from the destination SSD when proceeding.

Step 5: Final Steps

Acronis True Image 6 Disk Usage and Summary

Acronis True Image 9 Success

In the final two steps, you should select to replace a disk on this machine as the cloning method. This is followed by a summary of what is about to happen. Click proceed and be prepared to wait for quite some time for the cloning procedure to complete. High-capacity SSDs with lots of data will take a long time to finish, especially if the new drive is connected via USB. If the source drive is a mechanical hard drive, it will take even longer.

If everything goes well, you will eventually see a message that the disk has been cloned successfully. At this point, you should preferably remove the source drive from the system and/or ensure that Windows now boots from the new SSD via your BIOS settings.

Alternative #2: Samsung Magician

Samsung has opted for a proprietary solution and does not supply an OEM version of Acronis True Image. If your new SSD is a Samsung, your best free alternative is the Data Migration tool found in the Magician software. Download the app from here and install it to get started.

Step 1: Choose (Samsung) SSD

Step 1 Select Samsung SSD

After installing and opening up Samsung Magician, go to the Data Migration tab in the left-hand menu. The next step is to select a source, which will default to the system drive. While the source drive can be of any make, the target must be a Samsung SSD.

Step 2: Launch the Cloning Process

With your new Samsung SSD selected as the target drive, click Start. You will get a warning pop-up telling you that all data on the target SSD will be erased and that your computer will shut down automatically when ready. Click OK to continue.

 Step 3: Almost Done

Step 5 Shutdown message

Like any cloning process, it will take some time to complete. Once it’s ready, the Samsung tool will shut down your system so that you can swap SSDs as needed.

Reattaching and Cleaning Up the Old Drive

If your plan is to reuse the old SSD in the same PC, you may want to clean out your old data first (seeing as you now have two identical drives). There will however still be system partitions on it and more often than not, it will also have a sizeable recovery partition that requires a few extra steps to get rid of. Read more about how to delete redundant partitions.

Jesper Berg
Jesper Berg

I got started with PC building in the 3dfx Voodoo era somewhere back in the 1990s, and have been writing for tech publications for a bit more than a decade. In other words old enough to have lost count of the times PC gaming has been pronounced dead.

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