Moving Windows 7 Between Hard Drives

I want to copy Windows from an old 150GB 7200RPM hard drive to a new 1TB solid state drive (the rad Samsung EVO 850).

I keep the old drive in the computer, for now.

I boot into a Linux Live USB flash drive.

I connect the new drive to the computer's fastest USB port (a USB 2.0 port) with a SATA-to-USB cable.

Checking dmesg | tail tells me that the new drive is called sdc.

Checking df -h tells me that Linux is running on /dev/sdb.

Windows, therefore, is on /dev/sda.

You'll want to check all of the above carefully. Moving stuff to the wrong places will DESTROY EVERYTHING.

Note that in the following I don't worry too much about differing sector sizes. That's because it didn't really occur to me until later. Nonetheless, everything worked. Perhaps a positive indication that things'll be okay is if the amount of space allocated to each partition is the same on both the old and new drives.


sudo fdisk -l /dev/sda

shows me my old partition table:

Device     Boot      Start        End   Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sda1  *          2048    2459647   2457600   1.2G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sda2          2459648  292098039 289638392 138.1G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sda3        292098048  312578047  20480000   9.8G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

I save the partition table:

sudo sfdisk -d /dev/sda > part_table

And copy it to the new drive:

sudo sfdisk /dev/sdc < part_table

Let's talk about what these partitions are for a moment:

Device       Size  Purpose
/dev/sdc1    1.2G  Boots Windows up, contains other low-level stuff
/dev/sdc2  138.1G  Windows installation, all user files, all programs
/dev/sdc3    9.8G  Recovery partition with a back-up of Windows

So we're going to want to enlarge /dev/sdc2. In order to do so, we'll need to move /dev/sdc3 closer to the end of the drive.


sudo fdisk /dev/sdc

Delete partition 3:


Make a new partition:


Make it a primary partition:


Make it partition number 3:


This shows the following output:

First sector (292098040-1953525167, default 292098048):

The number 1953525167 here is the last sector. Note, above, that the partition is 20480000 sectors large.

One place you might think we should put things would be at 1953525167-20480000. However, this will raise a warning saying:

Partition 3 does not start on physical sector boundary.

To remedy this, we'll ensure that the start of the sector is a multiple of 512 and place it at (1953525167-20480000)-(1953525167-20480000)%512 (you may need to choose a value other than 512 depending on your specific situation):


We need 20480000 sectors, so put the end sector at:


Here's my new partition table

Device     Boot      Start        End   Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sdc1  *          2048    2459647   2457600   1.2G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sdc2          2459648  292098039 289638392 138.1G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sdc3       1933044736 1953524735  20480000   9.8G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

Note that each partition has the same number of sectors, the same type, and the same bootable properties as before. Additionally, partitions 1 and 2 are in the same locations. Partition 3 has been moved to the end of the drive.

Now, copy the partitions, one at at a time. Save the big one for last so you can go take a coffee break:

sudo dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/sdc1 conv=notrunc status=progress bs=15M
sudo dd if=/dev/sda3 of=/dev/sdc3 conv=notrunc status=progress bs=15M
sudo dd if=/dev/sda2 of=/dev/sdc2 conv=notrunc status=progress bs=15M

If you were to restart the computer now and boot into the new hard drive, you would seek a black screen with a blinking cursor in the upper left-hand corner. This probably means that the Master Boot Record (MBR) is not present. And, indeed, we have not created it. Let us do so now.

We'll need ms-sys to do this. Install it like so:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lenski/ms-sys
sudo apt-get update

You can also download it and build from source.

Now, create the Windows 7 MBR:

sudo ms-sys -7 /dev/sda

At this point, I shut down the computer, swapped the new hard drive into the case, and booted. Everything was fine and beautiful.

But there's one more step!

You'll need to extend the main windows partition, like so. The extension should complete immediately and now you have a faster, larger hard drive to play with.