How to transfer Windows 10 to an external hard drive

When upgrading or changing primary HDD/SSD in Windows, it’s painful if you need to install Windows 10 again. Not only does it take time, but it is also tedious to install Windows updates, drivers, apps, and configure everything again.  Since you already have Windows 10 installed, it would be nice if you can clone it to a new hard drive. In this post, we will share how to transfer Windows 10 to an external hard drive

Transfer Windows 10 to an external hard drive

Windows 10 offers an inbuilt option to create a System Image. It creates an exact copy of the current Windows 10 and can be used to install o any number of computers. It is handy in Businesses and IT where Windows 10 needs to be installed on a number of computers. Similarly, Windows 10 also offers to restore the computer using System Image Recovery available under Advanced Recovery method. We will use these methods to transfer Windows 10 to an external hard drive.

  1. Create a backup using the Create System Image feature
  2. Connect the new hard drive
  3. Restore System Image using Advanced Recovery

1] Create a backup using the Create System Image feature

Transfer Windows 10 to an external hard drive

  1. Connect the external hard drive to the computer.
  2. In the run prompt, type sdclt.exe, and hit the enter key. It will open the Backup & Restore feature of Windows.
  3. Next click on the Create a system image link in the left-top side.
  4. It will launch the Create System image wizard, and you can choose to backup files on a hard disk, DVD or a network location.

Post this; you will have to choose which drives to backup. It is useful if you are entirely replicating your hard drive. If it’s only the OS that you want to backup, and planning to use the trip as a secondary one, then you can skip them.

2] Connect the new hard drive

Before we go ahead, let’s get one thing clear. The hard drive where we have stored the backup cannot be the new hard drive where you are transferring Windows 10. Before you use the System image recovery method, make sure both the new hard drive, where you will move the Windows 10, and the drive which has the recovery image is connected.  You do not need to create Partitions. Make sure the new hard drive is the same or has storage space more the image size of the drive we created in the above step.

3] Restore System Image using Advanced Recovery

System Image Recovery to restore or reinstall Windows 10 on a new hard drive

Since we are moving Windows 10 to a new hard drive, you will need a bootable USB to boot into Advanced Recovery mode. Make sure to set it as the boot drive in the BIOS and use F8 when the computer boots. To restore using the image, Select Repair your computer, and then System Image Recovery and then follow the on-screen instructions.

A wizard will launch which will automatically locate the system image. Click Next so that it can install the image on the primary drive connected to the computer. You will have an option to select a system image. Few advanced restore options can help you further customize the restore process. The process will wipe out the drive entirely and use the model to create appropriate partitions and then restore the OS and the file.

Remove the bootable USB, and the computer should boot into the restored drive. If you haven’t changed hardware, it should work as before, but if you did change, Windows Update would download new drivers automatically.

This method can also be used to recover your computer from any major corruption or when the computer fails to boot. If you take backup using System Image creation method regularly, then you can use it to bring back the computer to a working condition. However, there is no way to recover individual files. It is only possible using File History method.

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Ashish is a veteran Windows, and Xbox user who excels in writing tips, tricks, and features on it to improve your day to day experience with your devices.