Moving Windows 7 to an SSD from HD - how to ensure alignment...

Joe Average

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Ok, I've got a client coming tomorrow that's dropping off one of his entirely too many laptops and a brand spankin' new Corsair 128GB SSD (I don't know which one, unfortunately, until he shows up). He wants the current Windows 7 installation on a 160GB drive (he's not even using 25% of that one so...) moved to the SSD and checked for everything top to bottom.

Now, I've been doing disk clones for oh, what, 2 decades or so, but to be honest this will be the first time a client has brought me a current install where I'm "upgrading" to the SSD - I recently had someone with a MacBook Pro do the same thing but I was able to do a fresh clean install of Snow Leopard as well as Windows 7 so I know it was aligned properly from the gitgo.

That's not the case here, so I'm curious if anyone has advice, suggestions, or knows of a tool (if one exists) that will help to properly align the Windows 7 installation once it's cloned over to the SSD. I'm guessing it can't be that difficult to do but, before I go toying around with this guy's stuff, I figure I'd ask the more experienced folk about this particular situation.

As stated, this is not a clean install which would align the drive, it's just a cloning operation from hard drive to SSD, and I would obviously wish for the SSD alignment to be correct when everything is all said and done.

Would have asked earlier but I literally got off the phone a short time ago, did some research here and online in general and just couldn't find any decent information, hence me asking.

Thanks for any responses...
 

Chimel

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I thought you were fluent in free disk imaging tools, Joe? ^-^
Better not mention the word 'alignment' when talking about SSDs, it means a totally different thing (XP & 4 KB sectors.)
 

Joe Average

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I am, and the post above said as much, but when moving an installation from hard disk to an SSD as an upgrade to faster storage, the alignment will more than likely be pooched in the process, and I'm looking for a method to ensure it's aligned, also as that post states.

If I were doing a clean install, when Windows 7 formats the SSD for the installation, alignment would be correct - but not in the case of me doing this cloning operation.

Cloning != imaging, two completely different things as I'll be doing a direct disk-to-disk transfer, not using an intermediary image file (which still wouldn't do anything to address the aligning issue).

Anyone... anyone... Bueller... Bueller... :p
 

MrsOldMX

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Downsize the C partition to like 100gb and perform a full disk backup with acronis (include the 100mb partition and the C:\ one) to an external disk or something, then exchange disks, and restore the disk image.
 

InvisiBill

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EASEUS Disk Copy maintained proper partition alignment for me switching back and forth between HDD and SSD several times. They both happened to be 80GB, so I can't provide any insight on how it handles resizing though.

There have been a number of threads in this section discussing disk utilities that maintain proper alignment.
 

ND40oz

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I've done this a few times on my personal laptops and desktops. I use Paragon and do a complete backup to a usb drive from the bootable cd and then restore it back down to the SSD. It'll align it correctly when you lay it back down onto the SSD, resizes correctly as well.

I tried doing a direct disk to disk copy using paragon, but it didn't align the SSD and their wasn't an option to. I then tried using the partition align function to re-align it, but that left me in non-bootable state. But the backup and restore works great to have a correctly aligned dirve.
 

Stereodude

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Well first of all, you're doing it backward... You want to align the partitions on the source HD before imaging to the SSD. Otherwise you put a bunch of needless data writes on the SSD if you try to align the SSD after cloning the data to it.

First is to check the alignment. You can do this with Diskpar.exe. If the starting offset of each partition is not divisible by the true sector size of the drive then the drive is not aligned. If it's not aligned you can use a Gparted LiveCD to move the start and end of the partitions on the drive so they fall on 1MiB boundaries (which will align them for pretty much all drives).

I tried many disk cloning programs and found that some will maintain alignment of the first partition on the drive during a clone operation (some can't even do that). Only one would keep alignment of the end of the first partition and start of any subsequent partitions that were on the drive without resorting to a RAW 1:1 sector copy (which is undesirable for a SSD). That program was Clonezilla. It was the only program I found that would maintain exact partition alignment of all partitions when cloning.

So the process should go like this:

1) Align / resize the partitions so they will fit on the SSD while they're still on the spinning HD
2) Clone the spinning HD to the SSD using Clonezilla
3) Profit!

FWIW, Windows 7 (and Vista) when installed to a blank drive creates 1MiB aligned partitions, and further partitions created in Windows 7 (and Vista) are also 1MiB aligned.
 

Joe Average

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I appreciate the info provided, but in terms of "doing it backwards," I don't comprehend how anyone can make such a claim. In the process of doing the cloning operation, if I "pre-align" the target (the SSD) that would be a wasted operation: when the new data is brought over, it's going to rewrite the partition information with that from the original/source drive, meaning the pre-alignment was useless.

The cloning operation brings over the partition info and layout from the source; the only change to things is that the target is smaller than the source (128GB SSD target vs 160GB hard drive source) so there will be some resizing in the operation as well.

The process you outlined in the 3 steps is what I had in mind so, at least we're on the same wavelength there. ;) Check/verify/align the data on the source before starting the cloning is what I plan to do, that's the easy part, then cloning disk-to-disk is simple as well. Got an external 2.5" SATA adapter just waiting to get this whole shebang going.

While I still don't have the laptop and SSD yet (still waiting for the dropoff), I'm fairly confident a straight disk-to-disk cloning operation will probably result in proper alignment from the gitgo since we're dealing with Windows 7 (meaning the laptop had Windows 7 installed on it at some point which should have the small boot partition and then the primary system partition as well which are properly aligned unless some idiot pooched that for this client beforehand.

I'll find out soon enough I suppose...
 

Stereodude

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I appreciate the info provided, but in terms of "doing it backwards," I don't comprehend how anyone can make such a claim. In the process of doing the cloning operation, if I "pre-align" the target (the SSD) that would be a wasted operation: when the new data is brought over, it's going to rewrite the partition information with that from the original/source drive, meaning the pre-alignment was useless.
I didn't say to pre-align the SSD. I said to align the source HDD before cloning.
The cloning operation brings over the partition info and layout from the source; the only change to things is that the target is smaller than the source (128GB SSD target vs 160GB hard drive source) so there will be some resizing in the operation as well.
Contrary to most of the claims, nearly all disk cloning program do not bring over partition info and layout from the source without modifying and un-aligning it (regardless of what they claim). Miray HD Clone, Acronis 2011, Acronis V11 all modify (and break) partition alignment unless you do a 1:1 raw sector copy. I tried a few others as well that didn't do what people claim they do.

Until someone posts source and destination diskpar output for all of these tools that supposedly maintain partition alignment I'm going to consider all the claims unverified and likely false. And, since I wouldn't ask someone else to do what I won't, here's the proof that Clonezilla leaves partition alignment alone.

Source Drive:
---- Drive 3 Geometry Infomation ----
Cylinders = 38913
TracksPerCylinder = 255
SectorsPerTrack = 63
BytesPerSector = 512
DiskSize = 320070320640 (Bytes) = 305242 (MB)

---- Drive Partition 0 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 1048576
PartitionLength = 4368367616
HiddenSectors = 2048
PartitionNumber = 1
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 1 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 4369416192
PartitionLength = 104857600
HiddenSectors = 8534016
PartitionNumber = 2
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 2 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 4474273792
PartitionLength = 32221691904
HiddenSectors = 8738816
PartitionNumber = 3
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 4 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 36697014272
PartitionLength = 83333480448
HiddenSectors = 2048
PartitionNumber = 4
PartitionType = 7

End of partition information. Total existing partitions: 4
Destination Drive:
---- Drive 4 Geometry Infomation ----
Cylinders = 121601
TracksPerCylinder = 255
SectorsPerTrack = 63
BytesPerSector = 512
DiskSize = 1000202273280 (Bytes) = 953867 (MB)

---- Drive Partition 0 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 1048576
PartitionLength = 4368367616
HiddenSectors = 2048
PartitionNumber = 1
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 1 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 4369416192
PartitionLength = 104857600
HiddenSectors = 8534016
PartitionNumber = 2
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 2 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 4474273792
PartitionLength = 32221691904
HiddenSectors = 8738816
PartitionNumber = 3
PartitionType = 7
---- Drive Partition 4 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 36697014272
PartitionLength = 83333480448
HiddenSectors = 2048
PartitionNumber = 4
PartitionType = 7

End of partition information. Total existing partitions: 4
Note the starting offset and partition length for all the partitions is identical between the two drives. That's the proof. :cool:
 

Joe Average

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"Statring" eh... hehe Typos, gotta hate 'em. :D

I get the point, it's duly noted, and the client is on the way over as I'm typing this, so... I told him I'd get the machine back to him in the morning but not because it'll take that long - I just want to do some benchmarks on that SSD and see what it's like on my own laptop first. :D

This guy has been good to me, bought several laptops over the past few years, always dependable with regular work, and not only do I get paid for this (my usual fee) but I get to keep the 160GB drive when I'm done. Can't beat that.
 

Joe Average

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Well, he dropped off a Gateway machine with XP on it, which I actually suspected since he's an XP-diehard and holdout person... but luckily my explanation of SSDs as well as someone else he knows talking with him convinced him that Windows 7 is the only real solution so, I'll be wiping it here in a few and doing a proper clean install of a legit Gateway Windows 7 Home Premium setup.

<but first I'm gonna do some testing on my own laptop, of course... MUAHAHAHAHA> :D

Thanks for the info, folks.
 

curlysir

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I have been using Acronis True Image 2011 (Build 6696, 2-2-2011) with plus pack to transfer images from unaligned disks to SSD successfully. You have to partition (format?) the SSD before you do it or it will not be aligned. The format may not be necessary but it is so quick that I do it anyway. I have played around with Acronis TI 2011 and tried to transfer to an unaligned SSD and it does not align it correctly. But if you partition and format the SSD it will transfer it correctly. And alignment will be correct on the SSD.

It has to be the 2011 version, previous versions will not work. There is option that will allow you to change from the default Win 7 alignment if you don't like the default 1024 offset. However if the drive is misaligned to 63 I could not get it work, that is why you have to partition with Win7.

I create and use a boot disk to do the above and have successfully transferred unaligned images to 3 SSD's in the last 2 weeks without any problems. I played with the program on a regular HDD before I tried it just to make sure it would work and it does. You can also download an iso if you don't want to load the full program to create the iso, the loaded program does give you more options when creating the iso, so I loaded it on a spare computer and created the iso and then burnt to a CD.
 
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Joe Average

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Bonus: As it turns out, the hard drive is a 320GB Hitachi 7200 rpm, and the client said I could keep it + I still get paid... w00t! Not much but, hey, it's a free hard drive and it'll be better performing than the 250GB Hitachi 5400 rpm (an Apple MBP pull) I'm currently using, which will get dropped into that external case for backup/storage purposes.

The SSD he bought is a refurb Corsair Force F120, 120GB, and in simple benchmarks it's topping out at about 140MB/s solid for reads and 135MB/s for writes. I suspected that perhaps there's something fishy with it because it's a refurb and those speeds would be about the max on an SATA I controller but, the Gateway machine is 2 months old, it's got an SATA II controller in it so now I go searching for some info.
 

Joe Average

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Well, here's where I get stumped:

Using Ubuntu 10.10 off a USB stick (booting 'live') and doing the Disk Utility benchmark gives me 275MB/s reads and 265MB/s writes which is where it should be, without issues.

Installed Windows 7 on the drive, updated everything and I'm "stuck" at the ~140MB/s speeds for reads and ~135MB/s for writes. Now, the laptop is an AMD Vision piece of crap, for the most part. Trying to find a more current and updated SATA controller driver but so far not having much luck.

lspci under Ubuntu shows an ATI SB700/SB800 SATA Controller (AHCI Mode) so now I'm befuddled to find a solution but, I'll figure it out. Gateway's support site is of no use (no surprise there) for updated drivers; Windows 7 is just using the old default one from 2006 so I know there's gotta be something more current - at least that's the hope.
 

Stereodude

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I have been using Acronis True Image 2011 (Build 6696, 2-2-2011) with plus pack to transfer images from unaligned disks to SSD successfully. You have to partition (format?) the SSD before you do it or it will not be aligned. The format may not be necessary but it is so quick that I do it anyway. I have played around with Acronis TI 2011 and tried to transfer to an unaligned SSD and it does not align it correctly. But if you partition and format the SSD it will transfer it correctly. And alignment will be correct on the SSD.

It has to be the 2011 version, previous versions will not work. There is option that will allow you to change from the default Win 7 alignment if you don't like the default 1024 offset. However if the drive is misaligned to 63 I could not get it work, that is why you have to partition with Win7.

I create and use a boot disk to do the above and have successfully transferred unaligned images to 3 SSD's in the last 2 weeks without any problems. I played with the program on a regular HDD before I tried it just to make sure it would work and it does. You can also download an iso if you don't want to load the full program to create the iso, the loaded program does give you more options when creating the iso, so I loaded it on a spare computer and created the iso and then burnt to a CD.
Well, you are trying a newer build than I did, but I found that TI 2011 would take an aligned partition and break the alignment it when you tried to restore into it. This is mainly because it doesn't actually leave an existing partition alone, but actually removes the partition and recreates it (unaligned).

I'd be curious to see a diskpar.exe output for one of those drives.
 

curlysir

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Well, you are trying a newer build than I did, but I found that TI 2011 would take an aligned partition and break the alignment it when you tried to restore into it. This is mainly because it doesn't actually leave an existing partition alone, but actually removes the partition and recreates it (unaligned).

I'd be curious to see a diskpar.exe output for one of those drives.
Here is the diskpar output for the last drive I did. The previous HDD that I transferred the image from had a starting offset of 32256. The follow is after the transfer using TI 2011 using default settings for offset. I did partition and format the SSD before I did the transfer.

c:\>diskpar -i 0
---- Drive 0 Geometry Infomation ----
Cylinders = 14593
TracksPerCylinder = 255
SectorsPerTrack = 63
BytesPerSector = 512
DiskSize = 120031511040 (Bytes) = 114470 (MB)

---- Drive Partition 0 Infomation ----
StatringOffset = 1048576
PartitionLength = 120031543296
HiddenSectors = 2048
PartitionNumber = 1
PartitionType = 7

End of partition information. Total existing partitions: 1


1048576 divided by 65536 = 16
 
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vkfu

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It sounds like your original question is no longer relevant, but I still wanted to respond to it nevertheless.

I had trouble cloning a Windows installation with the free version of Acronis that works with WD drives. It wouldn't align the SSD partition properly.

In the end I used Windows 7's backup/restore tool. I created a full backup on a network share (you can also use an external drive) and then restored it onto the SSD. The backup application will offer to create a CD that you can boot from to carry out the restore. The Windows 7 install DVD also has a copy of the restore application.
 

Joe Average

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Well, all is said and done now, the guy is happy with his wicked fast clean install Windows 7 machine and that SSD. For some very odd strange and I still can't understand reason, HDTune 4 was showing consistent 140MB/s reads/writes on that drive, no matter what I did. Something odd with that benchmark so I don't know...

However, when testing with HDTach, AS SSD, and the fairly standard ATTO benchmark, all of those showed the drive pumping out 250-275MB/s reads and 220-240MB/s writes, every time I tested, so I finally said to hell with it, finished the job and gave the guy his laptop back and he's exceedingly happy with it now.

The 320GB I snagged free is comfortably powering my ThinkPad T60 now and the old 250GB is in an enclosure, and I ordered pizza, breadsticks, and some soda for the Wife and I for lunch today with the profits of the work so... I suppose I'm happy too. ;)
 

Forceman

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If it is a Sandforce drive, then some benchmarks will get screwed up by the compression.
 
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