Migrating your system disk to an SSD

Hardware

The mode of the SATA controller in the BIOS should be set to AHCI, not IDE; otherwise, Windows will use the wrong driver and you will have to go to the registry to fix the problem.

Also, your system should use a SATA III controller. Its predecessor, SATA II, handles only 300MBps, which is too slow for your SSD. Unfortunately, you might have to live with that speed if you have an on-board controller in a laptop.

The next step is partitioning. The best tool for partitioning is good old fdisk and a pocket calculator, because you will need to specify size and boundaries of the partitions in terms of sector numbers. Table 1 shows an example partition table.

Table 1

Partitioning an SSD

Device

Boot

Start

End

Blocks

ID

System

/dev/sda1

*

4096

3074047

1536000

7

HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

/dev/sda2

 

3076096

212789247

104857600

7

HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

/dev/sda3

 

213098496

240361471

13631488

7

HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

/dev/sda4

 

240361472

781422767

270530648

5

Extended

/dev/sda5

 

240365568

252948479

6291456

82

Linux Swap/Solaris

/dev/sda6

 

252948480

781422767

264236120

83

Linux

Partitioning

The start sector for each partition should be divisible by 4,096 without a remainder  – for instance: 3,076,096/4,096  = 751. Note that if your partitions are organized in 4KB blocks and the start sectors fall at 4KB boundaries, you will end up with a small (4095-byte) gap between the end of one partition and the start of the next one. This gap is not a problem.

Copying

The next step is to copy the original disk. It is better to start by copying to an external disk, rather than copying directly to the SSD. If you copy to an external disk, any problems you have later will only affect the backup copy and won't trash the original source disk. The tool of choice is rsync. Rsync needs a lot of command-line switches to preserve the access rights, time stamps, and other settings. Table 2 lists all the necessary options.

Table 2

Rsync Parameters

Option

Meaning

d

Transfer directories

g

Preserve group

l

Copy symlinks as symlinks

o

Preserve owner

p

Preserve permissions

r

Recurse into directories

s

No space-splitting

t

Preserve modification times

v

Verbose

A

Preserve ACLs

H

Preserve hard links

X

Preserve extended attributes

It is a good idea to boot from a rescue CD or USB stick before you start the copy process; otherwise, you have to exclude the mountpoint of the target disk (or you will end up in an endless loop). Furthermore, you need to exclude /proc, or virtual files like /proc/kcore will turn into giant physical files. The command

$ rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /original /copy

initiates the copy process.

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