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How to install a NVMe SSD and clone your (old) boot disk

samsung 980 pro ssd

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been upgrading my sim racing PC recently with a few small and simple performance upgrades. Quick wins to add a little bit of pace, if you like.

First, I looked at upgrading the PSU to supply power my NVIDIA 2080 rtx ti GPU, then I added more DDR4 memory, doubling my available memory to 32gb. Today, I’m going to be walking you through how to upgrade your SATA SSD or PCIe Gen3 SSD to a significantly faster PCIe 4.0 SSD.

Specifically, the 500gb M.2 (2280) form factor PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 1.3c Samsung 980 PRO.

Samsung’s 980 PRO SSD with a claimed read speed of 7000mb/s on the box!

I chose the 500gb option, which comes in at a very reasonable $160 / £139 on Amazon.com. You could splash out on the 1TB model, which is approximately double the price of the 500gb model. But with the 2TB storage drive in my gaming PC, plus the fact the machine really isn’t used for anything but sim racing, more storage on the boot disk feels like an unnecessary expense.

What’s important is that that Assetto Corsa and iRacing might load faster. I’ll take all the advantage I can get.

How to install a NVMe SSD

I’m assuming your system already supports NVMe and has M.2 slots on the motherboard, and that your motherboard’s bios supports booting from the device in the M.2 slot. To make things easier for the cloning process your PC has UEFI firmware and boots in UEFI mode. If you’re not sure, check out your motherboard’s manual. Also look for a slot like this:

The M.2 slot is visible on the left of the picture, with the 42mm, 60mm and 80mm mounting points to the right.

Before installation, I’ve screwed in the mounting standoff supplied with the Motherboard into the 80mm socket.

Inserting the SSD

Inserting the SSD is quite easy as the socket will tolerate quite an angle (maybe as much as 25° to the motherboard). The SSD will just seat itself into the socket with small pressure.

Finished install

Finally, screw the SSD down to fix it in place. And that’s it!

How to clone your old boot drive to your new NVMe SSD

If you own a recent Motherboard, it should be pretty easy to clone your old boot disk directly to your new SSD.

Check the properties dialogue for your current C: drive. If “Partition style” is set to GUID Partition Table (GPT) then cloning your drive will be easy.

Next, install Macrium Reflect Free. It’s easy to use and free.

Macrium installer downloading the free version ready to install

Once you’ve got Macrium installed, you’ll see this screen:

How to clone your drive with Macrium

  • Select your boot disk with the checkbox on the top left and click the “Clone this disk” link.
  • The clone dialogue will appear
  • Select your (new) target disk
  • Drag each partition you want to clone down to the target disk
  • For any partition that you’d like to expand to use up the extra space, select “Cloned Partition Properties”

Here’s a closer look at the cloning setup page:

You’ll notice my source drive had a lot of unformatted space. This was a bit of a surprise – as my PC was originally prebuilt, my best guess is that the HD was cloned and the additional space was left unused.

I cloned the remaining 3 partitions and expanded the Windows partition to the maximum allowable space with the “Cloned Partition Properties” options.

When you’re all set, click next, skip past the scheduler and run the process:

Cloning in process

The good thing about having both the source and cloned drives in situ is that it’s easy to test that the new drive is bootable.

As soon as cloning is finished, restart your PC into the UEFI settings screen (usually by holding F2 or delete)

My motherboard’s “EZ Mode” :-/

From this setup screen, F8 takes you to the boot menu. As a test, make your new SSD the first boot priority, but fallback to your original boot disk in case there’s a problem. Save, and restart.

If the PC boots, that’s obviously a good sign. If you open file explorer and browse to “This PC”, the boot disk will have been automatically assigned the C: label, you should be able to tell that it’s the correct disk by the storage size.