Disk cloning to a smaller disk

Disk cloning to a smaller disk

Switching out the disk of a laptop (and maintaining the computer as-is) requires cloning – and in some cases it makes sense to clone to a smaller disk.

Yes: Family holidays for this geek, start out with a line of family members lining up with their devices that they need me to help with/fix/improve. Mother-in-laws Thinkpad was getting slow.

The problem is not as much the ThinkPad as the disk delivered with it. Being a Mac-person who has been riding the SSD-wave for ages, it is an excruciating pain to help her out; Starting a browser takes 15 seconds – doing anything takes 15 seconds or more. Recently I’d help father-in-law switching out his HDD for an SSD and got his Windows 10 boot time down from 12 minutes to somewhere between 6 and 15 seconds.

Of course it was me who recommended them their almost matching Thinkpads (nice and all with an OK load of RAM and I5 gen. 8 processors). I just never thought through, that I was also the one to perform the family tech-support. SSD has fallen drastically in price over the last years, so it has not been a bad deal for them to wait for the switch to SSD’s. I am just happy that i did not have to work on these machines for the last couple of years. Anyway – the switch to SSD was approved on her laptop, and for the second time, Clonezilla came to my rescue.

Hardware first

So – to clone a disk, you need a source disk (in the laptop) and a target disk (connected somehow). The somehow is an adapter with a USB connection in one end, and a SATA disk port in the other end. They come in all shapes and sizes. I got the ICY BOX Sata Single slot docking station. It’s OK fast and using that, I can both access my old 3.5″ disk – as well as any 2.5″ SATA laptop disk I have lying around tugged away in boxes. So the process is:

  1. Get Clonezilla and “burn” it onto a USB stick
  2. Clone internal HDD to SSD in docking station
  3. Switch out HDD for SSD

Clonezilla to USB

The thing is, you can’t just copy a disk that is actively running your operating system (Windows 10). It just won’t end well. So to do a succesful cloning you need to boot and run off of something that is not your source disk and not your target disk. Find a spare USB stick that can be wiped which is at least 300 MB in size – it’s probably hard finding one smaller these days.

Clonezilla is quite simple to install from any operating system. I went with the manual way (B) described here. As long as you remember to NEVER run makeboot off of your source drive, you should be good to go.

Cloning to a smaller disk

Because mother-in-law is using up 50 GB of her 500 GB disk after 3 years of use, we chose to go with a Kingston 480GB SSD – a very fair deal at ~USD 58. She will NEVER need all that space. If you choose – and fairly so – to clone your disk to a smaller size SSD you need to know that running Clonezilla with the default settings in beginner-mode is not enough. My first attempt did not allow me to perform the clone to a smaller disk. If that is what you need to do, check out this article; You may need to resize your primary partition on your source disk, so the total size of all your partitions on the source disk does not exceed the size of your target drive. You will also need to go into expert mode of Clonezilla and perform some serious witchcraft checking of checkmarks (see which ones in the article) to make Clonezilla not do a size check before starting the clone process.

Fast cloning

Clonezilla is light-weight and with a USB 3 port and docking station I saw transfer speeds around 5-7 GB per second. With a few checks and all, the total cloning process took maybe 5-10 minutes.

Switch the disks

Now I have a copy of my HDD on my SSD on my desk. Last step: Switch the internal HDD for the SSD. On older Thinkpads, you could unscrew some screws and yank the disk bay out through the side of the chassis. As in sort of an Apple dick-move, this is no longer an option. Not that big of a deal though; This article explains how to enter the internals of the T480 and switch out memory or hard drive. Not having a guitar pick handy, I used this safe “knife” my children got for eating.

My guess is anything not metal will do for gently opening the snaps on the back plastic plate of the Thinkpad.

Developer of full stack stuff. Database performance specialist. Husband. Dad. Puppy owner.