How can I clone a hard drive to an SSD, and is it a good idea?
Technically, you can clone a hard disk drive (HDD) to whatever media you'd like -- an external hard drive, a thumb drive, a DVD, etc. A solid-state drive (SSD) is no different. Outside of access speed and the time it will take to clone HDD to SSD, your I/O port shouldn't really make a difference, either.
As I understand it, fragmentation is not an issue (or it's at least minimized) on an SSD because there are no moving mechanical parts -- all bits can be accessed in the same amount of time on an SSD. That said, you may still want to defragment and otherwise clean up the hard drive by removing temp files, log files and other junk files that Microsoft and third-party programs often leave lying around. This is especially important for HDD to SSD cloning, given the higher price per gigabyte. Space is at a premium on SSD, and you can easily lose several gigabytes to unnecessary files.
As far as it being a good idea, I think so. I've been using SSDs for nearly three years now, and they're amazingly fast -- especially if you invest the money and buy a good drive that has fast read and write speeds. SSDs have increased my productivity tremendously. Given the work that I do running security vulnerability scans, SSDs have helped me reduce not only my scan times, but also overall project times.
The only potential downside is their reliability. Note that SSDs can die at any time. And they can have a limited lifespan otherwise. It's not that they're any different than traditional hard drives in terms of reliability. It's just that the technology is relatively new. If you purchase a high-end name brand such as Samsung or Intel, you should be fine. At a minimum, like any wise IT professional, keep good backups of your data!
This was first published in December 2013