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Performing an SSD SysBoot Drive Swap

There are many benefits to the modern Windows alternative to the Basic Input Output System (aka BIOS) that provides the basic bootstrapping services on PCs needed to boot and launch an operating system. That alternative is called the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (aka UEFI). UEFI supports important pre-boot security protection, enhanced services and capabilities, and much more (see this Extreme Tech story for a great overview). Alas, there’s an interesting problem that UEFI poses that BIOS does not.Descriptive data about the system/boot (sysboot or SysBoot) drive gets written to non-volatile RAM under UEFI control, and integrity controls require that the value stored match the value discovered when boot-up gets underway. Otherwise, the system won’t boot at all. Thus, performing an SSD sysboot drive swap or upgrade on a modern Windows system also requires replacing the old descriptive NVRAM data with something new. I blogged about this first for Windows 8.1 on 11/8/2013, but these issues also apply to Windows 10.

Handling UEFI Data Rewrite as Part of an SSD SysBoot Drive Swap

As with so many things in life, handling this part of the upgrade or swap maneuver can be done the hard way, or the easy way. The hard way is free , but it requires several steps using the command line involving the partition editing tool diskpart. exe, the boot configuration data editor BCDedit.exe, and an image transfer from the source disk to the target SSD. The easy way costs $20, but turns the entire process over to a tool expressly written to perform those tasks on your behalf. That entails purchase of German disk wizardry company Paragon Software’s Migrate OS to SSD tool, which I have used repeatedly since this issue reared its head for me in 2012 on numerous occasions. First, it enabled me to switch several systems’ system/boot drives from conventional spinning hard disks to SSDs. Second, it  enabled me to upgrade existing system/boot SSDs to larger, faster and even different technology drives (SATA to NVMe). Using the tool is as simple as loading it up, launching it, selecting source and target drives, then letting it run to completion. After that, power off to switch out the old system/boot drive for the new one, then reboot the system. Assuming the program reports a successful completion, your PC finds and boots from the new drive each and every time without fail (at least in my personal experience, and in reviews of the product I’ve read online).

Paragon’s Migrate OS to SSD automatically handles all BCDedit changes needed for a successful SSD SysBoot drive swap.

The amount of time this process saves is on the order of 30-40 minutes per system. Assuming an admin’s time is worth $50 an hour on a fully-burdened overhead basis, this means the program more than pays for itself each time it is purchased and used. In today’s world, guaranteed ROI like this comes along only seldom. Take it from me: it’s well worth the cost.