How to move Windows 10 to an external hard drive

By: Ivan Jenic
5 minute read

In case you want to free up some space on your primary hard disk, or you simply bought a better external hard drive, you might consider moving your entire Windows 10 operating system to a new space. Of course, the first solution that will come to your mind is reinstalling the system completely, but there’s actually a legit way to move Windows 10 to another hard drive, without having to reinstall it.

Reinstalling Windows 10 is actually a simpler solution, and the Anniversary Update made it even easier. However, if you don’t want to go through installing all your apps, checking all your drivers, and installing further updates, moving a system ‘manually’ is actually a better option.

We also have to say that by moving Windows 10 to an external hard drive, you won’t be able to run your own system on any other computer, it just doesn’t work that way. There’s actually a way to do that, but it’s not a safest option, so we’re not going to talk about it in this article.

This method also applies to internal hard disks, so if you bought a ‘regular’ hard disk, and decided to move your system to it, you can still use all instructions from this article to do so.

How to move Windows 10 to an external/new hard drive

First thing first, although we said moving an existing operating system to a new hard drive is a better way, in terms of saving your apps and data, it’s never a bad time for a backup. So, before you do anything else, make sure you back up all your stuff, because you never know when something might go wrong, even though this process should be completely safe for your system.

Once you’ve backed up all your data, you can move on to relocating your system to another drive. This process doesn’t take just a new drive, because you’ll have to use a few additional ‘tools’. First, you need a USB Flash drive to mount a system image to, and two programs called Clonezilla and TuxBoot, to make the whole process possible.

So, without any further ado, here’s what you need to do, to transfer Windows 10 from one hard drive to another:

  1. First thing first, make sure your external drive is properly connected to your computer
  2. Now, go to Windows < My computer, right-click on My computer (or simply right-click on My Computer icon on your desktop, if you have one) > Manage
  3. Go to Disk Management, where Windows 10 will recognize a new drive, and let you know that it needs to be formatted. Click OK and choose NTFS quick
  4. Download  and install TuxBoot and CloneZilla. You’ll use CloneZilla to create an image of your current system, and TuxBoot to mount it to the USB Flash Drive
  5. Once you’ve installed both programs, plug in the USB drive you’ll be using for mounting Windows 10’s system image. Remember, a USB flash drive needs to be formatted, and to have enough capacity for the whole system image
  6. After that, open TuxBoot, click on the bottom and choose ISO, and find the location of the CloneZilla live .ISO file.
  7. Now, select the USB flash drive as the drive you’re mounting the ISO file to
  8. Reboot your computer, and go to BIOS on the next start, go to the boot section, and manually but the USB flash drive with the ISO image. Once you do that, Clonezilla will open
  9. Once CloneZilla opens, choose your Language Keyboard, check Do Not Touch KeyMap, and choose the option: Start CloneZilla Live
  10. The next window will show you either device-image, and device-device. Choose Device-Device, and hit Enter
  11. You’ll be asked where you want to move disk-copy. There are options like Disk to Local Disk, Disk to Remote Disk, Part to Local Part, and Part to Remote Part. Choose Disk to Remote Disc (or Local if you’re using a ‘solid’ hard drive)
  12. Now, you’ll be asked to choose the Source Disk that will be copied copied to another drive. So, choose the drive where your system is currently on, and hit Enter
  13. Once the Source Disk is selected, you need to select an external hard drive as a target. When you choose your location, press Enter
  14. The process now begins. It might look a bit scary to you, since it’s just a bunch of text and a black screen on a display, but that’s how it should look like. You’ll be prompted with a few “Are you sure you want to continue? (y/n),” but once again, these are part of the installation.
  15. When the process is finished, you’re going to have Windows 10 moved from one hard drive to another

Bonus: How to install Windows 10 on an external hard drive

Now that we’ve shown you how to move Windows 10 from one hard drive to another, let’s also see what you can do if you decide for ‘the other way,’ and choose to actually install clean Windows 10 on an external hard drive.

Installing Windows 10 on an external drive shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s different than installing the OS on any other partition. However, your computer can sometimes reject an external hard drive as a drive to install a new operating system on.

If that happens, you need to perform one simple action, that will make your computer accept an external hard drive as a legit location for a new OS. To be able to install Windows 10 on an external hard drive without any issues, check out this article for solutions.

That’s about it. We know this process might look complicated to you, but if you pay closer attention, it’s completely doable. You now know how to transfer Windows 10 to another partition, so we hope we saved you at least some time and effort.

In case you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, just let us know in the comments below.

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