Windows Low Disk Space – Easy Drive Cloning With Macrium Reflect

Recently I had a family laptop that was low on hard drive space and was periodically causing “operational” issues. Family members would be using the computer and then get the Windows Low disk space message and simply closing the notification wasn’t enough. Naturally being the official tech person in our family I would get an earful from the end users (my kids 😃 ) about not having our home infrastructure optimized for future growth.

Like most families being on a budget, we originally purchased our laptop with minimal specs to save money. Just for reference our laptop came with Windows 7 preinstalled. Year after year as software gets more complex and personal files, music, and pictures accumulate, disk drive space continues to shrink. That 120 GB drive that used to be enough for web surfing and the occasional Word doc or Xcel spreadset is no longer getting the job done and needs to go.

Windows Low Disk Space


When you have Windows low disk space notification, the question is what does one do? The short answer is to leverage a free disk space utilization tool like WindirStat or JDisk to quickly identify folders that are using disproportionately more space.  Eventually emptying the recycle bin, uninstalling programs, and deleting temporary files will not be enough. At some point the hard drive needs to be replaced which leads to the next question. How does one how does one transfer all their “stuff” from one hard drive to another with minimal downtime and more importantly not having to reinstall applications again? The answer is disk drive cloning using Macrium Reflect which is straight forward and incredibly also happens to be free for home users.

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Clone hard drive to external drive

In the old days to clone a drive with a legacy program like Ghost you had to use a boot cd outside of Windows. The free Windows disk drive cloning tool Macrium Reflect allows you clone your computer’s hard drive to an external usb drive while still in Windows.  Before installing the software I attached my new Samsung EVO 870 SSD drive via the Sabrent USB SATA adapter.

After downloading the software, just launch the installation wizard and follow the prompts to get started.



You will be prompted to accept the License Agreement and confirm you’re using it for home use or enter your license for business use.




Macrium Reflect Drive Cloning

Once the Macrium Reflect installation completes you’ll see screen displaying your computer’s hard drive. My laptop only has one drive but since I’ve attached my new one via USB it’s also displayed. Click on Clone drive and you’ll be presented with the option to select the source and destination for the cloning procedure.



After clicking next you’ll be prompted to confirm your selections and then start the cloning process. In the screen below you can see the overall progress of the drive cloning.



Depending on how large your old drive is this may take some time. My legacy 120 GB drive completed cloning in 28 minutes but as a reminder Macrium Reflect allows you to use your computer during the cloning process.



With the old drive cloned to the new one the only step remaining is to install the new drive in my laptop. Check your laptop vendor’s support site for documentation on replacing the hard drive. This usually just involves opening a few screws on the back of the case and then unscrewing the drive carrier and detaching the data cable.

But wait there’s more

One additional step that I had to perform after installing the clonded hard drive was to expand the primary volume within Windows to utilize all the additional space of my new drive. My old drive was only 120 GB and my new drive was 500 GB so the cloning process left all that extra space unallocated. Fortunately extending the volume is very easy to do within the Windows Disk Management tool.

In Summary

When you have a hard drive that’s run out of space and don’t want to reinstall Windows and all your applications again just clone it using the Sabrent USB SATA adapter and Macrium Reflect. Thanks for reading!

Peter Viola

Creative, customer focused, results oriented, Senior Web Systems Engineer who enjoys providing the highest level of customer service supporting complex Windows hosting solutions. MCITP, MCSA, MCTS

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