When you want to replace a hard disk drive with a solid state drive, then there is plenty of free software for cloning drives.
(Solid state drives are more expensive than hard disk ones, but are much faster and have no moving parts, and so are more rugged. Cloning means to exactly copy everything from one drive to the other, including the operating system, locked system files, and hidden folders. I wrote about doing this in How I installed my new SSD.)
Last weekend, one of my kids wrecked the hard drive in her laptop computer; this was the second time in a year. (TIP: Don't pound the keyboard in frustration.) I had only a few hours to solve the problem, and so was forced to buy a new notebook computer running the unfortunate Windows 8 operating system from the customer-hostile Saturn electronics store (Germany's BestBuy). I also purchased a 250GB solid state drive for a reasonable $200, so that rough treatment of the laptop would no longer destroy the hard drive.
I used the free Macrium Reflect cloning software to copy the contents of the hard disk drive to the SSD. It took five hours. I swapped drives, and then rebooted the computer. It would not boot.
I did some research to find that most cloning software does not work properly with Windows 8, because Microsoft added extra security to frustrate legitimate customers. (All computers certified by Microsoft and running Windows 8 must employ uEFI -- Unified Extensible Firmware Interface -- which means they no longer will boot regular USB drives, either. Thank you, Microsoft, for making life harder.)
On a forum, I read a recommendation to use the free Acronis Migrate Easy software for Windows 8 cloning. I downloaded it, and it also did not clone a drive that was bootable.
After more research later, I came across Germany's Paragon Migrate OS to SSD. Drawback: it cost me $20. Benefit: it worked. Additional benefits:
- It does not copy empty clusters, and so is super speedy with nearly empty drives, such as ones found in brand new computers. (That 500GB drive was cloned in just 8 minutes.)
- It understands that SSDs are smaller than HDDs, and compensates accordingly.
- For $20 (current special price), they sold me the 32- and 64-bit versions, plus Boot Media Builder, which let me create USB thumbdrives that can boot Windows 8. (I have not yet tested this.)
So, there you go: Windows 8 may be free with the purchase of any computer, but it will cost you a lot afterwards, both in time and for add-ons.