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I've got a number of machines to upgrade from Vista to Win 7, but the users have an option of also replacing their platter drives with (smaller) SSD's. Ideally I'd like to do these at the same time but I'm not sure what the best way to go about it is.

I would assume doing some sort of Norton Ghost-ian copy from HD to SSD, but pre or post upgrade? Post seems like it will be fewer SSD writes, but pre gives me a backup in case something goes awry.

I can't actually USE Ghost since we don't own it, so FOSS alternative suggestions welcome there, too.

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I recently did this exact same thing. I installed an SSD in my computer and upgraded from Vista to Windows 7. In my case, I installed the SSD side-by-side with the regular drive. I then used Ghost to copy the contents to the new SSD drive. I changed the BIOS to boot the new drive and I was done with the SSD install. I then performed an upgrade to Windows 7 on the SSD drive.

It has been really handy having the original drive in the same computer. I've been slowly cleaning out the old drive as I get comfortable with the Windows 7 install. So far, I haven't had any major issues. Another developer, however, upgraded from XP to Windows 7 and she's had more trouble. Her biggest issue has been with old XP drivers that are not compatible with Windows 7.

I wouldn't worry too much about the SSD fatigue. We've been running SSD for about a year in a number of computers and they have survived just fine. We've had multiple OS installs and at least one XP to Windows 7 upgrade.

If you don't have Ghost, Clonezilla is a great alternative. I've used it at home and work. It's not quite as simple as Ghost for straight NTFS partitions, but it's not bad either. There's a live CD that puts all the tools in one place that makes it pretty easy.

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Clean install and the tool Microsoft bundle with Windows to migrate user data from one machine to another. Not quite the kind of answer you might have been looking for but you'll thank me later I reckon. It still gives you a fallback plan if things go wrong and it gets around the problem of needing a Ghost clone but not having one, too.

You'll get a more consistent machine "state" this way, and as SSD sizes are still typically smaller than a 'traditional' disk, I think it's also worth it for the space you'll save too - there's always some 'cruft' left behind during an upgrade.

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I would do them separately, in the interest of simplicity.

It really doesn't matter which you do first, although I suspect that doing the SSD upgrades first would make the Win7 upgrade go faster. Depending on the brand, hard drives come with a utility to "clone" from the old drive to the new drive. Alternatively, there is a disk imaging/cloning tool in the (free) Helix3 forensic toolkit that works like a charm.

Whether to automate the Win7 upgrade depends on how many computers you are talking about. An interesting (and free) tool called vLite makes unattended Windows installs relatively easy, although you still have to touch each computer.

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