Newbie needs help saving laptop

Hello level1 peoples. I’ve been a big watcher since level1 was re-begun because there’s something lovable about Wendel, he’s helped me fall asleep for years now. Wish I could understand half of what he says. Anyways, I was hit by a spinal disability and therefore rather poor. So I’m trying to save a laptop I was given a couple of years ago.
It’s a Toshiba P50t-B. I basically just use it for youtube/netflix when I’m confined to my bed, which is around 75% of the day. It has been great until a few months back when it was really starting to chug. Task manager keeps reporting 99%-100% hdd usage, so things are crawling. And its sounding rather tickety-clickety… Panic setting in.

So, I want to open her up and install a ssd. But I’m told its not a simple change over which is where I need help please. Apparently the motherboards bios is stored on the spining rust hdd!? And it can therefore not be run without it!???
And I therefore need to replace the dvd drive with a hdd-bay and then sdd install there and run them both together…? So, how do I find a suitable bay for this that fits?

Can an exact copy of the HDD including mobo bios be made so I can just run on ssd without the hdd being installed? And what software is recomended to make this type of copy of windows 10 and the bios.

Many thanks in advance,

Are you sure? Never heard about any bios ever loading from a ATA / SATA drive spinning drive, because that SATA interface needs to be initialized first and that’s the BIOS’s job and then it would be a chicken egg problem.

I am virtually 100% sure your laptop mobo has a SPI flash chip with a the bios and it’s usually not designed to be backed uped and coppied over to another motherboard.

Windows license ( I guess you are using windows as you were mentioning Task manager) is bound to a machine fingerprint that is not fully disclosed by microsoft what exactly that is.

But HDD change is deemed safe for quite a long time now :slight_smile: you will not loose license.

If you do a raw copy of the partition of the old drive to a new one (it must fit in so same size or larger)

There are some generic hardware bays for laptops as well but check you laptopt vendor specific drive bays, but if you want to temp. mount the drive and then never use it after, then just put it there stick it with a tape or something.

Thanks for replying! Yeah, I’d not heard of it before but when I first got the laptop secondhand I wanted to ssd swap it. But when I looked into it people reported that it would not boot with a ssd and I heard a weird answer about the bios thing. Perhaps that is like in a hidden partition to re-install a stuffed up laptop and if that partition is not on the hdd it would not start?

So I guess I need a disk clone tool of some sort that can copy all that hidden manufacturer stuff that allows people to reinstall fresh windows?

Which I guess means I have to fork out for a 1TB ssd!??? (as it has a 1tb hdd). But will the allowable writable area match up?

Thanks again, when I was really into computers I had a forum I used to get heaps of help from 15 or 20 years ago. But it no longer exists, and I’ve not been able to afford to keep up really. So my knowledge from the dos days (my first pc was a 8086 xt with a 20mb hdd) is very out of date. But really appreciate the help.

BIOS should not be stored on the harddrive. HOWEVER…

  1. You will in all likelyhood need to reinstall Windows, so make note of your OEM key.

  2. What is stored on your harddrive is EFI Keys. This is the main reason your Windows install could fail to boot despite a straight up cloning.

Anyway, easiest procedure;

  1. Remove SATA harddrive from laptop.
  2. Put it and your new harddrive in a desktop computer.
  3. Use a disk cloning utility to clone the disk wholesale. Make sure the new drive has more or equal space to the old one.
  4. Put the newly cloned SSD in the laptop.

Theoretically you should now be done, but if not, simply reinstall Windows as usual.

The license key is in the SLIC part of the bios and that’s on a flash chip somewhere on you laptop. That has nothing to to with your hdd.

Edit: I’ve done ssd swaps without needing to reinstall but ymmv.

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I think I understand the first bit. So I lookup my windows 10 key in windows itself?

I don’t understand what EFI keys are. Or what “Ghost is/it?” is exactly.

But I thank you for the input :slight_smile:

Hmm. you say you have done ssd swaps, I assume you made a copy of the original hdd? What is the goto (free) software tools people use to do that these days? I can’t trust google searches these days, every site seems like scam software. And it would need to be able to copy the hidden windows install stuff on the hdd yeah?

BIOS is one small partition inside the SPI flash.
It’s like a small hard drive, there are ifds descriptors that layout the chip for regions like BIOS, intel management engine, VGA stuff for framebuffer to work, etc etc and there could be small vendor part with Windows OEM key.

But windows activation mechanism will derive valid license even if it fails to find one in the SPI chip, it will collect the fingeprint from the CPU vendor id and few more components to check if it suppose to be valid and activated.

Backing the windows key from currently running system wont hurt you so go ahead :slight_smile: be a 100% safe is ok

“dd” ? That will do bit exact copy, but you need to be booted from another OS not running from the drive that’s being copied from

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Yea copy of disk. If the ssd is larger or same size it can be done easily with dd.

My goto is usually to resize the partitions to fit the new drive, copy the partition table and then copy the partitions using dd.

There’s a nice video by explaining computers that used some smart software I can’t remember the name of. It’s free as in beer:

Still struggling to understand a bit. If you guys all say I dont need anything installed on the current HDD, can I just put in a more affordable 500gb sdd and fresh install windows off a usb stick? As long as I write down the windows key?

It took about 30 minutes for it to load up ‘system’. Turns out it’s windows 8.1!. I’ve written down the “Product ID”. I’m assuming thats the key I need? Can I just install windows 10 and use that product ID to a smaller fresh SSD?

Also mentioned was “dd” is that the actual name of the copy software or some new lingo I dont quite understand.
EDIT- ok, in that video it looks like Macrium is the software to use if I go with trying to clone it. Thanks
Cheers, Qumulys

Ok, so, first off, re-read what I posted above - I accidentally hit send before the post was ready, stupid smartphones sometimes :roll_eyes:

For your other questions, my previous post assumed you had an already existing Windows 10 key, so here is an updated version:

  1. Back up any important data on the laptop. Pictures, Work stuff, you know… most things.
  2. Create a Windows 10 install key from 16GB+ USB stick, preferably from a different Windows computer, but the laptop works too if that is all you have.
  3. Get a Windows 10 key from a site like CDKeyOffers. Paying 30 bucks sure beats paying 200 bucks.
    3b. OOOOR… There is always Lin- *gets tackled by the Angry Windows Mob™
  4. Replace the HDD with the SDD.
  5. Insert the USB and install Linux Windows 10. Follow the instructions and enter the key when prompted.
  6. Once booted up search for any additional drivers for the laptop and do the driver install dance that you must perform with most Windows installations.

Voila, you should now have a functional Windows installation. And no, you can’t use an 8.1 license key for 10. And step 3 is optional, but recommended.

As for dd, yeah, that’s the most basic cloning tool, but there are others.

If the laptop has a Win 8.1 license it sometimes works with Win 10. In my experience it’s that 60% of the time it works every time :smiley:

As for using dd it’s quite low level and somewhat of a foot-gun. If you don’t have experience and/or are stupid like me, back your shit up first. You can also try the much less prone to failure, commercial software like: Norton Ghost or Macrium Reflect.

Do you have a USB hard drive that’s as big as or bigger than your existing HDD?

You could use Acronis True Image to clone to an image file on the external HDD, and then restore that to the new SSD.

It’s pretty reasonably priced. There are tutorial videos.

Hello @Qumulys,

As other’s have mentioned, the BIOS is not on the hard disk.

I suggest a clean install over a clone from HDD to SSD.

Enclosures are cheap, you can pick one up and use it to transfer files directly from HDD to SSD if there are any files you want to keep.

If you want to backup the OEM key (which you don’t really need to do), then there are tools that can read the MSDM table from your EFI/BIOS to retrieve that. Just give me a holler and I’ll show you how.

You can link your Microsoft account with the Windows 10 digital license on your device.

Linking your Microsoft account with your digital license allows you to reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter whenever you make a significant hardware change.

If you still have OS running, Macrium reflect free, clone to SSD on USB Dock/adapter.
If drive is bigger than the new SSD, us EASEUs Partition master free, to shrink the drives:

  1. Shrink the largest section first, apply changes(reboot)
  2. Move partitions to the left, leave the free space on far right, apply again.
  3. Macrium reflect to new SSD, select your resized c: drive and choose clone disk
  4. Select the destination disk and make sure you select all sections(partitions) except free space (TRIM enabled by default)
  5. Click through until start, will take time.
  6. Once done shutdown, swap drives turn on, smile.

Licensing is not breached by this. The Licence is linked to the Motherboard, not drives.

If the only things you do on it are YouTube and Netflix, CloudReady would give you a much better experience. You can run it off of a USB drive to test, but it’ll run slow unless installed on an HDD or an SSD. It’s very simple to use and should run very fast on your laptop. Please, give it a try. I love it! Also, a 120GB SSD is more than enough for it, but you should update the BIOS to the latest version to be on the safe side.

Edit: The newest BIOS is from 2015 – V1.50.

I would recommend cloning the os to a SSD to keep the key installed and THEN use the win10 reset/refresh feature, cloning alone won’t let the OS know that it’s on a SSD now and there quite a few things it does differently if It knows it’s on a SSD, refreshing should make it check if it’s on a SSD or not


Often, you do not even need a separate utility; if the licence key is firmware-embedded, stored on the mainboard rather than the hard drive, I think running,

wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey

from a terminal/powershell/command prompt should allow you see it and back it up. Otherwise, I am seeing references to being in the registry if not firmware-embedded.

Edit: It sounds like the registry method may have changed in recent versions; personally I have only needed to use the wmic command.

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