I have a somewhat customised laptop install I want to move to a SSD directly, without having to reinstall Ubuntu, reinstall all the apps and make all the other changes again. The SSD is smaller, so I can't just do dd.

The original install was done with the Ubuntu alternate installer, selecting the full disk encryption with LVM option.

What steps are required and how do I do them? I expect to have to:

  • set up the disk partitions, encryption etc
  • copy the data across
  • install grub and get it working with new UUID values etc.

6 Answers 6


Partitioning and file copy - while running

I did this by starting with the running system. I plugged the new SSD into a USB SATA adapter and partitioned it, set up LVM and copied the files across.

# confirm disk size is as expected for sdc
sudo fdisk -l /dev/sdc
# now partition - 500 MB partition as boot, the rest as a single (logical) partition
sudo cfdisk /dev/sdc

Your disk should now look like:

sudo fdisk -l /dev/sdc
Disk /dev/sda: 120.0 GB, 120034123776 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 14593 cylinders, total 234441648 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *          63      979964      489951   83  Linux
/dev/sda2          979965   234441647   116730841+   5  Extended
/dev/sda5          980028   234441647   116730810   82  Linux swap / Solaris

The next step is to put encryption on the partition and LVM on top of the encryption.

sudo cryptsetup -y luksFormat /dev/sdc5
sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdc5 crypt
sudo vgcreate crypt-lvm /dev/mapper/crypt
sudo lvcreate -L4G -nswap crypt-lvm
sudo lvcreate -l100%FREE -nroot crypt-lvm

Now make the filesystems and mount them and copy your system across.

sudo mkfs.ext2 /dev/sdc1
# you do ls /dev/mapper to check the name if different
sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/crypt-root
sudo mkdir /mnt/boot
sudo mkdir /mnt/root
sudo mount -t ext2 /dev/sdc1 /mnt/boot
sudo mount -t ext4 /dev/mapper/crypt-root /mnt/root

# rsync files
sudo rsync -a /boot/* /mnt/boot/
sudo rsync -aHAX --devices --specials --delete --one-file-system --exclude proc --exclude run --exclude boot --exclude sys --exclude tmp /* /mnt/root/

Up to this point you can keep the system running and use it. Now you need to shutdown and boot into a live CD/USB so you can get the system in a shutdown state.

Partitioning and file copy - live CD/USB

Once you have booted, open a terminal and:

sudo apt-get install lvm2

# mount old hard drive
sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda5 sda5_crypt
sudo mkdir /mnt/sdaroot
# you can do ls /dev/mapper to check the name if it is different
sudo mount -t ext4 /dev/mapper/sda5_crypt--root /mnt/sdaroot

# mount new hard drive (over USB)
sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdc5 sdc5_crypt
sudo mkdir /mnt/sdcroot
sudo mount -t ext4 /dev/mapper/sdc5_crypt--root /mnt/sdcroot

# final rsync
sudo rsync -aHAX --devices --specials --delete --one-file-system --exclude proc --exclude run --exclude boot --exclude sys --exclude tmp /mnt/sdaroot/* /mnt/sdcroot/


# prepare chroot
cd /mnt/sdcroot
sudo mkdir boot

# these directories are set up by the system and we need them inside the chroot
sudo mount -t proc proc /mnt/sdcroot/proc
sudo mount -t sysfs sys /mnt/sdcroot/sys
sudo mount -o bind /dev /mnt/sdcroot/dev

# now enter the chroot
sudo chroot /mnt/root/

Changing UUIDs

Now we are root inside the chroot and run the following commands:

# inside chroot, as root
mount -t ext2 /dev/sdc1 /boot

Now you will see all the UUIDs for the various disk in the system. You will need to edit the UUIDs in /etc/fstab and /etc/crypttab to match the values for /dev/sdc?

In /etc/fstab you need to use the UUID for the boot disk - /dev/sdc1 if your disks have the same letter as me.

In /etc/crypttab you need to use the UUID for the other (big) partition - /dev/sdc5 if your disks have the same letter as me.

initramfs and grub

# now update initramfs for all installed kernels
update-initramfs -u -k all

# install grub and ensure it is up to date
grub-install /dev/sdc      # NOTE sdc NOT sdc1

# hit Ctrl-D to exit chroot
sudo umount /mnt/root

Now shutdown, put the SSD inside your laptop, cross your fingers and boot up.

Useful links

Good guide for the cryptsetup stuff at http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/577

For installing grub on an external partition: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/247030/how-to-set-up-grub-in-a-cloned-hard-disk


  • Just discovered the rsync exclude of sys excluded some directories I wanted to include. I will come up with a more discerning rsync command and update this answer. Mar 8, 2013 at 11:22
  • Just a reminder: you promised an update for this excellent answer :-)
    – guntbert
    Dec 8, 2013 at 17:58
  • In the chroot section, before mounting, I had to create the mount points: sudo mount -t proc proc /mnt/sdcroot/proc sudo mount -t sysfs sys /mnt/sdcroot/sys sudo mount -o bind /dev /mnt/sdcroot/dev beforehand do: sudo mkdir /mnt/sdcroot/proc sudo mkdir /mnt/sdcroot/sys --- In my case, the command to create the initramfs did not work, because the kernel versions didn't match and so initramfs couldn't find the right kernel in /boot, so I couldn't get the whole thing to work. Sep 17, 2014 at 10:04
  • I have followed your "while running" guide, made a few adjustments (ext4) and so far it worked wonderfully. I changed in fstab UUID for boot to the new partition I also changed mountpoints for root and swap. Is there anything else besides fstab needed to change? I'm gonna try booting now :D
    – Luka
    May 14, 2018 at 13:10
  • When you do luksOpen, make sure to assign the same label that's used in crypttab or the grub setup won't work properly. Took me forever to figure that out. Another answer mentions binding /run/lvm. Don't know if that's needed. For debugging you can save time by practicing on a USB disk and trying to boot it with kvm. Aug 5, 2018 at 18:17

I tried to comment, but I lack the reputation :-)

Anyway, I used successfully the amazing guide by Hamish to migrate to a ssd on my linux-based luks-encrypted work laptop. Just a few remarks:
1. After creating the swap lv also use

# mkswap /dev/mapper/crypt-swap 

to initialize the swap, otherwise it fails during boot, as indicated in the comment above.
2. The rsync command is too restrictive as it is. When I used it with --exclude run, I ran into all sorts of veeeeeeery strange generally unseen by the internet errors. The run has to be included. The sys is anyway empty when booting into maintenance mode, so it can stay. Also if you exclude tmp, the newly created on the target /tmp and /var/tmp don't get a sticky bit - remember to set them by yourself. I ended up using something like

# rsync -aHAX --devices --specials --delete --one-file-system --exclude proc --exclude boot /mnt/sdaroot/* /mnt/sdcroot/

Overall - a great guide, shows the overview of the process accurately! Teaches you how to fish, so to say!


[Couldn't put in a comment, although this post belongs in a comment rather than in an answer]

Using this method, you could also move an existing **non-**encrypted lvm install to an encrypted lvm install on the new disk; you just need the additional steps (to install cryptsetup while chroot'ed into the target disk), as mentioned at http://blog.andreas-haerter.com/2011/06/18/ubuntu-full-disk-encryption-lvm-luks, specifically:

apt-get install lvm2 cryptsetup

The above command also installs lvm2 on target disk, though that is unnecessary, it would've been useful if you were moving a non lvm system to an lvm system on your SSD, using a Live CD/DVD. Note that you'd also need to copy over the /etc/resolve.conf to your chroot for you to be able to run apt-get install successfully: it is mentioned at the URL referred to above, code fragment:sudo cp /etc/resolv.conf /mnt/sdcroot/etc/resolv.conf

Also, it is easier to do a cp (using a different installation (not from within source installation that is), e.g., a live CD/DVD) instead of rsync for the / partition, as described at How to move Ubuntu to an SSD

You should also perhaps create swap using mkswap on your /dev/mapper/<swap-name-here> partition.

Should also enable TRIM support at the same time, as mentioned at http://www.webupd8.org/2013/01/enable-trim-on-ssd-solid-state-drives.html

WARNING: Further text below is not for those using MBR, which this topic/thread seems to pertain to. I found this useful anyway, so am posting for the benefit of those who can adapt instructions in this thread/topic to their GPT disk.

And for those using GPT instead of MBR (using parted/gparted and gdisk instead of fdisk), I learned the hard way that your /boot partition (which is unencrypted) shouldn't be numbered after your luks device in GPT order. Because I had created an ESP partition after creating the /boot and luks device partitions using gparted, I then had to sort the partition numbers so that the /boot still was numbered less than the luks device.

As an aside and not related to this post strictly speaking, those using GPT and UEFI with rEFInd, rEFInd perhaps has problems presenting you a list of partitions to boot from if you have multiple ESPs in your system, I have one per disk, so instead of using rEFInd, I am using grub, which works fine.


Before section initramfs and grub you might need to:

vgchange -a y

A bit late, but you have to update /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume file to reflect swap modification. Without this modification you will break hibernate function.


I recently followed Hamishs answer to move an encrypted+LVM Ubuntu 20.04 installation to a bigger hard disk. The instructions are mostly OK, there are a few important caveats however:

  1. The "final rsync" command is wrong. The excludes lead to a lot of files missing on the destination volume, namely those in directories called tmp, run, etc (not only in / but also deeper down in the filesystem tree! There are a lot of them, and they are crucial). The excludes are unnecessary anyway, since nothing is mounted there during this step. It's also not necessary to manually create the required directories /tmp, /proc, etc. afterwards because rsync takes care of that. The correct command is:
sudo rsync -aHAX --devices --specials --delete --one-file-system /mnt/sdaroot/* /mnt/sdcroot/
  1. The mkswap command mentioned in another answer above is required
  2. Before the update-initramfs and update-grub steps, remove the LVM and Luks mappings from the old harddisk. This way it's also not necessary that the old and new volume group have the same name:
dmsetup remove /dev/mapper/sda5_crypt--root
dmsetup remove /dev/mapper/sda5_crypt--swap
cryptsetup luksClose /dev/mapper/sda5_crypt
  1. Concerning the EFI partition, I added that in the same fashion as on the old drive. That is, first the EFI partition, then boot, then the large data partition for Luks. The EFI partition is of type EFI and needs to be formatted with mkfs.vfat. I simply copied the files. Also make sure to mount it in /boot/efi in the chroot step (where you also mount /boot)

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