The capsids of tailed-DNA bacteriophages first assemble as procapsids, which mature by converting into a new form that is strong enough to contain a densely packed viral chromosome. We demonstrate that the intersubunit crosslinking that occurs during maturation of HK97 capsids actually promotes the structural transformation. Small-angle X-ray scattering and crosslinking assays reveal that a shift in the crosslink pattern accompanies conversion of a semimature particle, Expansion Intermediate-I/II, to a more mature state, Balloon. This transition occurs in a switch-like fashion. We find that crosslink formation shifts the global conformational balance to favor the balloon state. A pseudoatomic model of EI-I/II derived from cryo-EM provides insight into the relationship between crosslink formation and conformational switching.