How do I upgrade my motherboard without reinstalling Windows 7?

  • Colen

    I'm going to be upgrading my motherboard, CPU and memory very soon. Everything else about the computer is staying the same, but I'll be changing from a core 2 duo CPU to an i5 2600K, plus changing to a totally different motherboard, etc.

    I don't want to have to reinstall Windows 7 when I do it - what do I need to do to make sure the install goes smoothly? Should I uninstall old drivers, etc, before I swap out the parts?

  • Answers
  • Sathya

    Windows will almost certainly install drivers for the new hardware automatically with no trouble, making the change easy. You will need to remember that substantial hardware changes will result in Windows deactivating (to prevent someone copying the disk image to many different machines). The rules by which a significant hardware change are detected are somewhat complicated but known, see here.

    On never versions of Windows activation after a significant hardware change works just like activation of a new install - it will automatically attempt to activate over the internet. Internet activation will fail if the license has previously been activated too frequently*. If this happens, you will need to call the 1-800 number that Windows will give you and speak with an activation rep, who will manually give you an activation code, generally without any questions asked.

    (*) for Windows XP this was more than once in the last 120 days. I believe this has changed in Vista/7, I do not know what the new rule is.

  • Hello71

    There's one important thing not covered so far.


    WGA/WAT is going to complain if you change too much hardware. Nobody knows what the threshold is, but if you cross it, Microsoft support has been known to be fairly lenient in manually allowing you to re-activate regardless.

  • KCotreau

    Windows may boot with the new board out of the box, but it is possible that you will have to massage it go get it to work. If it does work, you should still update all your drivers from the motherboard's web site. If it doesn't the easiest way to do it is re-install and pick "upgrade": This will keep all your programs intact, but replace the hardware drivers and any other faulty registry settings. Even after the upgrade, update your drivers.

    If you try to upgrade to your same OS, but are not given the option (grayed out), it is likely because your original disk is older than your current service pack level. In that case, you will need to slip-stream your original OS disk to add your service pack level or newer. You can search how to slip-stream here as it comes up often.

  • Sharken

    Acronis Universal Restore should be able to do it.

  • MaxMackie

    As long as the HDD housing Windows is left untouched you should be fine.

    Bring in all your new parts and hook them all up. Windows 7 should automatically detect some new hardware and find/install the drivers for you. If not, go to the vendor's website and look for the downloads page. They usually have the drivers there.

  • adam

    Use your windows 7 disk and do an upgrade install, then after it tries to restart, turn it off. Change all hardware you want to change (ie mobo cpu ram vid card whatever) then boot into that drive and continue setup. You will need to re activate windows...

    I did it, went from am3 880gx mobo/cpu to 4770k z87 no problems

  • Related Question

    Hardware upgrade: Windows 7 bluescreens, Vista loads
  • Daniel Schaffer

    I just did a fairly significant hardware upgrade while keeping my hard disks. The old system was a dell Optiplex 745 with an Intel Core 2 duo, LGA 775. The new system is custom built, Intel i5 750.

    I know you're supposed to do a clean install with a hardware upgrade like this, but I'd had success in the past doing the stealth hardware upgrade like this, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

    Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit gets through the loading screen and immediately blue screens and reboots.

    Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit, which I have on an old hard drive from an AMD box (!!) loads up fine.

    I ran through the windows memory checker just to be sure, and my memory is fine.

    So, is the BSOD the result of some sort of protection mechanism specific to Windows 7? Is there any hope of salvaging that install?

  • Related Answers
  • Scott McClenning

    The procedure I've heard people use for this kind of upgrade is before the move the drive to the new computer they go into the device manager and remove all the devices that would be changing (CPU, hard drive controller, video card, sound card, clocks, USB ports, everything). Then shutdown the computer and transfer the drive. When Windows boots, it will want to detect the hardware. You will probably need the CD for the drivers. I hope that helps.

    I don't fully understand how the Vista 32-bit and Windows 7 64-bit fit into the hardware upgrade, so I can help you there.

  • SoftwareGeek

    Have you tried the upgrade adviser for Win 7 from the working instance of Vista 32bit? May be it will give you clues as to the hardware?

  • Jared Harley

    Sounds to me like a 64-bit driver issue.

    Press F8 just after your computer POSTs and before the Windows loading screen shows up to get to the advanced boot menu. Select "Disable Automatic Restart" so that you are able to see the blue screen once the system crashes (this will stop the system from rebooting as soon as the crash happens).

    Reboot and let us know what the BSOD shows.

  • Daniel Schaffer

    This one ended up needing a clean install.