PC Buyer Beware!

I want to upgrade a desktop PC with an Asus A8V motherboard running 32-bit Windows XP SP3 to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium

PROBLEM: My 8-year¬old desktop PC uses an Asus A8V Deluxe motherboard, a 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000 processor and Windows XP Home SP3. I want to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor advised to do a custom installation of the 32-bit version. However, I believe my motherboard and processor support 64-bit Windows. If I do a clean install of Windows 7 can it be the 64-bit version or is that not advisable?

ANSWER: When you upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7, it has to be a clean installation; an in-place upgrade is only possible with Windows Vista (Windows 7 builds itself on the existing installation of Vista). You can’t use the Upgrade versions of Win7 to install to an empty hard disk or SSD drive. An existing (genuine not pirated) version of Windows XP or Windows Vista must be installed. Therefore, if you have an empty hard drive or SSD, you have to install your qualifying version of Windows before you run the Upgrade version of Win7. Only a full version of Win7 can be installed on to an empty drive.

The Asus A8V Deluxe motherboard supports 64-bit AMD Socket 939 Athlon 64FX/Athlon 64 X2/Athlon 64 processors, dual-channel DDR400/333 and has an AGP 8X graphics slot (not a PCI Express slot because that standard came out long after the motherboard). Here is the motherboard’s support page on the Asus website:

http://www.asus.com/supportonly/A8V_Deluxe/

The PC’s graphics card must be one that supports DirectX 9.0c – the last version that can be used with WinXP – or Win7 won’t install past Safe Mode. I upgraded a Dell Inspiron 3000 to Win7 having used the Upgrade Advisor, which didn’t say that the graphics card that only supported DirectX 8.0 need to be changed to a card that supports DirectX 9.0c. When I upgraded it to a PCI DirectX 9.0 card (the PC only has a free PCI slot) the upgrade was unproblematic. Enter dxdiag in the Start => Run box in Windows XP to find out which version of DirectX is being used. If it is version 8.0 try updating it to version 9.0c. If that can’t be done, you need a DirectX 9.0 graphics card. It has to be an AGP or a PCI graphics card, both of which are still available, not a PCI Express card, because the board only has PCI slots and a single AGP slot. If you can’t get a new PCI graphics card, try looking for one on eBay.

Your processor is currently a single-core Socket 939 AMD Athlon 64 processor, but the board supports dual-core Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 processors, which you can buy inexpensively on eBay. It must be a Socket 939 model. I upgraded the processor of my 2005 Socket 939 board from the same processor as yours to a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 3800+, bought on eBay for £25. The 4600+ model is the highest model for Socket 939, but owners reported that the performance is not increased much above the 3800+ model. The BIOS had to be reflashed with an update to run it, but it is running 32-bit Win7 beautifully on only 1GB of RAM memory. The dual-core processor runs much faster than the single-core model did.

Obtaining Windows 7 device drivers for the motherboard’s chipsets, drive controllers, the AGP graphics card and the motherboard’s integrated sound card, etc., could be problematic given the age of the board. The Asus support site for the board provides drivers for Windows Vista only, not Win7. Some Vista drivers are compatible with Windows 7, but there is no guarantee that all of them will be. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista drivers are available. Windows 7 supports most legacy hardware by default and will probably install correctly, but there’s no guarantee that everything will work. There are reports on the web web of this board having problems getting the onboard Promise RAID controllers to work, but you probably don’t want to use a RAID array of hard disk drives.

The main advantage of the 64-bit Win7 is that it supports more than 4GB of RAM (32-bit Windows only supports up to 3.2GB). The board supports a maximum of 4GB of memory, therefore the full advantage of the 64-bit version won’t be achievable and you should stick to the 32-bit version. Note that you should use the Memory Advisor provided by crucial.com to tell you what additional memory is available, because the board only supports dual-channel DDR400/333, the original release of DDR memory, which is now up to DDR3.