Replace the motherboard of a PC without reinstalling Windows 7/8.1/10

Motherboard problem:  Can I replace the motherboard of my PC without having to reinstall Windows 7?

MSI K8N Diamond Plus ATX motherboard for AMD processors

MSI K8N Diamond Plus ATX motherboard for AMD processors

Motherboard and Windows problem

My computer running Windows XP Professional SP3 is using an elderly AMD Athlon X2 4600+ dual-core processor and Socket 939 motherboard, so I am looking to replace the motherboard, processor and RAM and upgrade to Windows 7 SP1. I have used Windows 10, but prefer Win7. Anyhow it is not possible to perform an in-place upgrade from WinXP to Win10. Is such an upgrade of hardware necessary in the first place in order to be able to upgrade to Win7? – If possible I would like to keep my existing hardware and only add more RAM memory and upgrade to Win7.

Answer

Replacing the motherboard requires reactivation of Windows XP/7/10

Note that when you replace the motherboard on a PC using a version of Windows that has been activated Product Activation will require reactivation online or by telephone to Microsoft’s support. In this case, a new and successful install of Windows 7 will activate if it is has an OEM licence (can only be used on one computer) or retail licence (can be used on unlimited computers as long as only one is in use at any time), but the previous installation of Windows XP will require reactivation – if you decide to keep it in a dual-boot system.

You can keep WinXP on its own and install Win7 Upgrade edition on a separate partition or separate hard drive (or SSD). During its setup, Win7 re-creates the boot menu to allow booting from either WinXP and Win7.

Note well that the latest processors made by Intel and AMD only support Windows 10. Read the following post to find out more about this.

POSTMicrosoft processor support – Only Windows 10 given support on the latest AMD and Intel Processors (CPUs) – but fixes are available – plus how to disable Win10 data-gathering (telemetry)

Upgrading WinXP to Win7 or choosing a dual-boot system

I have myself successfully upgraded a desktop PC running an AMD Athlon X2 3800+ Socket 939 dual-core processor on an MSI MS-7093 motherboard first to Windows 7 and then to Windows 8 and then to Windows 8.1. It runs beautifully on only 2GB of RAM memory on the same MSI motherboard I purchased in 2005, so you will probably be able to upgrade to Windows 7 without replacing the motherboard and processor. However, upgrading Win7 to Win10 on the same old hardware is probably a step too far.

You could, of course, add more RAM memory if you have free memory slots on the motherboard. Note that you must have a video/graphics card that supports the “DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0 or higher device driver”. If the motherboard graphics chip or graphics card only supports a lower version of DirectX, Win7 will only be able to start up in Safe Mode. Here is the page on Microsoft’s website that provides the system requirements for upgrading to Win7:

Windows 7 system requirements –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/system-requirements

What happens when the hard drive (or SSD) is kept and the motherboard, processor and RAM is replaced?

When the existing hard drive or SSD is kept and the motherboard, processor and RAM memory is replaced, the version of Windows on the hard drive has the device drivers and other hardware-related software that the old motherboard used. The new motherboard uses completely different device drivers and software. Therefore, you need to remove as much of it as possible before connecting the hard drive or SSD to the new motherboard.

During its setup process, using the new motherboard, Windows finds the new hardware and installs its device drivers. In both Windows 7 and 10, you find the hardware devices that you should first uninstall in the Device Manager and the software that pertains to that hardware, usually just the device drivers for the graphics card, in the Control Panel => Programs & Features.

The video below shows that it is possible to allow Window 7 to replace the device drivers, but the setup is more likely not to produce problems if the old device drivers are uninstalled.

Note that once the hardware devices are uninstalled, you must not reboot the system because Windows just reinstalls them . You must remove the hard drive, install the new motherboard, processor and RAM and then connect the hard drive to the new motherboard. Watch the following YouTube videos for more information.

AMD to Intel, CPU and Motherboard Upgrade without Reinstalling Windows {Windows 7] –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lIuIz-20-o

How to upgrade your Motherboard (Plus a Windows 10 Activation Issue!) –

Use the Crucial Memory Advisor to find out which memory upgrade to buy

I would use the Memory Adviser on crucial.com to find out which memory configurations you can add. Of course, if you want to increase the performance with a new motherboard, memory and processor, that’s what you’ll have to do, but your existing hardware is good enough to be used for office applications and to go online.

Note well that the latest processors made by Intel and AMD only support Windows 10

Don’t forget that the latest processors made by Intel and AMD only support Windows 10. Read the following post to find out more about this.

POSTMicrosoft processor support – Only Windows 10 given support on the latest AMD and Intel Processors (CPUs) – but fixes are available – plus how to disable Win10 data-gathering (telemetry)

If you buy and install the Upgrade version of Windows 7, there has to be a qualifying existing installation of Windows installed on the PC, which you have (XP Pro). I bought another hard disk drive and installed Windows 7 Upgrade version on it, the doing of which keeps the installation of Windows XP Pro on the existing hard drive, which creates a dual-boot system with Win7, adding Win7 to the startup boot menu that presents itself, allowing a choice of the version of Windows to use. That way you can access WinXP’s files via Windows Explorer and transfer any files to folders in the installation of Win7.

Note that if you want to remove WinXP from the dual-boot system, it’s a fairly involved process, so it’s advisable to choose to install Win7 on the same partition as XP, which will overwrite XP. Alternatively, install it on a new hard drive after the installation setup has seen that you have a qualifying version of Windows to upgrade to Win7 and then disconnect the hard drive containing XP so that boot menu is not changed to include both versions.

If you want to keep Windows XP

If you want to keep WinXP in case you want to install it later in order to be able to use it to qualify to reinstall Win7 Upgrade version, keep XP on its own hard drive, removed from the system, and, as an extra source of recovery, create a restorable system image and save it to an external hard disk drive. I use the free version Macrium Reflect to create system images, which is more reliable than the Backup and Restore used by Win7 and Win8.

The full retail version of Win7 can be installed on an empty hard drive (without any qualifying version of Windows) and can be installed on as many PCs as you like as long as only one PC is in use at any one time. One Windows licence can only be activated once. If you try to activate it on another PC, the activation process will fail.

Here is a video explaining and illustrating how to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7

Remember that if you buy a brand new motherboard and processor (AMD or Intel), the new processor will only support Windows 10, as is explained in the POST provided earlier in this article.

Note that RAM never uses a device driver and the processor doesn’t often have a device driver, so you don’t have to do anything to Windows XP if you upgrade those components. Windows will automatically recognise and install those devices.

AMD Processor Driver Version 1.3.2.0053 for Windows XP

That said, if you install an AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor or an AMD Phenom quad-core processor in the (AMD-based Socket 939, AM2+, AM3) motherboard you have chosen, you will need to download and install the AMD Processor Driver Version 1.3.2.0053 for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 (x86 and x64), which “Allows the system to automatically adjust the CPU speed, voltage and power combination to match the instantaneous user performance need.

This package is a user-friendly localized software installation of the driver designed for end-users. This driver supports AMD processors on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86 and x64 Editions.” I installed that driver and later updated to WinXP SP3 successfully without having to upgrade it. So, if in doubt, check the processor’s manufacturer’s website to find out if a driver is required. If the processor appears as it should in the Device Manager (a dual-core processor will show two processors, a quad-core, four processors, etc.), then there should be no problem.

I had a single-core Athlon 64 3000+ processor installed in a Socket 939 MSI MS-7093 motherboard, which can run Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors for that socket if the latest BIOS update is installed. However, when I installed a Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 3800+ dual-core processor, Windows XP asked for the source of the above-mentioned processor driver to be inserted, and the two cores were installed as unidentified devices under Processors in the Device Manager. Installing the processor driver fixed the problem in the Device Manager.

Windows XP does not support the SATA drive standard natively

Note that if you keep using Windows XP Pro SP3, which is no longer supported by Microsoft but which can still be used  – I am still using it in October 2018 and some users are still using Windows 95 and 98 – and you install an SATA hard disk drive to replace an IDE PATA hard drive, there are issues with the SATA device driver, which XP does not support natively, requiring the driver to be installed at startup. You only install the driver once and then XP uses it to run the SATA hard drive thereafter. The usual method was to use a floppy disk and press the F6 key at startup, but new computers don’t come with one, so you’ll have to use an alternative method. Here is a webpage that provides one:

Install Windows XP on SATA without a Floppy (F6) –

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Install-Windows-XP-On-SATA-Without-a-Floppy-F6-47807.shtml