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I am upgrading my PC, but I'm sticking to my old HDD and gfx card. I would like to avoid reinstalling Win 8. Is this possible? Or, at least, is it possible to use Windows 8's refresh pc option?

UPDATE It worked like a charm. Windows acted as if it was the first boot and displayed the "Getting devices ready % " progress bar. I am not sure if this proves you can do it in every scenario, but my new gear is relatively modern (some gigabyte board with two PCIe 3.0 slots and USB 3.0 support + i5), so I guess we can agree the reinstall is unnecessary in most cases.

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if your computer does not boot, just insert the windows installation disk and hit the "repair" option. you should be fine. or use sysprep –  Gizmo Feb 16 at 12:26
    
The proper way of migrating Windows to a dissimilar hardware is to image the system disk and then restore that image on the new hardware, injecting proper device drivers in the process. Acronis calls this Universal Restore. See the answer I posted below. If you are not using Acronis, then you need to find another backup and restore solution that a) offers a bootable version of the program, b) allows you to inject drivers during the restore process. –  sammyg Feb 16 at 13:02
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8 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You might be able to get away without re-installing.

Your current installation will have drivers for the current motherboard. The new motherboard will require new drivers.

If Windows can cope with this difference then it will boot but the first thing it will do is ask you to install the new drivers from the motherboard installation CD. However, it might fail to boot. In which case you'll have to re-install Windows.

Make sure to backup your data before doing the upgrade. Then try it and if it works you'll have saved yourself a lot of time.

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Odds are with modern hardware it will probably be okay, as long as you're not running in RAID mode (even if not in a RAID array...that RAID controller driver can be a bitch). –  Shinrai Dec 24 '12 at 15:13
    
I did this successfully with a Windows 2000 install. As above, just ensure all drivers are installed (probably okay with Win8). –  Ghostpsalm Feb 16 at 11:38
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At the very least you will need to reactivate it and install your new chipset drivers.

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I don't mind making any driver updates, but I don't want to go through the process of installing all of my software all over again. I ask because I remember this being a necessity when doing it on Windows XP. –  Goran_Mandic Dec 24 '12 at 15:05
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Another option might be to use Acronis' so called "Universal Restore" feature, which supposedly (I've never tried it) allows you to restore your Windows system image to a different hardware environment.

If you have any Acronis product with this feature maybe you can use it to create a drive/partition image. First simply try booting up and see whether Windows can handle the change by itself. If not, you can give Universal Restore a shot or perform a repair install of the OS.

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Yes, I can testify that Universal Restore feature of Acronis True Image line of products is really working. With this feature and a specially prepared bootable version of the True Image software, you can choose to restore a system disk image, and during the restore process it allows you to inject drivers that are necessary for the new hardware to operate normally under Windows. –  sammyg Feb 16 at 13:10
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Use O&O Diskmage with the Machine Independent Restoration (MIR) technology. It allow you to restore an image to new Hardware

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Another option is run Sysprep before you do the upgrade. It is found normally in the C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\ folder. Just run the following command:

Sysprep /generalize /shutdown

This will strip out the hardware specific information from the computer (you will need to re-activate windows). On next boot it will re-initialize all the information it needs based on your new hardware.

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I was facing the same issue with a mobo & cpu upgrade last month. Am running Win8.1 Pro w/Media Center. After the hardware switch, Windows started right up and loaded the basic drivers. It all worked well. I had to reactivate Windows but that wasn't a problem as their automated call process worked fine. I have three HDDs for programs and data and a SSD for my C: drive. No issues with them and no network/sharing/homegroup/printer issues.

Tip: Before you start the hardware switch, deactivate all Adobe products and deauthorize your computer in iTunes if iTunes is installed. I've come across a couple of single-user-license programs that simply needed to have the license key re-entered but that's it. I had to call Adobe to get my Photoshop and Photoshop Elements programs re-activated. Adobe Lightroom was not affected.

I do have Acronis TruImage that has Universal Restore built in to it but didn't need to use it. I did do a full backup and image creation on a bootable disc before I started also.

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There's useful information here in most of the answers, but one thing that will probably further smoothen your experience is to deactivate Windows 8 on the old motherboard first, if possible:

Press Windows key + X

Click Comman Prompt (Admin) At the command prompt, type: slmgr.vbs -upk

Hit Enter, this will uninstall the product key from the computer and set it back to trial mode, you are now free to use it on another computer.

[...]

The installation currently will go into trial mode, will need to be activated or it will go into reduced functional mode. You have the option of installing another version or edition of Windows or obtain a product key for it. You can also format the system.

Found on the Microsoft Community website.

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Yes, you should be able to do that. However, you will have to do some preparation work first. As usual, the first golden rule of computing is to backup your data. You can either use the built-in Backup and Restore in Windows to do that, or use a third-party solution. I have personally been using Acronis True Image for years now. One of the key benefits is the so called "Universal Restore".

In previous versions of True Image (prior to 2014) you had to get a separate add-on called the "Plus Pack" to get this functionality. However, in True Image 2014 this is now an integral part of the True Image 2014 Premium. It is only included in the Premium version. Note that it is not available in the Lite or the Standard version of the software.

What you basically do is the following.

  1. You install the True Image software.
  2. You create a new disk image backup of the system disk.
  3. Then you create a True Image bootable media. You can do that inside True Image, or you can download a bootable version of the software from your Acronis online account.
  4. You install your new hardware - motherboard, memory, processor, etc. You can either use your old disk drive, or use an empty, brand new disk drive. If you decide to re-use your old disk drive, you can safely format it to freshen it up a bit, as you will be able to restore everything from the disk image backup.
  5. Power the system on.
  6. Insert your True Image bootable media. It can be a CD/DVD you burned or a bootable USB drive. I The former can be a bit tricky to get it working. I know that from my own experience with Linux based bootable USB drives. The True Image bootable media is also Linux based. So I recommend burning a CD or a DVD instead.
  7. Once inside True Image, select your disk image backup. Select "Recover whole disks and partitions" and then "Use Acronis Universal Restore".
  8. On the "Drivers manager" screen, select where to look for drivers.
  9. Select to restore the whole disk with the operating system (including MBR and Track 0).
  10. Follow the on-screen instructions and proceed with the restore.

The main problem with restoring Windows system disk image backups to dissimilar hardware is the drivers. Back in the time of the old Windows 2000 I tried to do this. It didn't work. I tried to simply put my old Windows 2000 disk drive in a newly built PC and power it on. It didn't boot. The old PC was based on a VIA chipset. The new motherboard was using an INTEL chipset. The chipset drivers in particular are the major obstacle in moving a Windows installation to a dissimilar hardware.

So if you had an INTEL chipset with your old Windows installation, and your new hardware is also using an INTEL chipset, then there is a good chance you will be able to migrate your Windows installation to a dissimilar hardware.

Read more

You can read more on the following links.

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Don't forget to collect your drivers for the new hardware, before you tear down the PC. Make copies of necessary drivers onto a CD/DVD or a USB drive. –  sammyg Feb 16 at 13:13
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