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I am going to replace the motherboard, cpu and ram of my windows 7 pc (at home, this is not a server, of course). What is the proper way - relative to the software and not to the hardware, unless of course it is relevant for some reason ! - to proceed in doing so? Am I expected to incur issues which could require to re-install the OS?

Will an image of the system taken with the old HW be useful with the new one? Since the make of the motherboard and the cpu is the same (in my case, respectively, asus and intel) can I update the drivers before swapping the hardware?

Is Sysprep useful/required for the smoothness of the process?

UPDATE

I did it. In the process I have lost my floppy drive, since the new MB doesn't provide a suitable connector any longer. I had never used the old one, still it makes me feel old.

The only issue that I have faced was that I tried to set up the hard disks as AHCI without having done the homework (that is, without having checked if it was supposed to work). It didn't, so I reverted to IDE and all was fine.

The only clarification to the answers that I received which is worthwhile to add is that it's not easy at all to download the drivers from the web (or I didn't find it: there is not a "single package" but a whole lot of files to be downloaded one by one). But, luckily, it was not needed: they were provided on a dvd. So at least in my case, it simply worked.

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I have looked around and found some similar questions, but not duplicate (to my comprehension). In particular, I am looking for "how to do it and do it well" while many questions and answers focus on the "is it possible" and the answer in this case appears to be "yes, with newer OS". If I missed some relevant duplicate, please point them out! :) –  Francesco Sep 7 '13 at 13:36
    
I am going to replace the motherboard, cpu and ram of my windows 7 pc (at home, this is not a server, of course). What is the proper way to proceed in doing so? That’s a little vague, are you asking about physically installing it? –  Synetech Sep 7 '13 at 14:19
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The first thing to do is to make sure you have backups. Even if you are probably not going to need them. E.g. use clonezilla/ghost/acronis$whatever) to create a full disk image. Now sysprep the OS removing all old drivers and shut down (do not reboot or the drivers which sysprep removed will be reinstalled). Change the hardware. Boot. The OS will now start cleanly, without old drivers on the new hardware. –  Hennes Sep 7 '13 at 14:24
    
@synetech: I am going to physically replace the MB (and the cpu and ram installed on it). If you think that I can phrase it clearer, please suggest an edit. I hope that this question may become a reference on how to properly proceed in these cases. –  Francesco Sep 7 '13 at 14:35
    
@Francesco, yes, but are you looking for help with the physical process or just the software aspect? –  Synetech Sep 7 '13 at 14:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I am going to replace the motherboard, cpu and ram of my windows 7 pc (at home, this is not a server, of course). Am I expected to incur issues which could require to re-install the OS?

No, you shouldn’t have to re-install Windows, but there are a couple of things you will need to be ready for:

  • You will need to install new drivers for the different hardware.

    When Windows was installed, it installed the drivers for the old hardware, so now you’ll need to install the appropriate drivers. The CPU and RAM won’t be a problem, but the motherboard contains numerous components, each requiring drivers (chipset, audio, video, network, drive controllers, etc.) Worse, without the appropriate drivers, Windows may not be able to boot enough to even prompt you to install the new drivers.

    What you’ll want to do is to boot into safe-mode the first time after installing the hardware, then install the drivers there (your specific hardware may have different instructions, but this is typical for a new motherboard on an existing Windows installation).

    Once Windows has the basic drivers ready, you can usually install other drivers in normal mode (again, your hardware’s drivers should tell you what’s required).

    Just make sure that you have all of the required drivers ready and on hand (download them before installing the new hardware).

  • Windows may require you to re-activate. Again, this shouldn’t be a problem; you should be able to re-activate online, but if your Internet connection isn’t working (e.g., you haven’t installed the motherboard’s NIC drivers yet), you should be able to activate via a phone-call.

Will an image of the system taken with the old HW be useful with the new one?

It can be useful in case you want to put the old hardware in. Like I said, you’ll have to install new drivers for the new hardware, so Windows will be in a somewhat different state afterwards. If you have the space, then taking a backup is a good idea in case there’s a problem like the hardware is defective and you need to put the old one back in while waiting for a replacement.

Since the make of the motherboard and the cpu is the same (in my case, respectively, asus and intel)

The make of the components don’t matter, the models do. Unless you are replacing the motherboard and CPU with identical model numbers, it will require new drivers (and even then, it might still need new drivers due to different revisions, etc.)

can I update the drivers before swapping the hardware?

No, you can’t install drivers for different hardware and even if you could, your old hardware would stop working; you need those to remain installed until you shut down. (Technically, you can “install” the drivers in advance, by which I mean putting the files on the system so that Windows can find them when it needs to, but that depends on your hardware’s driver installers; some won’t proceed if they don’t detect the hardware, other let you install regardless.)

Is Sysprep useful/required for the smoothness of the process?

You can “slipstream” drivers into a Windows installation disk, but you have already installed it. SysPrep is generally for cloning a system like putting the same exact installation onto dozens of identical systems. This isn’t really your situation, so it’s not of much use here.

For your situation, your best bet is to download the drivers, unpack them, and have them ready in a location that will be available to Windows when it tries to install them. This means that they cannot be on a drive that requires special drivers for Windows to be able to access them (e.g., RAID); consider putting them on a flash-drive or erasable CD/DVD in that case.

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Synetech, thanks for the answer. I think that it could be very useful if you could explain where do one looks for the drivers before replacing the HW (I guess, and @jdh confirms it, that you mean from the website of the MB, in my case ASUS). –  Francesco Sep 7 '13 at 14:38
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@Synetech, no offense, but how long has it been since you last put a computer together? "Worse, without the appropriate drivers, Windows may not be able to boot enough to even prompt you to install the new drivers" since when? "•Windows may require you to re-activate. Again, this shouldn’t be a problem" Umm... no it won't. –  Josh Campbell Sep 7 '13 at 14:40
    
Yes, you’ll want to get the drivers from the Asus website. Look for the page for that specific model and look in the Downloads tab. (They may also have a program that can detect and install drivers.) –  Synetech Sep 7 '13 at 14:41
    
@JoshCampbell, if Windows doesn’t have built-in drivers for the new hardware, then parts of the motherboard could run in basic mode if at all, especially if it can’t access Windows Update. (Or are you saying that Windows can boot up with any and all hardware in the world, including brand-spanking-new stuff that came out after Windows?) –  Synetech Sep 7 '13 at 14:44
    
@Synetech, I suppose anything is possible, but in 11 years of building high-end computers I have never encountered any issues like those mentioned. At worse case, he will need to re-instal his network drivers, but I highly doubt it. Once he swaps his hardware and connects his old drive Windows 7 will fire. I'd bet $2.31 on it. Mostly cash. –  Josh Campbell Sep 7 '13 at 14:49

Making an image of your drive is very important if it contains anything not backed up. There is always a remote chance (Murphy's law) that something might happen in the transfer that would cause the drive to become unbootable on both old and new motherboards (although I think this is unlikely).

When the HD boots up on the new motherboard, windows 7 will detect and load the new drivers. It can use generic drivers for most devices. Typically the network driver would be one that requires a specific install, and if possible should be pre-loaded. Otherwise you'll have to download it on another machine and transfer it via USB stick. You should also research and install the AHCI hard drive driver. This is a bios option for IDE or AHCI driver interfaces.

Lastly, some software might detect the new HW configuration and require you to re-validate it's license. So have those licenses on hand.

If this is the only machine you have available, you should download all drivers from the motherboard support site and have them available on a USB stick.

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If the case has a slide out motherboard tray take it out and insert the riser screws, mount the board and insert the CPU & RAM. Else, set the motherboard on the foam antistatic pad it came with (usually black or red), instal the CPU & RAM, insert riser screws into case and attatch the board. DO NOT FORGET THE RISER SCREWS. You will damage the board if you do.

If you're just replacing everything and not building a new system, then you should have no need for an image. Just instal your old hard drive and your existing Windows 7 OS will automatically detect drivers for your new hardware. If everything is exactly like your old hardware (which I doubt, unless you bought doubles of everything at the same time), then your old drivers will work on your swapped out hardware.

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I am changing MB, cpu and ram. All the rest is the same (minus the usb 3 card which I won't need any longer, since this new MB is already usb 3 compliant). Thanks for the remainder about the riser screw. So the answer is: there's nothing to do? Sysprep is not needed? –  Francesco Sep 7 '13 at 14:14
    
No, it's not needed. –  Josh Campbell Sep 7 '13 at 14:16
    
If everything is exactly like your old hardware It’s not; they are putting a different motherboard in. your existing Windows 7 OS will automatically detect drivers for your new hardware. And where does it get them? Windows Update? That presumes that Windows can access the Internet which is not guaranteed when changing a fundamental component like the motherboard (assuming of course that Windows boots at all and doesn’t get tripped up on some fancy new stuff that it doesn’t support out of the box—remember F6?). –  Synetech Sep 7 '13 at 14:48
    
@Synetech, haha... you should have waited for my other answer before posting this. Plus, I already mentioned that I doubt his hardware is the same. Touche –  Josh Campbell Sep 7 '13 at 14:51

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