I had a computer running windows 7. I then upgraded all my hardware except my hard drive, and I'm trying to reinstall windows 7. I believe this is the recommended thing to do.

With the new hardware installed, I am able to run my previous Windows 7 installation at the moment. I have a windows 7 iso file to use, but the problem is I do not have an optical drive. I appear to have missed that latest motherboards abandoned the IDE interface in favour of SATA so I'm waiting on the delivery of some new parts which could take 3-4 weeks.

I also am aware you can use a USB stick. Unfortuntely, I only have several 2GB sticks, which are too small.

I have tried running the setup from within windows. However, I am unable to partition the hard drive during installation and I end up keeping all my files after a 'fresh' install.

I was wondering if anyone had some ideas that I could try.

edit- does anyone know If I run the installation from a different hard drive, that I can partition and format the other one?


Grab all the old hardware, and assemble your computer as it used to be. Follow these instructions for prepping your existing Windows 7 installation for the move. Install the hard drive in the new hardware.

Since you do not have an optical drive, and thus you won't be able to use any of the installation discs for any of the new hardware (including a motherboard driver disc that probably has network drivers) you might want to download all the driver installation packages for all your new hardware BEFORE you prep the system for the move.

Essentially, following those sysprep instructions will remove all hardware-specific drivers that could cause BSODs and conflicts when you connect the new hardware. It will also remove the existing activation to avoid your installation from being tagged as a pirated install. It will keep you from having to reinstall all your software too. So, all you will have to do after the move is activate the installation again, and install all the new drivers.

EDIT adding the actual instructions to the answer...

  1. Start with the hard drive in the original computer and hardware.
  2. Run Command Prompt as Administrator (all programs, accessories, right click on Command Prompt and choose Run As Administrator)
  3. Type "%windir%\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe" without the quotes and hit enter
  4. In the Dialog box that comes up, for System Cleanup Action select Enter System Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE), check the box next to Generalize, for Shutdown Options select Shutdown and click OK.
  5. Wait till the computer shuts down.
  6. Move the hard drive to the new computer/hardware.
  7. Since it will treat this as if it is a new installation (it's not, but that doesn't matter) you nave to create a new account. No big deal. Nothing happened to your old account. Just create a test account, and delete it later.

Windows 7 does not need to be re-installed when you replace the hardware. Unlike previous iterations of Windows such as XP, Windows 7 properly migrates when hardware is switched. Your best bet is to simply go through "uninstall a program" in control panel, remove all software and drivers associated with your old motherboard and devices, and then install the new ones. It is also recommended you re-test your Windows Experience Index once all the drivers are set back up.

  • Not all hardware (even in Windows 7) provides a simple and easy Uninstallation routine like that. Windows 7 provides access to easier migration with it's Sysprep tool. – Bon Gart May 1 '12 at 17:15
  • @Bon Gart That's what device manager is for, you can also uninstall devices that way! Although the old devices shouldn't initialize any more as they aren't even present, so the drivers in turn shouldn't even load, and in turn shouldn't cause a problem. However resident software such as I mention previously, is more of what could cause a problem. – BloodyIron May 1 '12 at 17:18
  • While I agree that it might be possible to locate all the relevant hardware that needs to be uninstalled through Device Manager, it is far easier to use the tool made for this that is included with Windows 7... namely Sysprep. All it takes is failure to remove one piece of hardware from Device manager that could make the installation BSOD after the move, even to the point where you can't boot to Safe Mode on the new hardware to remove it from there. Something like the chipset drivers, etc. – Bon Gart May 1 '12 at 17:52
  • @Bon Gart Sysprep is far more complex than most people want to deal with. What the OP has done is a much more elegant solution with arguably no repercussions. – BloodyIron May 1 '12 at 19:19
  • 1
    So you didn't even click the link provided in my answer to see that it is far LESS complex to use sysprep, than the manual method you are suggesting? Because you run the command prompt as administrator (as shown) and type one command. You click three times, and sit back. You are saying that this is more complex than hunting down all the hardware drivers that need to be uninstalled in Device Manager... when you have no master list to work from to know what to uninstall? – Bon Gart May 1 '12 at 19:32

You can use a utility like RT7Lite to reduce the actual installation size of Windows. This is accomplished by removing unnecessary components and features from the operating system, and removing them from the installation itself.

Depending on what you want/need to remove, you can drastically reduce the size of the install media. I have successfully shrank the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 to less than 1.7 GB, albeit by removing certain components that I don't need (especially other languages, unnecessary drivers, the tablet PC components, and media center/player that are in the original install media).


Bon Gart has the easiest and best solution imho.

But if you want a clean install in your situation,

Partition the hard drive before running setup within windows, there are plenty of partition tools out there that will do this without having to boot from anything, essentially set up the partition job then reboot, the partition software will load and partition the drive. Be sure to make the partition tool rescue usb boot stick first. Once this is done boot back into Windows, run windows setup and install to that partition.

But this has problems also, if you remove the original W7 install the new one will not boot, but this can be fixed.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.