You've taken the plunge and bought a hot new motherboard. Here's how to upgrade your motherboard, swap your hardware, and prep your system so that you won't have to reinstall your apps.
Upgrading your PC's motherboard is a pretty scary task. Even accomplished geeks will shy away from it.
Years ago, I would often upgrade gaming and test systems in my own basement lab, but keep chugging along with a production machine using a two-year-old motherboard and CPU.
Then I learned how to swap in a new motherboard without having to deal with a clean install. It isn't that difficult, provided you do a little up-front prep. The hard part is not the hardware installation - modern motherboards are easier to set up and install than in years past - it's bringing up an existing Windows installation and all your applications.
In this article I'm going to focus on a single-generation upgrade. Examples might include moving from an Intel Core 2-generation board to a Core i5/i7 board, or from an AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 board to a Phenom X4-capable board. Even in this case, you may be looking at additional hardware - particularly memory, if you're moving from DDR2 RAM to DDR3.
Specifically, I won't look at trying to move from very old hardware (say, a motherboard with AGP) to brand-new hardware. If you're planning on moving from ancient gear to current gear, a clean install really is the best way to go.
Here I'll walk you through the process of upgrading the motherboard in an existing PC, including taking care of all the software issues. The goal is to keep and maintain your existing Windows installation even after a motherboard upgrade. I'll focus on the process with Windows 7, but I'll also offer tips and tricks for Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Performing a motherboard upgrade is fairly simple, and consists of three parts: pre-upgrade preparation, the physical swap, and post-upgrade polishing.
NEXT PAGE: Preparing for the swap