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.
Preparing for the swap
Step 1: Back up
One key point to remember: You are putting your data at risk. Even if you're not into regular backups, now is the time to back up your system. I suggest backing up your valuable data onto an external drive first. Then, if possible, make an image backup of your entire hard drive, using a tool such as Acronis True Image (£39) or DriveImage XML (free). You don't have to clone to another hard drive; just put an image file on another drive, even on the external drive that contains the data backup.
Step 2: Collect software registration keys
Take a close look at all the software you're running. Most modern applications require entering a registration key. You may have to re-enter those keys, so make sure that you have them on hand, preferably on hard copy. If you have a lot of programs, grab Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder it will pull all of your registration keys so that you can easily record them.
Step 3: Deactivate or uninstall activated applications
If an application requires activation, it may see a new motherboard as an attempt to copy the software illegally, and it may refuse to run as a result. For example, most Adobe professional apps (Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and the suites, CS3 or later) require activation. However, they also have a handy 'Deactivate' button in the help menu. If you're running an Adobe suite, you need to deactivate only one app to take care of the whole affair; but if you've installed individual programs, you'll have to deactivate those as well.
Similarly, some games will require deactivation or uninstallation if they've been activated. Whatever the application, if it has gone through an activation process, you need to be prepared to reactivate it when you're installing a new motherboard. This rule of thumb may include Windows itself - I'll talk about how to take care of that in the post-upgrade section.
It's possible to skip the uninstall step for some apps, but doing so may mean that you'll find yourself calling the company for a new activation. I've done this for both Adobe and Microsoft apps without any issues, but it can be time consuming.
Step 4: Update your drivers
This step is particularly useful if you're moving from an older Intel chipset to a newer one (or from an older AMD chipset to a more recent generation). The latest Intel chipset drivers, which you can download from Intel's website, are generally supersets, so the driver for your motherboard will also install drivers and .INF files for newer chipsets. Note that these files aren't actually active in your system, but are enumerated and installed when you bring up Windows for the first time on the new board.
It's also a good time to update your graphics board's drivers and, if you have a discrete sound card, your audio drivers. If you're using the motherboard's integrated audio, you'll obviously be installing those drivers after the upgrade.
NEXT PAGE: Check your storage settings