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.
Before you attempt to boot into Windows, get into the BIOS setup program by pressing F2 (Intel motherboards) or Del (most other motherboards). You want to check the boot order, particularly if you have more than one hard drive - you need to make sure that the Windows boot drive is the first drive the system sees. Most modern motherboards allow you to specify which SATA drive is the boot drive.
Also check that you have the right storage type specified for your configuration: IDE, AHCI, or RAID. (Note: If you're using a solid-state drive, don't enable AHCI.)
Once you're confident that the correct boot drive is specified, boot up the system.
Assuming you've connected everything properly, you should see the Windows 7 boot screen. You'll then need to wait as Windows enumerates all the new hardware. Since I installed the latest Intel motherboard drivers prior to taking out the old motherboard, this process went smoothly for me.
After all the devices have been enumerated and the drivers updated, you'll need to reboot the PC.
Once you've rebooted a second time, check to see if Windows thinks it needs to be activated. You may get a warning to this effect. You can just bring up the system property sheet (in the System control panel) and look at the bottom. There you'll see an 'activate windows now' query, along with an expiration period. I've encountered grace periods as short as three days in a motherboard upgrade; in other instances, Windows doesn't need reactivation. It seems to be something of a crap shoot, but the majority of the time, you'll need to reactivate the OS.
In my particular case, activating over the internet worked fine. Bear in mind, however, that you may have to resort to contacting the Microsoft activation hotline via telephone if activation over the internet is denied. The process takes only a few minutes, and requires entering codes into fields. If the automated system asks you how many computers this copy of Windows is running on, make sure you answer '1'.
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