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How to upgrade your motherboard the easy way

Follow our guide to ensure you don't run in to problems

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.

Cross-chipset and cross-CPU upgrades

If you're moving from AMD to Intel or vice versa, or if the new motherboard uses a chipset from a different manufacturer than the old one, you need to do a little more work.

First, grab your Windows setup disc and your Windows CD key. If you're upgrading a Windows XP installation, boot from the Windows XP CD. Follow the normal instructions for installing Windows XP, but do not reformat or perform a clean install. Instead, follow the prompts for a repair install. What that will do is update the storage driver to one that Windows will recognise when it boots.

This also works with Windows 7, using the 'Repair My System' option. In both cases you'll need to re-enter the Windows key.

Windows Vista makes the process more painful: Vista has no repair option, a serious oversight on Microsoft's part. What has sometimes worked is to boot into safe mode, install the new storage drivers (from the motherboard maker's CD or floppy disk), and then proceed with the boot. But if that doesn't work, you may find yourself performing a clean install after all--which is why backing up your system prior to an upgrade is critical.

Final thoughts

The upgrade path I present in this article is simple and straightforward, but lays down the groundwork you'll need if you have a more-complex setup. I've performed this type of upgrade several times now with Windows 7, and the machines all continue to run trouble-free.

Even if you think you might need to perform a reformat and a clean install, try running your existing Windows installation first. You might be pleasantly surprised at the result.

See also: The ultimate guide to buying a motherboard

  1. How to avoid problems
  2. Preparing for the swap
  3. Check your storage settings
  4. The upgrade
  5. Motherboard installation
  6. Making the connections
  7. Post-upgrade follow up
  8. Cross-chipset upgrades

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