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Upgrade Your Motherboard Without Reinstalling your OS

March 17th, 2010

Computer UpgradeIf you’re one of those people who likes to build and upgrade your own computers, or if you have just decided to make your first attempt at upgrading an older system, there is one thing you may be wondering: Do I have to reinstall my OS?

Unfortunately, most people I talk to say one of two things:

  1. “I just always reinstall the OS.”
  2. “I upgraded once and I didn’t have to do anything to the OS, so that’s what I’m going to try this time.”

Well, Option #1 will certainly work all the time, no matter what. As for Option #2, whether or not the OS will boot depends on the hard disk controller driver. So, just because #2 worked for one upgrade doesn’t mean it will work for another.

Fortunately, whether you use Windows or Linux, there is a very easy way to prepare for a motherboard upgrade.

Now, I’m going to assume that if you think you can upgrade a motherboard, that means you kind of know what you are doing and you can find your away around Windows. If you don’t know how to get to Device Manager in Windows, well, stop right there and either get somebody to help you, or edumacate yourself right quick!

So, to start with, I will assume you are using Windows. For Linux users, see below.

Whether you have Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, the process for prepping your puter for a motherboard upgrade is exactly the same. What you need to do is to set the hard disk controller driver in Windows to the standard, plain vanilla Windows version. The reason for this is quite simple, and is illustrated in the following example:

  • You have an AMD processor and VIA chipset in your current machine
  • You want to upgrade to an Intel-based system
  • When you swap out the hardware and try to boot, Windows will use the hard disk controller driver for your old chipset, and thus you will get a blue screen because it can’t load the OS. Oops.

The same can be true if you are moving from Intel to AMD, or even from AMD to AMD or Intel to Intel. It’s also possible that you are already using the default Windows hard disk controller, which means you don’t have to change anything. But just in case, do the following:

  1. Go to Device Manager
  2. Expand the “IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers
  3. If you have an entry like “Standard AHCI 1.0 Serial ATA Controller” or “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller“, you’re all set. Just stop and upgrade your hardware, and you should be fine 99% of the time. If not, carry on to #4.
  4. Right-click the non-standard disk controller entry and choose Properties -> Driver tab -> Update Driver. I’m talking controller entry here, notATA Channel o“, “Primary IDE Channel“, etc.
  5. Choose the “Browse your computer/Let me pick” options until you get a list of compatible drivers. Select the default “Standard” driver:
    – For a SATA drive: Standard AHCI 1.0 Serial ATA Controller
    – For an IDE drive: Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller
  6. Click OK, and don’t reboot – shut down your computer and perform your hardware upgrade. If you reboot before your upgrade, Windows may automatically replace the standard driver with the custom one that you just tried to replace!

Before firing up your upgraded puter, be sure to connect your primary boot drive up properly and configure the BIOS with that drive as the first boot hard disk. Normally, I try to connect all the drives in the computer and configure the BIOS boot order and such exactly as it all was in the old computer.

When you turn on your new monster, Windows should load and be able to access the boot hard drive just fine. It may take a bit longer than usual since Windows will be detecting your new hardware and trying to install drivers. Don’t freak out if everything doesn’t work at first – the important thing is to get the OS booted so you can install drivers and get the rest of your hardware configured and functioning properly.

That’s pretty much it. I have found this works 99% of the time. For the 1% of the time that it does NOT work for whatever reason, you can always throw the Windows disc into the optical drive, boot from it, and select a “Repair Install”. This will probably overwrite all your Windows files, and you’ll have to reapply all your Windows updates and such, but at least your data will remain intact. Just be sure not to accidentally wipe the drive. That would be bad, especially if you don’t have a backup. But, you DID make a backup first, right??

Now for Linux.

I recently had the opportunity to upgrade the hardware in a box running Ubuntu. The only thing that remained the same was the two hard drives. Everything else changed. I had read that linux just loves being upgraded, so I figured what the heck.

With my Ubuntu install, I didn’t have to set any hard disk controller drivers to a default or anything like that. I simply assembled the new machine, transplanted the hard drives to the new puter, configured the BIOS, and let ‘er rip! The machine booted without a hitch, and this was an “Ancient AMD to Modern Intel” type of upgrade. The only problem I had was that it didn’t want to detect the new ethernet controller. Rather than fighting with it by trying to install an ethernet driver without a net connection on the box, I just plopped an old ethernet card in a spare PCI slot, rebooted, et voila! The ethernet was autoconfigured and I was 100% up and running again.

Pretty easy, really.

So, whether you have Windows or Linux, you really shouldn’t have to reinstall your OS with every major hardware upgrade. If your OS installation is really old and bloated, it’s probably not a bad idea to start fresh on the new system. But if you keep your system lean and mean, why bother with a complete reinstall when you don’t have to?

Have fun!

Computers , , ,


  1. JohnBoyCr
    April 19th, 2013 at 20:51 | #1

    After having looked at my motherboard specs, I think I will go for a CPU upgrade. I have a Biostar I945C motherboard with an LGA775 socket. I am currently using a Celeron 430 (1.8GHz). The motherboard supports Core 2 Duo processors up to 3.4GHz. So I am looking at a Core 2 Duo model E7500. That processor is not in the list of supported processors, although the E7200 is in the list. I THINK it is probably because the E7500 came out about a year after the motherboard was released. I have DDR2-667 ram so there shouldn’t be any problems with the FSB. Can anyone tellme why I should NOT go with the E7500? I have tried contacting Biostar tech support but get no response. Not too surprising. So any feedback would be helpful. By the way, if interested, here is a link to the motherboard info


    Thanks ahead of time for any help.

    • April 20th, 2013 at 11:16 | #2

      Well, normally I’d update the BIOS to the latest version, and then try the CPU. If it didn’t even list the E7200, you might be in trouble, but it really depends on the BIOS/motherboard. The E7xxx series were released later after the E8xxx series, so if it says it supports the E7200, I reckon it’ll work with the E7500.

      I’ve never updated the BIOS on a Biostar motherboard before, so I can’t really say if it’s safe or not – despite the warning on the their Download -> BIOS section.

      You could just try plopping the E7500 in, and if you don’t even get the normal POST screen, stick the old processor back in, upgrade the BIOS, and try again.

      If it were me, I’d go for it and see what happens. But then, I’m a bit crazy like that sometimes.

  2. JohnBoyCr
    April 20th, 2013 at 15:38 | #3

    Scottie, Thanks for the feedback. I too am thinking that it SHOULD work. However, I finally received feedback from Biostar and they said that my board does not support CPUs with 45nm technology. Seems strange since the E7200 is 45nm. HMM! Might have to something to do with how certain features are implemented. I don’t know. Might be best to go with the E6700. It is not quite as fast but ought to still give me a significant boost in performance over the Celeron 430. As to upgrading the BIO, well I am not sure how well defined the process is with Biostar, and sure would not want to have the system inoperable. Sure appreciate your time. Once I do the upgrade I will post the results.

  3. JohnBoyCr
    April 20th, 2013 at 17:14 | #4

    Hey Scottie, just looking at a few things with regard to the BIOS. First, apparently the BIOS has to be upgraded using a floppy drive, which I do not have. Second, there is an BIOS upgrade available to support 45nm technology. I think I will steer clear of updating the BIOS. For me, it is just too risky. I will post after installing the E6700.

  4. Bobby
    May 28th, 2013 at 22:03 | #5

    Does this work with Windows 8?

  5. May 28th, 2013 at 22:22 | #6

    Bobby :

    Does this work with Windows 8?

    I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t work. It works with Vista and Win 7, and Win 8 is pretty similar to Win 7.

  6. Bobby
    May 28th, 2013 at 23:55 | #7

    Thanks! Will tell you the outcome when my parts come in!

  7. Bobby
    May 30th, 2013 at 01:05 | #8

    Hey Scottie, I’m getting kind of nervous because I’m “upgrading” to an older CPU with a totally different socket than my current one. I’m trying to decide whether I should stick with this method or try this one: http://voices.yahoo.com/how-replace-motherboard-without-reinstalling-4569031.html?cat=15


  8. May 30th, 2013 at 10:07 | #9


    That’s basically the hard core variation of my suggestion. It is certainly more reliable, since there won’t be any unhappy drivers that may prevent booting with the new motherboard. This usually happens due to a poorly written driver IMO, because Windows shouldn’t have any problem seeing the new hardware, installing new drivers automatically as much as it can, and ignoring old drivers for hardware that no longer exists in the system.

    So, if you want to be super-safe, go with the link above. I’ve never needed to do all that, but that doesn’t mean no one will ever have to!

  9. Bobby
    June 10th, 2013 at 17:28 | #10

    Well Scottie, I decided I’d stick with your method, so I was going to. When the BIOS appeared, I found the button to enter the setup, but right before I pressed it, the screen went totally blank. I froze because I didn’t know what to do. I waited, and about 30 seconds later my computer started up just like usual! Now she’s up and running perfectly. Thanks Scottie! You’re a life saver.

  10. Thatguy
    June 20th, 2013 at 21:55 | #11

    This is a great guide. Thanks for posting it!

  11. Tony
    January 19th, 2015 at 04:00 | #12

    Hi there i’m going from a intel H61 chipset to a z77 chipset and have windows 8.1 and was wondering if this would work to do it? i know this is old but will i need to remove the old chipset or just do this and go for it.

  12. Tony
    January 19th, 2015 at 04:12 | #13

    did not follow correctly redoing

    • January 19th, 2015 at 12:44 | #14

      It should work okay, as long as you set the SATA driver to the default Windows one.

  13. Tony
    January 19th, 2015 at 18:27 | #15

    ok thanks so much

  14. Sergio
    March 18th, 2015 at 15:56 | #16

    I tried this, and well, for some odd reason it stuck on Windows 7 repair. I cannot seem to figure out what I did differently? When I boot to start normally the computer restarts again and again. I load again the old MB with the PC and its boots up just fine. Now I why it isn’t so smooth for me?

    • March 18th, 2015 at 16:58 | #17

      If you set the drive controller properly, then it might also be some other driver. For example, integrated graphics drivers, or some other onboard or add-in device has a driver that screws things up when the new mobo is installed. The one instance I can think of offhand when this happened to me, it was due to Nvidia drivers being loaded for integrated graphics on the old motherboard. I installed the old mobo, uninstalled the Nvidia drivers, and then tried the new mobo again. That worked! You may have a similar problem.

  15. Joshua
    March 18th, 2015 at 22:03 | #18

    Hi Scottie, my “IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers” menu does have “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller” listed. But I’m just double checking and seeking confirmation on whether I’d be okay swapping my motherboard and CPU out, and keeping my Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit) and all the data on my hard drive intact. The current hardware is as follows: Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard, 2gb ddr2 ram, Intel Core 2 duo (E6600), and one EVGA GeForce GTX 960. The hardware I want to put in, while keeping the NVIDIA GPU, is an ASUS M5A97 R2.0 AMD chipset motherboard, AMD FX-8350 black edition unlocked, and 4GB of PNY ddr3 ram.

  16. Avery
    April 26th, 2015 at 02:12 | #20

    So if i have the“Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controlloer” I can just put my new motherboard in an boot up my pc dont have to go into bios or anything?

    • April 26th, 2015 at 11:37 | #21


      On your new motherboard, if you’d like to use AHCI instead of the IDE mode, then if you just switch it in the BIOS/UEFI, Windows won’t boot. So, if you want to change from IDE -> AHCI, then after your upgrade is done (once Windows boots up okay and everything) you can do this: Switch from IDE to AHCI

      Of course, you can also just config the new motherboard SATA ports in the BIOS to IDE Mode, and it should work just fine. But, AHCI offers a few performance enhancements. So, it’s worth the switch.

  17. Daniel
    August 19th, 2015 at 16:12 | #22

    Anyone have experiencing doing this with Windows 10? I did the free upgrade from Windows 7, I’m hoping I won’t have issues with activation.

    • August 19th, 2015 at 19:40 | #23

      Not yet, but it seems from everything I’ve read that the worst case is you’ll have to call the automated phone activation hotline. It’s usually painless – unless they’ve changed something… I don’t know anyone who has done a big upgrade with Win 10, though. I’m actually curious to know how it goes since I’ll be upgrading a Win 10 machine shortly.

  18. August 22nd, 2015 at 03:29 | #24

    I’m planning on going to Win 10 in 2 steps. Build a new system and shake it down with a clean install of Win 7, then move the SSD over from the old system. Shake it down then do the Win10 upgrade. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Daniel
    October 20th, 2015 at 07:51 | #25

    @Scottie I just upgraded my motherboard and CPU using this method on Windows 10. Only thing painful I had to do was contact Microsoft to get Windows 10 activated.

  20. Unknown
    December 16th, 2015 at 15:33 | #26

    Do I even need to uninstall Processor drivers listed in the the device manager, before upgrading?

    • December 16th, 2015 at 15:40 | #27

      Nope. Everything else should be autodetected during the first boot with the new motherboard.

  21. Jeremy
    April 2nd, 2016 at 21:04 | #28

    Thank you! I was getting really irratated with this and everything else I read said to just do a clean install, which I could not do since I have a ton of work programs, autoCAD, etc. loaded on this drive. One minor add in, the 1% may be due to the sata configuration. The old config was IDE and my new computer was not set to IDE. I changed this in the bios settings on the new computer and it worked.
    Thanks again.

  22. Mel
    April 24th, 2016 at 09:02 | #29

    this is certainly the most comprehensive and detailed motherboard upgrade tutorial on the internet. i have searched far and wide, and your tutorial was the only one that mad common sense without the unreasonable comments i got from the others telling me to wipe and start over. this is 2016 and i sure do hope this works on windows 10

  23. Alf
    April 24th, 2016 at 21:21 | #30

    Just to clarify my IDE ATA/ATPAI Controllers has Intel(R) 7series/C12 chipset Family SATA AHCI Controller and I need to change this to Standard AHCI 1.0 Serial ATA Controller. Is this correct.

  24. Kris
    July 26th, 2016 at 04:20 | #32

    THANKS SOOO FREAKIN MUCH DUDE. Such a life and time saver. Keep up the good work.

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