[SOLVED] Replacing Motherboard

Feb 26, 2020
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I want to replace my motherboard, CPU, and graphics card while keeping my storage drives (including boot drive) but I'm clueless as to any potential complications I would run into with my operating system or drivers.

My current specs are the following:
ASUS Z170-A
Intel Core i7-6700
Zotac GTX 1060 3GB
Corsair 2 x 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
Samsung 512GB 950 Pro NVMe SSD (boot drive)
Seagate Barracuda 3TB SATA HDD
Windows 10 64-bit

I want to replace the first three with:
MSI Z390-A PRO
Intel Core i7-9700
EVGA RTX 2070 Super

The information online is quite conflicting. Some sources (such as Paul's Hardware) say Windows 10 has pretty good hardware detection and it will automatically replace all the necessary drivers, others claim that I have to modify the Windows registry in order to get it to work, and yet others say I should backup my data and do a fresh install of Windows. I am already aware my Windows 10 is an OEM version so I would need to buy another product key to activate it on my new hardware. What I want to know is whether the system would boot into Windows at all with all my files intact if I replace my mobo, etc., or if I need to backup any important files and just install everything fresh. Advice would be appreciated.
 

DSzymborski

Champion
Moderator
I want to replace my motherboard, CPU, and graphics card while keeping my storage drives (including boot drive) but I'm clueless as to any potential complications I would run into with my operating system or drivers.

My current specs are the following:
ASUS Z170-A
Intel Core i7-6700
Zotac GTX 1060 3GB
Corsair 2 x 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
Samsung 512GB 950 Pro NVMe SSD (boot drive)
Seagate Barracuda 3TB SATA HDD
Windows 10 64-bit

I want to replace the first three with:
MSI Z390-A PRO
Intel Core i7-9700
EVGA RTX 2070 Super

The information online is quite conflicting. Some sources (such as Paul's Hardware) say Windows 10 has pretty good hardware detection and it will automatically replace all the necessary drivers, others claim that I have to modify the Windows registry in order to get it to work, and yet others say I should backup my data and do a fresh install of Windows. I am already aware my Windows 10 is an OEM version so I would need to buy another product key to activate it on my new hardware. What I want to know is whether the system would boot into Windows at all with all my files intact if I replace my mobo, etc., or if I need to backup any important files and just install everything fresh. Advice would be appreciated.
Windows 10 is fairly decent at finding your new drivers, but the thing is, Paul or Kyle or Jay or Linus are really experienced building and will be able to recognize driver issues very quickly and have a feel for when the hardware is too different. And they're also building and using a lot of PCs and that time adds up very quickly.

I'll do this myself from time-to-time too, but mostly when I'm testing something for someone. I find the best practice of a full, fresh install is the advisable one. You're not building a PC every other week, presumably, so you can take the time to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

I keep a "go disk" of installables for most of the main software I use and drivers (with a folder for each motherboard I own). Steam games are especially easy as all you have to do is install Steam and then point Steam to where the existing game files are stored.

The good news is that if Microsoft loosened up the rules about Windows 10 OEM copies, so long as they weren't ones that came preinstalled in a prebuilt. If that's not your case, as long as you've registered Windows to your Microsoft account, you shouldn't have issues activating it for your new motherboard and deactivating it for your old one.

I'd also seriously look at a Ryzen build. I have an i7-8700k which I'm quite happy with, but if I were building this particular PC today, I'd almost certainly be using a Ryzen 3900X.

One thing troubling me is your question about the "need to backup" your important files. Your important files should be backed up, in multiple places, at all times. With any file that's not backed up, the question is when you'll lose it forever, not if. If you don't have a proper backup regimen in which your important data is being backed up in multiple places, then that's the priority before thinking about fun upgrades. Worrying about upgrades when this isn't being taken care of is a bit like pondering a bathroom remodel while your kitchen is on fire.
 

DSzymborski

Champion
Moderator
I want to replace my motherboard, CPU, and graphics card while keeping my storage drives (including boot drive) but I'm clueless as to any potential complications I would run into with my operating system or drivers.

My current specs are the following:
ASUS Z170-A
Intel Core i7-6700
Zotac GTX 1060 3GB
Corsair 2 x 8GB DDR4 2666MHz
Samsung 512GB 950 Pro NVMe SSD (boot drive)
Seagate Barracuda 3TB SATA HDD
Windows 10 64-bit

I want to replace the first three with:
MSI Z390-A PRO
Intel Core i7-9700
EVGA RTX 2070 Super

The information online is quite conflicting. Some sources (such as Paul's Hardware) say Windows 10 has pretty good hardware detection and it will automatically replace all the necessary drivers, others claim that I have to modify the Windows registry in order to get it to work, and yet others say I should backup my data and do a fresh install of Windows. I am already aware my Windows 10 is an OEM version so I would need to buy another product key to activate it on my new hardware. What I want to know is whether the system would boot into Windows at all with all my files intact if I replace my mobo, etc., or if I need to backup any important files and just install everything fresh. Advice would be appreciated.
Windows 10 is fairly decent at finding your new drivers, but the thing is, Paul or Kyle or Jay or Linus are really experienced building and will be able to recognize driver issues very quickly and have a feel for when the hardware is too different. And they're also building and using a lot of PCs and that time adds up very quickly.

I'll do this myself from time-to-time too, but mostly when I'm testing something for someone. I find the best practice of a full, fresh install is the advisable one. You're not building a PC every other week, presumably, so you can take the time to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

I keep a "go disk" of installables for most of the main software I use and drivers (with a folder for each motherboard I own). Steam games are especially easy as all you have to do is install Steam and then point Steam to where the existing game files are stored.

The good news is that if Microsoft loosened up the rules about Windows 10 OEM copies, so long as they weren't ones that came preinstalled in a prebuilt. If that's not your case, as long as you've registered Windows to your Microsoft account, you shouldn't have issues activating it for your new motherboard and deactivating it for your old one.

I'd also seriously look at a Ryzen build. I have an i7-8700k which I'm quite happy with, but if I were building this particular PC today, I'd almost certainly be using a Ryzen 3900X.

One thing troubling me is your question about the "need to backup" your important files. Your important files should be backed up, in multiple places, at all times. With any file that's not backed up, the question is when you'll lose it forever, not if. If you don't have a proper backup regimen in which your important data is being backed up in multiple places, then that's the priority before thinking about fun upgrades. Worrying about upgrades when this isn't being taken care of is a bit like pondering a bathroom remodel while your kitchen is on fire.
 
Feb 26, 2020
2
0
10
0
Windows 10 is fairly decent at finding your new drivers, but the thing is, Paul or Kyle or Jay or Linus are really experienced building and will be able to recognize driver issues very quickly and have a feel for when the hardware is too different. And they're also building and using a lot of PCs and that time adds up very quickly.

I'll do this myself from time-to-time too, but mostly when I'm testing something for someone. I find the best practice of a full, fresh install is the advisable one. You're not building a PC every other week, presumably, so you can take the time to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

I keep a "go disk" of installables for most of the main software I use and drivers (with a folder for each motherboard I own). Steam games are especially easy as all you have to do is install Steam and then point Steam to where the existing game files are stored.

The good news is that if Microsoft loosened up the rules about Windows 10 OEM copies, so long as they weren't ones that came preinstalled in a prebuilt. If that's not your case, as long as you've registered Windows to your Microsoft account, you shouldn't have issues activating it for your new motherboard and deactivating it for your old one.

I'd also seriously look at a Ryzen build. I have an i7-8700k which I'm quite happy with, but if I were building this particular PC today, I'd almost certainly be using a Ryzen 3900X.

One thing troubling me is your question about the "need to backup" your important files. Your important files should be backed up, in multiple places, at all times. With any file that's not backed up, the question is when you'll lose it forever, not if. If you don't have a proper backup regimen in which your important data is being backed up in multiple places, then that's the priority before thinking about fun upgrades. Worrying about upgrades when this isn't being taken care of is a bit like pondering a bathroom remodel while your kitchen is on fire.
Thanks a lot for the feedback. You're absolutely right, I'll backup all my stuff.
Quick follow up question if you don't mind: can I just do a fresh install of Windows on my boot drive but keep all my stuff on my other hard drive? My guess is yes, and I admit it's a dumb question but I'm very inexperienced.
 
Last edited:

DSzymborski

Champion
Moderator
Thanks a lot for the feedback. You're absolutely right, I'll backup all my stuff.
Quick follow up question if you don't mind: can I just do a fresh install of Windows on my boot drive but keep all my stuff on my other hard drive?
Very glad to hear it! You wouldn't believe how many times someone comes in here asking how to recover the only copy of their 20-year-old photos or crucial work files that are on a broken, unreadable hard drive. And we have to tell them to spend $1000 for a top-notch recovery firm or accept that their files are lost forever. It sucks to have to break that news, so I'm a bit of a backup Nazi!

You can keep data (music, video, documents) just fine on your other hard drive. And you can keep Steam games just fine on your other hard drive. Other programs are very hit-and-miss. Some will work just fine, some will just need to be reinstalled.

One shortcut, especially when you want to keep all the file settings, is to backup the folders in your User/Apps directory (you'll see Local, Roaming, etc) and then putting the relevant folder for your program into the User/Apps directory of Windows in your fresh install. That can streamline an install quite a bit if you're comfortable with it. I typically am since I usually have 6-8 PCs running at a time in my house and I'm an obsessive tinkerer.
 

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