Should You Reinstall Windows With a New CPU?

A question people have on their minds when they’re getting a new CPU or motherboard is whether or not they need to reinstall Windows.

In general, you don’t have to reinstall Windows if you change your CPU. However, one must reinstall Windows when they change the motherboard of their PC. This ensures that all drivers work as expected to get optimal performance from their newly built computer system.

Read on for more details on this topic, including why you need to reinstall Windows when changing your PC’s motherboard.

windows logo placed on a rendering of a cpu

Is Windows tied to the CPU?

Windows isn’t tied to the CPU, and you don’t need new Windows with a new processor. Instead, you can use your Windows disc to update the drivers for the new processor. This keeps you from having to purchase a new operating system.

However, if you change your motherboard and not just the processor, you’ll need a new copy of Windows because it’s tied to your PC’s unique hardware profile.

Your PC uses this profile to load all the appropriate drivers when Windows first boots up after your computer has been turned on. So changing out components like your motherboard means that this hardware profile needs updating with what Microsoft calls “signature verification”.

Signature verification

Whenever Windows is installed, whether as a clean install or an upgrade, it’ll be attached to the motherboard.

Now, if you change something as crucial as your PC’s motherboard, Windows won’t be able to verify that signature, so reinstalling it’s required.

When one updates their drivers from the disc that came with a new processor, this doesn’t require a complete reinstallation of Windows because Windows can use its own “signature verification” to ensure the correct drivers are being used.

However, if there’s no signature verification for these drivers, then you’ll need to install them again via the disc that comes with your operating system before getting optimized performance out of your new processor.

If you want to change out components without needing new software, then making sure your hardware configuration stays the same throughout your build process will help ensure that you don’t need to get a new copy of Windows when you finally turn on your computer for the first time after everything is put together.

You may have to update some drivers manually. However, these updates can ALSO be done through the Windows automatic updating feature with no additional discs.

Reasons to reinstall Windows with a new motherboard

gloved hands replacing cpu on a brand new motherboard

There are several reasons why you would need to reinstall Windows with a new motherboard. Here are two of the most common reasons why one may want to reinstall their operating system when they change the motherboard:

License issues

As this blog post highlights, windows won’t find a license that matches your new motherboard. This will require a complete reinstallation of Windows.  

This isn’t too much of an issue, as you probably would have needed a new copy of Windows to get all the most up-to-date drivers for your motherboard.

However, this may come across as inconvenient to many looking to cut costs by only purchasing necessary parts instead of getting everything at once.

This is the exact reason why you need a replacement disc if your computer hard drive dies and you replace it with a new one.

If you reload windows, Microsoft won’t verify that it’s still legally licensed and will prompt you for another activation code.

Hardware drivers

If there are any drivers your motherboard requires that your current version of Windows doesn’t have, you’ll need to reinstall the OS. This will help ensure that all of the necessary drivers are available for your new hardware.

However, these drivers must be obtained from the manufacturer’s site and not just any random download site to avoid getting a version created by someone else or otherwise corrupted.

How to reactivate Windows after hardware change

Activate Gear Push

If you make a significant hardware change, such as installing a new motherboard on your PC, then you’ll need to reactivate Windows.

The steps to take will depend on whether you have a digital license or not.

If you have a digital license, you can reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your PC with an administrator account.
  2. Select the Start button and open the Settings menu.
  3. From the Settings control panel, select Update & Security, then Activation.
  4. From the Activation menu, select Troubleshoot. You’ll get the message, “Windows can’t be activated from this device.”
  5. Click any option that says there was a recent hardware change on your device, then select Next.
  6. Provide your Microsoft Account login details and check the box that states, “This is the device I’m using right now.”
  7. Select Activate.

However, if you don’t have a product key or digital license, you should follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your PC’s administrator account.
  2. Click the Start button, then select Settings.
  3. From the Settings control panel, select Update & Security.
  4. Select Activation.
  5. Select Go To Store. This will redirect you to the Microsoft Store, where you can buy a new license.

This video provides valuable information on how to buy a Windows license from the Microsoft Store:

YouTube video

Pro Tip: Take the time to back up your data before you start reinstalling Windows. You can do this by creating a system image on an external hard drive or flash device and then transferring any crucial files over to another computer if possible. Then, if something goes wrong when you reinstall Windows, at least you’ll have a recent backup of your files that isn’t too far out of date.

Frequently asked questions

What Happens if I Change My Processor?

If you change your processor, reinstalling Windows is not necessary. The Windows licensing is tied to the motherboard and not to any specific hardware component. So as long as Windows detects your motherboard, it’ll activate itself automatically without needing to be reinstalled or reactivated.

That being said, an upgrade to your current processor can make your computer perform much faster and serve you better.

It can be a good investment but don’t try to cut costs by buying the cheapest processor – doing so could end up costly in the long term.

You should buy the one that best matches your current computer’s needs. This will help prevent cracking or overheating issues because of sub-par hardware.

Do You Need To Reinstall Windows When Switching From Intel to AMD?

It would be best to reinstall Windows on your PC when you switch from Intel to AMD because the processor type determines how fast a CPU can run. If you change it, then Windows might not be able to make the best use of your computer’s existing hardware resources.

This may cause severe problems like slow performance or even complete failure.

Bottom line

It’s important to note that one must reinstall Windows when they change the motherboard of their PC. This ensures that all drivers work as expected and get optimal performance from the newly built computer system.

When you buy a new CPU, it’s usually unnecessary to reinstall your operating system.

However, if you upgrade other components (such as RAM or storage) in addition to the CPU, you may need an updated OS for full compatibility with these changes.