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. Read on for informative details, including why you must reinstall Windows when changing your PC’s motherboard.
You don’t have to reinstall Windows if you change your CPU. However, one must reinstall it 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.
Is Windows tied to the CPU?
Windows isn’t tied to the CPU, and you don’t need a new installation with a new processor. Instead, you can use your Windows disc or online access 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”.
It’ll be attached to the motherboard whenever Windows is installed, whether as a clean install or an upgrade.
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 with a new processor, this doesn’t require a complete reinstallation of Windows. It can use its “signature verification” to ensure the correct drivers are used.
However, suppose there’s no signature verification for these drivers. In that case, you’ll need to install them again via the disc with your operating system before getting optimized performance out of your new processor.
Suppose you want to change out components without needing new software. In that case, ensuring your hardware configuration stays the same throughout your build process will help ensure 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
You would need to reinstall Windows with a new motherboard for several reasons. Here are two of the most common reasons why one may want to reinstall their operating system when they change the motherboard:
As this blog post highlights, Windows won’t find a license that matches your new motherboard. This will require a complete reinstallation.
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 be inconvenient to many looking to cut costs by purchasing only necessary parts instead of getting everything at once.
This is why you need a replacement disc if your computer’s 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.
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 necessary drivers are available for your new hardware.
However, these drivers must be obtained from the manufacturer’s site, 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
If you make a significant hardware change, such as installing a new motherboard on your PC, you must reactivate Windows.
The steps to take will depend on whether you have a digital license.
You can reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter if you have a digital license. To do that, follow these steps:
- Sign in to your PC with an administrator account.
- Select the Start button and open the Settings menu.
- From the Settings control panel, select Update & Security, then Activation.
- From the Activation menu, select Troubleshoot. You’ll get the message, “Windows can’t be activated from this device.”
- Click any option that says there was a recent hardware change on your device, then select Next.
- Provide your Microsoft Account login details and check the box that states, “This is the device I’m using right now.”
- Select Activate.
However, if you don’t have a product key or digital license, you should follow these steps:
- Sign in to your PC’s administrator account.
- Click the Start button, then select Settings.
- From the Settings control panel, select Update & Security.
- Select Activation.
- Select Go To Store. This will redirect you to the Microsoft Store, where you can buy a new license.
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.