Using your old hard drive with a new motherboard can present a few challenges. We will cover what you need to know in order to get around most problems when using your old drive.
Installing a new motherboard and CPU with RAM is a great way to upgrade your computer and cut some costs. So firstly, you need to decide which way you wish to approach the way you use your old drive.
There are two ways you can reuse your old hard drive:
- Keep the hard drive or SSD with your current files untouched. This will require some settings to be checked in your BIOS and hardware drivers to be installed for the new motherboard in Windows.
- Reformat and reinstall Windows 10 from scratch. This will require an installation media to be created by downloading an installation package from the internet and installing Windows as a fresh new installation.
Option 1 allows you to get your computer up and running quickly and easily, but may suffer from some performance issues. And option 2 is slightly more complicated and you may run into some software licensing issues, but you will have the chance for best performance of your system this way.
So it really depends on your situation and tech skills as to which method you choose.
I recommend staying connected to the internet when completing any one of these methods. Windows may require some files to download along the way and might help making the transition easier.
Important Tip: Before pulling your old hard drive out, enter the BIOS of your old motherboard (if possible) and take note of the SATA configuration.
Option 1: How to keep everything ‘as is’ with an existing hard drive
Let’s take a look at the first scenario. You have a new motherboard and CPU, perhaps some RAM too, and you want your PC going as quickly as possible. This will also reduce the need to connect or disconnect drives.
It will most certainly be the most hassle free option, providing everything runs smoothly, otherwise you will be forced to go with option 2.
Check your SATA configuration and boot drive settings in the BIOS
In this case, you will simply connect the hard drive up, or reinstall the SSD in the appropriate port like an M.2 slot for example. When the computer is powered on, you will want to enter your BIOS to adjust some settings.
You will have to make sure that your boot drive is set to the correct drive and that you have the same SATA configuration as your last setting with your old motherboard.
If you notice a bluescreen when you boot up the system, and you have checked that you have chosen the correct boot drive, change the SATA configuration from AHCI to IDE. If it’s already set to IDE, change it to AHCI.
This should allow the operating system to boot up without a bluescreen.
Let Windows install the necessary drivers
Your Windows 10 should startup and you should be able to see your old desktop.
However, Windows will want to start installing crucial drivers as soon as possible. It will then very likely require a restart in order to finish the driver installations for your system to run properly.
Just bear in mind that all your drivers might not be installed all in one go. You might have to check the drivers in the device manager that it couldn’t install automatically and download the appropriate driver(s) from the specific hardware manufacturer’s website.
Simply download and install them until all hardware devices are installed in the Device Manager.
If you have made it this far, congratulations! You have successfully used your old hard drive with your new motherboard and everything is up and running just fine.
Option 2: How to use the old hard drive with a clean installation
In this case, you will want to backup everything that you want to keep from your old hard drive before continuing. This is because the hard will be formatted and you will end up with a freshly installed copy of Windows 10.
But here are some other things to consider when using this method.
Microsoft will always recommend installing a fresh copy from a freshly formatted drive. For the most part, it is the best way to ensure the best performance for your system.
But performing a fresh installation and wiping your old drive clean, comes with another potential problem. Any third party software you have installed, may require original installation media, or license keys. If you don’t have these things, you may want to reconsider using option 1.
There are software solutions that you can pay for, that will allow you to transfer software and settings over to a new Windows installation. However, you won’t find anything free that will work well enough that’s worth mentioning over here.
However, this option is usually recommended as you will get rid of all the old files and start with a new copy of Windows 10. Nothing will be modified and all the settings will be set to default, having less chance for system instabilities and the opportunity for best performance.
Microsoft Windows activation with a new installation and motherboard change
If you are concerned with Windows 10 activation when doing a fresh installation with a new motherboard, you can rest easy. As long as you have your product key, you will be fine.
One of the other activation methods is by having your Microsoft account linked with your products. If you ever do run into some issues, simply contact Microsoft support and they will help you solve your activation problem.
Prepare the installation media
If you haven’t organized a copy of a Windows 10 installation package, obtain a USB flash drive that you have backed up and that you are able to format clean.
Download the Windows 10 media installation tool and run it once you downloaded it and follow the prompts in order to prepare the flash drive with a new installation package.
Make sure the correct drives are connected
Once you have prepared the USB flash drive, unplug all other drives from your computer excepting the hard drive that you are going to be installing Windows onto.
Make your newly prepared USB drive is also plugged in so you can use it to boot from and install your new copy of Windows.
Select the USB drive as the temporary boot drive
Select the USB drive as the boot drive from the boot override selections in the BIOS (usually located in the ‘Exit’ tab). You will want to keep the ordinary boot drive settings to have your old drive as the first boot drive.
This is because, the installation process will only need to boot from your USB drive once, and every time thereafter, you will need to boot from the old hard drive.
Tip: While you are in the BIOS, make sure that your SATA configuration is set to AHCI and not IDE. It’s unlikely that it might be, but it just pays to check.
Follow the installation procedure
Once you exit the BIOS, the computer will boot from the USB drive, starting the Windows installation procedure.
Once you select a custom setup, you will be able to delete any drive partitions on your old drive, then you can simply continue with the installation prompts.
The installation software will automatically configure the partitions on your drive and begin the installation by copying some files over to the drive. After all the setup steps have been completed, you will be greeted by a clean and new Windows 10 desktop.
As you can see, it wasn’t very difficult at all!
Install remaining hardware drivers and software
It will most likely be the case that not all hardware drivers would be installed. It does happen in some cases, but it’s always best to go and check to make sure all drivers have installed for optimum performance of your components.
To start getting all the drivers you are missing installed, you can either use the CD that came with your new motherboard, or use the motherboard model on the specific manufacturer’s website to download all the missing drivers.
If you had other software like Microsoft Office or Photoshop installed, you will have to download a fresh copy or use the installation media that came with the software when you first purchased it.
If you don’t have any information about previous software licenses, you will most likely be forced to purchase new licenses.
As you have gathered, there are pros and cons to both methods. If you have a straight forward Windows 10 installation with little or no third party software, the choice seems obvious.
However, it might just be easiest to use the hard drive as it stands and keep everything intact the way you had it.