How To Make Sure Windows 7 Will Boot After Changing The Motherboard

Christian Cawley 19-09-2012

change windows 7 motherboardHow many times have you installed copies of Windows on a computer following a major hardware change? A case in point is probably Windows XP – although flexible, popular and easy to use, the operating system wasn’t great at dealing with hardware changes, in particular new motherboards.


This shouldn’t come as any surprise, really. Anyone who has built a PC from scratch or had cause to reinstall their operating system should know that there are various drivers that need to be installed. Windows XP had a few problems with this, meaning that the end result of fitting a new motherboard was effectively the same as buying a new computer.

With Windows 7, however, this has all changed, and the operating system should allow you to upgrade your motherboard without reinstalling. Here’s how.

Preparing Your Computer

You will need to make sure that your computer is ready for what is going to be a motherboard transplant.

In order to get started with this, and to prepare for any failures, you should backup all data that you have on your system drive (such as that found in C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME).

change windows 7 motherboard


After you have done this, audit the applications you are running and make sure you have access to their activation keys. The presence of a new piece of hardware like a motherboard may cause an application to be locked (an anti-piracy function) so you may need to re-enter the key after adding the new motherboard.

It’s also worth removing any premium Adobe software that you have installed, as these will probably fail to work on a new motherboard without reinstallation. The same goes for games.

Drivers & Storage Settings

Depending on the motherboard swap you’re carrying out, you may need to update your drivers. For instance, if you’re swapping an older motherboard with an Intel chipset for one with a more recent version of the same chipset, updating the drivers from the manufacturer’s website should result in the correct drivers being installed for your new motherboard. Manufacturers make drivers available in “supersets” – so although your older driver is present on your hard disk, so is the later one.

Before proceeding, you will also need to check and compare the disk interface settings between the two motherboards. If one is using an IDE driver from a different chipset, for instance, this is going to scupper the project.


Ultimately, this works best for motherboards that are either identical or extremely similar.

Prepping Windows 7 For a New Motherboard

The System Preparation Tool (sysprep) is a Windows 7 utility that can be launched from the command line and used to configure Windows, readying it for a change of host hardware. This can be used for running Windows on a new motherboard or even transferring the hard disk drive into a completely new environment.

Before you begin to install the new hardware, start Windows and then open the Command Prompt as Administrator (type cmd into the Search box, right-click the cmd.exe item and select Run as administrator). Make sure you are not running any other software at this point.

windows 7 motherboard change


In the Command Prompt window, enter the following to launch the System Preparation Tool: %windir%\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe

windows 7 motherboard change

From here you will need to select Enter System Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE) in the System Cleanup Action drop-down menu, checking the Generalize box, and selecting Shutdown below this.

The System Preparation Tool will then set to work – while this is happening, ensure you don’t run any other applications or utilities. Eventually, System Preparation Tool will shutdown your PC.


You can then install your new motherboard, or if you’re moving your HDD to a new computer, carry out that process.

Booting Your Windows Hard Disk Drive

With your hard disk drive connected to a new motherboard, and all installation checks made, you can power on your computer.

Don’t be alarmed when you see the Windows boot screen as it will be the “first run” image displaying information that “Setup is installing devices” and other first run processes.

Windows will then require information about your language and keyboard settings, location, etc., before proceeding to the account creation screen. You won’t be able to use your existing account just yet – create a temporary account for now until you reach the Windows login screen.

change windows 7 motherboard

You can then use your old account, delete the new one in Control Panel > User Accounts and add any drivers that are required (such as GPU, motherboard, etc.)

Well done – you painlessly connected your hard disk drive to a new motherboard!


There are, of course, several requirements to successfully completing this process. You will need to have expertise with adding and removing hardware safely from a desktop computer – if you don’t, find someone who does.

Additionally, being prepared for any sort of data-related disaster is also important, hence the instruction to back-up your vital files earlier. You should also note that Windows may not activate with the new motherboard. In this situation you should contact Microsoft who will provide you with an activation code.

If you have any problems, let us know in the comments, or alternatively, describe your issue to our online tech community, MakeUseOf Answers.

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Windows 7.

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  1. anon
    October 31, 2017 at 10:25 am

    "Before you begin to install the new hardware".... how are you going to do that step if your old motherboard has failed... can't run a system without a motherboard?

  2. luis fadigas
    January 10, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Hello could you answer me this question?
    I'm 'thinking' of upgrading from a Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P AMD 760G Chipset to the MSI Z170 SLI PLUS with the Z-170 Chipset. DoI have to completely format Windows 7 and start it all over or just do what this article says ? I don't want to format my pc just swap a motherboard and CPU (the current one being a FX-6300). Please reply as I need a definitive answer on this.

    Thank you for your time.

  3. bandi
    November 5, 2016 at 3:44 am

    it's a useful post.

  4. Jubayer Arefin
    December 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Hi Chris, Thanks for this nice article. This helped me to get to the boot screen which I was not able to get to before.

    But I am having another issue now.

    When The system is getting ready and in the "Setup is starting services" stage, it shows a error dialog "Windows could not finish configuring the system. To attempt to resume configuration, restart the computer".

    I pressed the enter key to let the system restart itself and it does restart and goes to the same point again and shows the same error. It is in a endless loop now. Tried 5 times till now.

    Btw, I have disabled the "Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service" cause the sysprep was failing and had to disable this to complete the sysprep.

    Reference here:

    I am guessing that this might have something to do with the system not being able to starting the services but I am not sure.

    Any advise on this ?

    Thank you.

  5. alan torr
    November 21, 2015 at 11:53 am

    question-- I am going from an AMD mother board , system is 4 yrs old and running windows 7-to an intel with i7 and installing again windows 7 -clean install-however I have an SSD in the old system and putting a new HDD in the new system , if I put the ssd as a slave from the old one to the new one can I recover selected data from the SSD.

  6. Anonymous
    August 25, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Superb, thanks. The sysprep didn't work at first but when i looked at the error log I discovered that you can't run sysprep (in win 10 anyway) on an upgrade OS. You have to clean install win 10 and then run sysprep and it works like a charm. Great article.

  7. Anonymous
    July 1, 2015 at 7:53 am

    I used sysprep.exe just as described in the article (switched MB with AMD CPU to MB with Intel CPU). I got over the initial fatal error (sysprep, I stopped a service) and finally the system booted successfully. All apps are there, but the windows updates are likely missing?

  8. A
    April 21, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I ran sysprep then moved hdd to new built pc and still can't get windows 7 to boot. Ran windows install disk to REPAIR and it doesn't repair. Then moved hdd back to old pc and that won't boot , can't even boot into safe mode.
    Any suggestions?

  9. TonyB.
    December 30, 2014 at 12:02 am

    What drivers would i uninstall before doing this as i can't run sysrep on my system? so can anyone point me to what drivers to uninstall please so i might give this a go.

    • Christian Cawley
      January 11, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Your best bet Tony B is to establish exactly why sysrep cannot run on your system before deciding whether ot not to proceed

    • johnS
      January 17, 2015 at 2:41 am

      Hi Chris

      your system seems very simple for this. Other Win 7 re-installations using sysprep feature the use of an answer file (which looks very complex!). There is some inference that an existing answer file is in place and that will simply put back what was there before unless it is edited?

  10. Alchemist
    December 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    All I can say is I wish had worked. I get a Fatal Error running sysprep every time even after stopping installed apps from running in the background.

  11. Anonymous
    December 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Omg, where was this article 3 days ago. I changed motherboard and had to reinstall win. Anyway, great article.

  12. Ludwig Esteve
    October 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Very nice article, very useful.

    Just be aware that the sysprep "trick" will not work on an upgraded version of W7
    this was the case for me after upgrading Windows Vista to Windows 7.

    You will get the following error: "Sysprep cannot run on a computer that has been upgraded to a new version of Windows. You can only run Sysprep on a custom (clean) install version of Windows".

    Still left the solution which is to uninstall all drivers related to the former motherboard and have a try.

    Best regards.

  13. Remus
    September 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    What happens if you can't load windows on the old mobo? maybe it fried before running sysprep.

  14. druv vb
    September 25, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Nice article there. I did change my motherboard 6 months ago. Old one had damaged capacitors after 5 years of hard work. I swapped it for a newer model, but different brand. The new one is using the Intel chipset as the old one. But what I did rather simpler, since I did not had access to Windows 7 on the old motherboard. I just booted into safe mode on the new motherboard, uninstall every old driver like chipset, ethernet, audio, gpu, etc... Restarted into normal mode, booted Windows 7 and works fine. Reinstalled all the new drivers and its working fine. But will be going for a fresh install in 2 months. I've read somewhere about a function in Windows 7 relating to hardware lock and being unable to move hardware, but that issue was not present in mine.
    Seems that Windows 7 is more compatible after all...

  15. HLJonnalagadda
    September 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Never had to change out a mobo before, but with Windows being what it is, the knowledge might come in handy later. Thanks!

  16. Matt M.
    September 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Literally replaced my mobo a week ago and couldn't get it to boot up and ultimately did a fresh install.

    That ended up being better because the original computer had been re-purposed too many times, but this article would have [potentially] saved me half a day of troubleshooting.

    Oh well. Learned a lot and enjoyed the project.

  17. Elrick Browne
    September 20, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Nice i didnt know about this, this will come in handy

  18. Tony
    September 20, 2012 at 12:30 am

    *drive. Stupid phone.

  19. Tony
    September 20, 2012 at 12:29 am

    What about changing the hard srive controller driver to the generic version? Most times this will work even on XP and it's much faster. Not 100% of the time, but worth trying before a full run of sysprep.

    • Christian Cawley
      September 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Excellent fix, cheers Tony!