Do hardware upgrades mean HD reformatting is in my future?
December 30, 2003 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering upgrading the processor (and possibly the motherboard) on an older PC. Am I going to have to reformat the HD? Obviously, I'll back up all the data just in case, but I was under the impression that the OS would just find the new hardware upon booting up for the first time. The 14 year-old at the local CompUSA claims otherwise--that I'll have to rebuild the OS once I put the new processor in place. So which is it?
posted by jpoulos to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
ArsTechnica has a guide to Swapping your board without so much as a reinstall that has worked for me.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2003

I have been through the process... unfortunately there is no definitive answer. If you are running Windows 9x (95, 98 or ME), you will almost certainly be able to boot, and have the new hardware detected. On Windows XP or 2000, however, it is a bit more tricky. The main thing here is the hard disk controller - the OS needs that to boot, and if it cannot properly initialize it, you will probably get a STOP 0x7B or 0x7E error upon boot - in which case the best thing to do would be to boot from the 2000/XP CD and perform a Repair Installation, which leaves all your programs and files intact while reinstalled the OS. This is because 2000 and XP (which is 2000, except shinier) is very closely tied to the hardware when you install it.

How old is the PC? What are the specs? You may have to consider whether this is worth all the trouble, considering how cheap new PCs are these days.

Feel free to email me with more q's
posted by ac at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2003

I've done that - moved a HD with an installed OS to a new CPU/motherboard. It worked, but not *well*. I had to go in and delete *all* of the "missing devices" (chipsets, I/O controllers, etc) from the old board once it detected everything on the new board.

This was with Win98, going from a P2-300 to a AMD 700Mhz.

I'd honestly just recommend putting a new HD (if possible) into the system, installing a fresh OS, and then putting the old HD as the secondary (slave) on the IDE chain and copying any needed data over.

Due to registry bloat, etc, I normally do a complete reformat/reinstall of all of my Windows machines at least once a year, if not every six months. I also do a complete "install on bare metal" for MacOS X major releases (10.1, 10.2, 10.3 etc).
posted by mrbill at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2003

if it's just the processor (ie same mobo) then there should be no problems at all, as far as i know (i've done this myself and never even stopped to worry about it).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2003

Response by poster: It's a Dell Dimension 4100 with a 933Mhz PIII. It appears that you can't really upgrade the mobo without replacing the case and power supply (and probably the RAM), so I was just going to abandon the idea. But now I've learned you can replace the processor with a 1.2GHz Celeron and upclock it to 1.6 with 133MHz FSB--all for, like, $60. (It's mentioned here.)

It's for my brother's machine. He just replaced the video card with a RADEON 9600 Pro, and I gave him a half-gig of RAM for Christmas. (Another reason I'm hesitant to replace the mobo, as I don't want to waste good RAM.)

I'm not sure it's worth the effort, but it seems like a good way to get another year or two out of the machine for very little cost.
posted by jpoulos at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2003

Response by poster: And, yeah, I like to wipe my drives clean and rebuild every six to twelve months too, but where it's my brother's machine, I don't want to deal with the "You forgot to back-up all my IE bookmarks" hassles if I don't need to.
posted by jpoulos at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2003

> I've done that - moved a HD with an installed OS to a new CPU/motherboard.
> It worked, but not *well*. I had to go in and delete *all* of the "missing devices"
> (chipsets, I/O controllers, etc) from the old board once it detected everything
> on the new board.

Was in a similar situation very often at work. User's department buys him/her a new PC. User has all kinds of data saved in inconceivable places (e.g. 200+ word processor documents in \windows\system32) and has no idea where they are. Our solution was to image the user's old HD (OS, data and all) with Driveimage or Ghost, slap the image on the new HD, then boot first to safe mode, delete absolutely every device driver in sight except the standard IDE controller, then reboot normally and let all the new hardware get re-recognized. Finished off with a Norton system scan and defrag. Usually worked fine and avoids all the driver mess completely.

OTOH, this was for a fast-turnaround environment with very standard, vanilla hardware, wall-to-wall Dell in fact. If it were my own machine I would certainly wipe the disk and rebuild from the ground up. I average about 6-7 months on a Win2K partition before it gets crudified to death with dll-rot due to being Windows, and Gator, Xupiter, Comet Cursor etc., due to being used by kids . Linux partitions seem able to last without a rebuild from one major release to the next, i.e. from Redhat 8 to Redhat 9.
posted by jfuller at 2:38 PM on December 30, 2003

Just to add a data point to the discussion: At one point I moved a hard drive from one laptop to another of quite different design, and just booted the XP installation on it. There was a very small amount of tidying to do, and a couple of drivers to install, but it worked just fine on the very first boot.

Generally, this kind of trickery works just fine under 2000 and XP, but fails utterly under Windows 9X which often gets confused if there's a different chipset under it or (as seen in a nearby question today) if the video hardware is changed.

I've had no trouble at all moving Linux installations around between different machines, but I'm also pretty careful about compiling just about any kernel module I might conceivably need in order to do so down the line.
posted by majick at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2003

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