Friday, July 19, 2013

Replace your motherboard without reinstalling Windows!

After about five motherboard replacements in my lifetime, I feel confident in my method of motherboard replacement without a clean Windows installation. I've switched between Intel and AMD each time.

Specifically: Intel → AMD → Intel → AMD and now INTEL again.

Cross platform motherboard switches are scariest for me, even thought I've done them multiple times. In order to ensure I don't BSOD or lose my boot, I do the following:

  1. Uninstall motherboard specific drivers or utilities from 'Programs and Features.'
  2. Uninstall motherboard specific drivers or utilities using Revo Uninstaller free version.
  3. Uninstall (not disable) motherboard specific drivers from 'Device Manager.' 
    • Like: audio inputs and outputs, network adapters, ports(COM&LPT)
    • universal things such as USB can stay, as well as non-motherboard specific drivers such as your display adapters.
Until you replace your motherboard you will lose all functioning of the uninstalled pieces of hardware (be warned!). As long as you catch everything, you should have no problems switching over to a new motherboard.

A few things that might happen:
  1. Windows might have to complete an Automatic Startup repair. This can take awhile, and (in Window 8's case) you will not see the repairs because the screen will be blank with only a Windows logo on it until it is finished. By the way, this is probably Microsofts stupidest attempt at simplifying the OS. I think we all like simple computing, but not at the cost of not knowing what is going on when it is critical.
  2. If Automatic Startup Repair does not help, insert your pre-made recovery disc (you made one, right?) and try to make repairs from there. It should work.
  3. If not, boot into Safe Mode. Press F8 during boot until a dialogue pops up asking you to choose your Windows boot type. Choose Safe Mode (obviously) and check and see what drivers may be conflicting, need to be deleted, or need to be installed.
  4. If all of this fails, you will have to do a clean install. This is why you should have a current backup handy to restore from later. Better yet, make an EasyTransfer file just before you make the switch to streamline the process of getting things back to normal. A backup insures redundancy, while EasyTransfer will make things simple.
In the end, some say that this is a gamble. I've never suffered major problems, but some computers may be more finicky than others.

Solved: Windows 8 won't boot after changing SATA controller to RAID

I've been spending a lot of time fooling around with RAID configurations lately. I happened across some old computers and decided to beat them up a little. After some testing, I decided to add a RAID1 to my existing setup. I always wanted my personal files and programs (kept separately from my OS) to have some redundancy in case of failure...

So like a first class newb, I booted into my BIOS without thinking and changed the SATA controller from AHCI to RAID. I rebooted and Windows came up with a startup repair dialogue. It couldn't repair, nor could it figure out why. Not only that, but my Windows-8-made recovery disc didn't work. I was facing a full reinstall via DVD when I decided to check the command prompt in the recovery environment.

The log file located at C:\windows\system32\logfiles\srt\SrtTrail.txt yielded no information. It showed all tests were passed, even thought Windows wasn't booting. So I got the idea to fix the MBR. Running bootrec, I chose bootrec /fixboot and then bootrec /fixmbr. That got me up and running again without rolling back or completely reinstalling.

If you aren't yet competent in RAID, heed this warning: Do not run a hardware RAID with an existing installation of Windows. It has been known to be done, but is hazardous. Instead, plan to do it upon clean installation or let Windows handle a RAID via software.