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Using old HDD with new mobo and cpu?

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November 7, 2013 5:48:59 AM

So long story short, I'm on a budget but need a new PC, so I plan to change it slowly by re-using old parts and slowly changing them out. I currently have a GTX 460, 4GB Ram and a Phenom II X4 @3ghz. I know the RAM and GPU will severely bottleneck this new cpu but I don't have a choice at the moment. My plan is to get;

This Mobo
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... [newegg.ca]

And this CPU
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... [newegg.ca]

And throw in all my old parts including my HDD. Will all my files be there when I plug in my old HDD? What about windows? I'm a noob pc builder so IDK how this works.
Thanks!

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November 7, 2013 8:45:42 PM

The answer is MAYBE - how's that for encouragement?

The devil is in the details. All your files on the HDD WILL be there and can be accessed and used. The problem entirely is in the Operating System you have installed - probably Windows of some variety.

You see, when Windows is first installed on any machine, one important function of the Install process is to survey the entire set of hardware it finds itself working with and identify and install all the software driver files for all the various hardware devices. The "devices" are not just the cards you plug into the PCI bus. There are MANY devices that are part of the mobo - things like SATA HDD controllers, optical drive controllers, modems, audio chips, USB ports, etc., etc. All the drivers required for the devices on your old existing mobo were installed on your C: drive as part of Windows, making that version a customized version. This is always done for every Windows Installation.

Now, if you change to a different mobo, even if you then install on it ALL the extra parts your old system has, the new mobo itself has a whole bunch of new devices, and does NOT have some of the old mobo's devices. So when you try to boot up the first time, Windows loads all the drivers it has - for the OLD mobo - and tries to run. But it has the WRONG device drivers now! What happens? Well, usually something fails. If you're lucky it sort of works, but often it does not.

How to fix this? Well, the obvious option is you start from scratch and Install Windows all over again, BUT that normally means losing all your old data! Not a good option IF you can avoid it. But you might have to SO ... you REALLY should be making a complete backup of your old HDD so that you can recover files from the backup if that becomes necessary. Recognize, also, that ALL the application software you have installed already would need to be RE-installed if you have to re-install Windows first.

BUT there is another process that may work for you. When you FIRST start up the system with the new mobo installed, you should have your original Windows Install CD in the optical drive. You should use the right key during the initial boot to go into BIOS Setup right away. Check that everything looks OK, but make SURE you go set the Boot Priority Sequence this way: try the optical drive first, THEN the HDD. SAVE and EXIT and the machine will boot from the Install CD, not from the HDD. Do NOT do a normal Install. Look for the option to do a process called REPAIR INSTALL or something like it. This will try to re-do the process of customizing the device drivers. It will survey the hardware present and compare that to the device drivers already installed on the HDD. It will try to remove unneeded ones and add new ones that are needed for the new mobo. When it is finished, if it works properly, your machine should be able to boot and run normally from your OLD HDD, with all your apps and data intact! That is what you want, of course.

Sometimes this Repair Install process works perfectly. Sometimes it fails badly, especially if there are HUGE changes in hardware. Sometimes it works well, but leaves you with one or two devices not working. They show up in Windows' Device Manager with yellow Caution symbols on them. If that happens, you need to seek out the proper up-to-date driver for that device and install it yourself. It could be on the CD that comes with your new mobo, or maybe from the website of a part maker.

Good Luck! And really, even if you have to temporarily borrow a HDD from somewhere, MAKE a backup of all your current drive (an actual clone is a complete backup) and set it aside in case something goes wrong and you have to recover data. Or even, if it's really bad, revert to old hardware and completely restore your old HDD to get it working.
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November 8, 2013 4:18:32 PM

Thanks for the thorough response. Unfortunately, windows came pre-installed so I don't have an actual disk, there was just a sticker on my computer with the key. Because of that it looks like I have to buy windows again so I'll go with windows 8 this time. That brings me to another question though:

If I back-up my old HDD onto one of my external drives and format it so that it's basically "new" as far as the new mobo is concerned, can I install windows 8 on it (clean install basically) then put all my backed up files on my old drive again? Will I need to re-enter keys for Microsoft office and such (which I don't have anymore) or will it basically be as if I never removed it, and I simply need to transfer all that stuff over again? Will I be able to move Windows onto an SSD in the future, or does that require another install?
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November 8, 2013 9:14:24 PM

If you back up your HDD to an external, first check to be sure that backup is readable and you can get all your stuff copied back. Normally there is no problem, but the time to check is before you wipe the old drive.

For what you plan, re-Formatting the HDD would clear off old data, all right. However, that is not necessary. If you Install Win 8, one of the first choices to be made is to Delete all existing Partitions on that HDD so that it can use the entire unit to Create a new Partition and Format it for you before doing the actual Install.

But even before that, I suggest you consider another step for a used HDD. This is NOT necessary, but I think it a good precaution - it just takes several HOURS to do the job. I'm suggesting a Zero Fill of the entire HDD. You need a software utility to do this, and there are several around. IF your old HDD is by Seagate, download from their website their free Seatools for DOS. You actually download an .iso file, which is a complete image of a CD. You must use some CD burning software able to burn an .iso file, like Nero, to do this. When it's done and you are all ready to wipe all the old data off, you must be sure the BIOS Setup system is adjusted to boot first from the optical drive. Then you boot from this Seatools CD and it loads its own mini OS into RAM and gives you a menu of things to do. The advantage of this system is that it works even if you have NO working HDD in your machine - it boots and runs from the CD. One of the tools is the Zero Fill of the drive, and it takes a long time. But normally this utility package will only do the job on a Seagate HDD. IF your HDD is from WD, get their Data Lifeguard utility package - I'm pretty sure it has a Zero Fill utility, too. There are also many third-party utilities that will do a Zero Fill.

Now, why would one do this? I am assuming your old HDD is a SATA unit. Modern SATA drives have a bunch of features programmed into the BIOS on the HDD's own circuit board, and a group of these are used to check the unit for errors. On EVERY read of data, the checking is done. And writing to the drive causes it to read it back to make sure it is correct. IF there is any problem with the data it reads, the HDD internally has routines for replacing any weak or bad Sectors with a good one from a stock of spares left over when it was first manufactured. All this is done completely out of sight of any OS. In this case, if you write all zeroes to EVERY Sector of the HDD (that's a Zero Fill), you force the unit to test every Sector and replace any questionable ones. When it is finished, it will show to the outside world NO Bad Sectors - any it found have been replaced! NOW you have a "Perfect" HDD to install to.

So, if you do that, THEN you replace the Seatools CD with the Win 8 Install CD and do the Installation.

HOWEVER, there is another issue you should be aware of now. When you Install ANY application software (like MS Office, Firefox browser, graphics software, etc) the process writes information to the Windows Registry that is critical to running that software. If you Install Win 8, its new Registry will NOT have any of that info, and there is no real way to copy it from your backup drive. You actually have to INSTALL every one of your app software packages again, this time under the new Win 8 OS. So you need all the Install disks and the license codes. AFTER that is done, you can copy data files from your backup to the folders of the renewed HDD. THEN you have all your old system back - apps and data - under a new OS.
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November 9, 2013 10:46:51 AM

This got complicated quick! No wonder people play on consoles :D 

Since I don't have my Office keys anymore it looks like I will have to let it go :(  Other than that there's not much else I need because all my games can be copied from their steam folder onto my external (to avoid re-downloading them) and all my music and videos are already on external drives.

Now I'm wondering what are the steps to getting my mobo installed along with a new copy of windows. You said that Win 8 will do the formatting for me so I'm assuming I put everything together (including my old HDD with stuff still on it) then boot up my computer. Then it will ask me to put the Win 8 CD in because it will know there's a new mobo paired with my old HDD correct? Then I will do a clean install so that it wipes my HDD and install Win 8? I'm also assuming that since there are no compatible video drivers at this point, it will use some sort of default video device (built into the processor?), so should I wait to put my graphics card in until the initial setup is done or will it not matter?

Thanks again.
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November 9, 2013 3:07:26 PM

Be aware that before you spend any good money on Windows 8 that you can download a free .iso image of previous Windows versions to do a reinstall/repair as outlined above. You just D/L the .iso image from Microsoft, burn it to a CD and you have your legal installation CD of Windows. AND all Windows and installed application installation codes can be read by a free program called "Belarc Advisor".

Yogi
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November 10, 2013 2:32:44 PM

I tried out the Belarc Advisor (neat program) and it listed my product keys for various programs. If I used the installation CD for MS Office the maximum number of times already (3 I think) Is there a way to deactivate it from my current PC then re-use the key again on my new one, or will it just say that it's already been used the maximum number of times?
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November 10, 2013 2:51:34 PM

Stealth2668 said:
I tried out the Belarc Advisor (neat program) and it listed my product keys for various programs. If I used the installation CD for MS Office the maximum number of times already (3 I think) Is there a way to deactivate it from my current PC then re-use the key again on my new one, or will it just say that it's already been used the maximum number of times?


I've re-installed MS Office so many times that I've lost count. I think that they must only keep track of the activation for a certain period of time and then you start the clock again. I wouldn't be concerned about it, especially on the same computer.

Yogi

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November 10, 2013 3:31:47 PM

I was hoping to use it on the new computer but if it doesn't work I'll probably just use a free suite like OpenOffice. It's pretty much the same thing and I don't use MS office that much anymore.
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November 11, 2013 9:24:14 PM

OP, some points from your post of Nov 9.

1. Yes, you can leave old stuff on the HDD and let the Win 8 Install process clean it off. BUT make sure first that all the old stuff you want is safely stored somewhere else! Once you re-do your old HDD, you cannot get anything old from it.
2. You have the order wrong a little. When you're ready to Install, you MUST place the Win 8 CD in your optical drive before booting. THEN you need to go into BIOS Setup as you boot to make sure that the Boor Priority Sequence is set to use that optical drive first, and the old HDD second. Then SAVE and EXIT. The machine will NOT figure out by itself that it needs a new Windows. You must set it up this way so it will boot from the CD in the optical drive.
3. You can install your video card with all the other stuff. By default, Windows will install a basic VGA-class driver for the video card. Your card, whatever it is, will act like a basic VGA card when Windows does this. Windows might even try to install what it considers the "right" driver for your card. But after you have Windows running, you should follow the instructions with your video card and install the real proper and up-to-date card driver and software.

If you WANT to advance to Win 8, this is the process, all right. But you might try the Repair Install process on your old HDD with the new hardware, IF you are happy staying with that older version of Windows. There is a "trick" that would help you do that. You have a sticker on the machine with the Windows key code. I said you will need to use your original Install CD for Windows, which you don't have. BUT I believe there's another route. If you can just borrow an Install CD for the SAME version of Windows from someone (does NOT have to be the one for your machine) I think it will let you do the Repair Install using the key on YOUR computer. In this situation I believe it checks for a match to the key code already on the HDD, not the one on the CD.
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