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How to change a motherboard or move a hard drive with Windows XP installed.

Unlike many windows 98, 98se and ME machines, moving a hard drive to a new machine or changing a dead motherboard with an installation of windows XP on the drive has not been an easy thing to do without formatting the drive and reloading windows.
Untill recently I would have told most people that moving a hard drive with XP, or replacing the mainboard on a XP machine will not work since my luck at doing this had been marginal at best. Sometimes it still does not work but if you want to try it heres what I have found that seems to work the best. Its not as good as a fresh install but it has worked for me many times.
UPDATE: If you have had a motherboard failure and have not tried to boot to Windows yet then this article should help you. If you have not had a system failure and are going to upgrade your machine, then click here to go to OPTION #2 or click here to go to OPTION #3 of this article.
1: you will need a XP disk that is compatible with your version of XP.

2: you need to make sure that your system is set to boot to the CD rom first. (VERY VERY Important)
If you don't know how to do this check out the first part of this article "System restore in recovery console"  for the basics.

I leave the hard drive unhooked and boot the machine from CD rom to make sure that the first thing it goes to is the CD so I know that A: the drive reads the disk Im using and B: it boots to that drive.

If you accidently boot to the hard drive windows will set itself to not allow you to use the drive with the new hardware so its critical to "NOT" let the system go to the hard drive.

Once you know that the system will go to your CD connect the hard drive and boot the system. When you see: Press any Key to boot from CD
Click a key and wait for the system to go to the setup screen that asks if you want to recover by pressing "R" or "Enter" to continue loading windows. Press enter. The system will come up with the End User License Agreement. If you agree to the terms, press the F8 button and wait. The system will now look for versions of windows installed on the drive. When it sees your windows installation it will again give you a choice of "R" to repair the windows installation or "Enter" to continue loading a new installation of windows on the hard drive. Press "R" and the system should go through a reinstallation of windows on your old hard drive. Keep an eye on the system because it will ask a couple of installation questions and may ask for your product key code. After the installation has completed the system will reboot and if everything went as it should your system will be up and going again minus your new drivers and some MS updates. You will also no longer have any restore points to go back to except for one or two that the system created during the new boot.

Very helpful hint!!!

Make a Duplicate of your hard drive!!! So if the process doesn't work right, you can try again.


If you have XP service pack 2 and your disk was originally SP 1 you may have some additional issues but it doesn't hurt to try.  The reason for this is that if you reinstall with service pack 1 when you already have service pack 2 you will end up reverting back to the service pack 1 and have to reinstall the service pack 2. Some software and drivers may only work correctly with service pack 2 and will not work correctly till you have the SP2 back in. I would just try to find a disk with the most current service pack in it but if windows asks for your product key it may not work with a SP 1 key and an XP 2 disk. No matter what you do this may toast the OS so what I like to do is duplicate the drive first and use the copy to try it, not the original. Even if you mess up windows you will still have your information on your hard drive like pictures and documents. The reason I like to get the drive from an old system working with a new system is the fact that this process described above takes about an hour or less (depending on your system speed) and if you have a lot of programs to reinstall and get updated and bring your whole system back to the way you like it, can take a whole weekend.

I don't know about you, but that's just too time consuming for me if I can avoid it.

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