Motherboard Replacement Guide
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Motherboard Upgrading under Windows 2000

Replacing that creaky (or squeaky even if it's the small onboard difficult-to-replace chipset fan that's making the noise)  motherboard would almost be a complete doddle if one could be sure that the Windows  installation on your precious hard disk will take that first reboot with different hardware in its stride. Windows 2000 does a good job of recognising new hardware, so in general the procedure does work well.

Assuming the very worse, ie complete disk corruption, is fairly unlikely (and you will have a back up anyway) the next worst case is that you are looking at a reinstall, which means applications are no longer installed and settings are lost, or a repair which is less damaging.

But ideally you want it to just "get on with it". In most cases, with a little preparation, such an upgrade is possible. It does require some understanding of the little-seen innards, and not every detail is fully explained here, but if you are feeling that way inclined it should be OK. And if you are an expert, just scan for the things you might have forgotten about.

This description is based on the replacement of a four year old motherboard (MB) with a new one, WITHOUT having to Repair or reinstall Windows 2000 (Win2K). As the CPU went from single-core to a dual-core it also covers the issue of changing from Single to Multiprocessor HAL (else you only get to use half the processor).

It contains helpful suggestions for helping to ensure an easy migration, such as additional hardware you might require, additional preparation, and a little troubleshooting - eg some websites suddenly stop working (mtu settings need reapplying) etc. It is not a comprehensive guide to all the possible pitfalls.

It may well be that you can't perform the upgrade without a more serious reinstall or repair of Windows. This isn't the end of the world, but does make more changes than necessary. Some documents referenced below tell you about the procedures to follow.

There are many notes (asides) in an Appendix, with links scattered through this text, you may wish to have this document and the Appendix open in adjacent windows as you read it, and print both before you set to work.

In this case, an Asus A7M266 was replaced with an ASRock 939Dual-SATA2/A/ASR and an AMD X2 3800+ (Jan 2006).

Simplifications

The hard disks in use were the normal IDE-based ones and used the normal on-board IDE controller, so that eliminates potential complications of SATA drivers etc. But if you have a card-based controller (SATA or IDE RAID card) that will move to the new machine then you should be in a better position (not covered here)! If you have an IDE drive but want to make use of SATA in the new machine I would suggest starting by just changing the MB, but that is not based on experience.

Both motherboards were ordinary "ACPI" compliant, so the HAL did not need to change for the motherboard swap, if they weren't then this simple swap wouldn't work

But for some people life won't be that simple, this article won't help you with the complexities of repairing or reinstalling windows, but some of the other material may be useful.

Choose a Motherboard And CPU

Choose for reliability, current price versus future usefulness, and personal preference as to overclocking or quietness or required on-board facilities. The ASRock Dual was chosen because it is an AMD board and it has an AGP socket for my existing graphics card, as well as a PCI Express x16 socket for a future graphics card (the existing AGP card is nothing fancy, but, see Vista note, this probably isn't the time to buy a PCI Express one). It also has a socket reserved for an AMD M2 daughter board (presumably it will include the memory too, so, compared with the cost of a new motherboard, being able to keep this one might be a moot point). This is a cheap (sub 50) card, it has been out for over six months so others have had a chance to find the bugs, it supports DDR400 memory and is  not intended for serious overclocking (but certainly does some), and seems to get good reviews. It doesn't have Gigabit LAN or a PSU fan speed monitor connector, but does have 2xSATA and 1xSATA2 connectors,  4 plus more USB connectors, no chipset fan (one less source of noise) and sound support.

As this board has more embedded facilities I threw away my discrete USB2 and LAN controller cards. I almost threw away the "what's that - oh it must be a modem, how quaint" card too, but decided to leave in it "just in case".

MB Checklist - a few show stoppers to check

bulletSame Physical Size (ATX is the norm in full-size cases)
bulletCheck for overhangs that might prevent CPU and Fan fitment
bulletEnough slots (of the right type) for your cards (if they will still all be required)
bulletBuilt-in LAN / Audio / whatever is required.

Choose a processor (AMD X2 3800+ (dual core) seems like a sweet spot in terms of price vs performance, the retail version comes with a fan), and memory (2x1GB matched for Dual channel operation is not expensive if you don't want the ultimate performance). The whole lot (including round cables, see below, but not a new PSU) can be had for less than 450 delivered (including VAT).

Now before you press "Order", think about:

bulletIDE and Floppy Cables - Some boards, like this one, have the connectors nearer the "slots" end of the board. You may need longer cables, look at the pictures and compare with your existing board. The new "rounded" cables are less obtrusive and easier to work with (they are sold as better for cooling, and come in obligatory day-glo colours). But note that "60cm" means to the far end of the cable, the other connector is quite a bit closer.
bulletPSU - Check you have enough power, AND check the connectors. For instance this board has a 20 pin ATX AND a 4 pin 12V ATX connector, the old one only had a 20pin connector, but I had already replaced the PSU (a quieter one a couple of years ago) and had the 4 pin cable available. There are other connector types too.
Also, modern PSUs have more options for quieter operation, such as dual fans and built in speed controllers.
bulletCable ties - always useful!
bulletEarthing wrist-strap - essential I think
bulletCase Fan and Fan Speed control - if you have a noisy case fan it may be worth replacing it with a new one, or trying an inline fan speed controller to reduce the speed (if it is pumping more air than it need to produce enough cooling)

If you are removing cards, you may want to find some blanking plates to fill in the slots.

Also, look for any keys needed for locking wires etc, you will need a screwdriver or two, snips are best for cutting the existing cable ties, and a vacuum cleaner is useful!

When the motherboard arrives have a look at the BIOS chip. There will probably be a sticker on it saying what version it is. Now go to the manufacturer's web site and look up to see how many updates there have been any whether any of them affect you. At worst the BIOS may not support the processor you have bought. In which case it is not going to be easy to upgrade (Catch-22 applies here), contact the supplier. Otherwise you can decide whether a BIOS upgrade after the rebuild is worth it.

Software Preparation

There are various articles that describe the software pitfalls, you should review them. I looked at:

"Pre-action" and  "Problems" (Just "IBD Solution 2")

I used parts of their advice in terms of pre-move preparation and "IBD Solution 2", with the modifications as below.

Software Preparation - Get Drivers etc ("Pre-action")

bulletI performed the suggested copy of the windows i386 directory from the Windows install CD on to the Hard disk, but it didn't get accessed. I didn't change the registry key that points to it, and nor did I install a 2nd Win2K copy (as I felt I would prefer to reinstall the backup if there was a problem rather than then have two Windows copies). The reference to "when you delete the ENUM key" would seem to be spurious (this would be part of a much deeper reinstall I think).
bulletGet the drivers. OK, I was a bit lax here, it was a mistake. Find drivers (new ones perhaps) for each of the cards you are keeping. Although I wasn't changing the Display Card (so I didn't copy on the driver), I DID get prompted for it (I think because the card was either in a different slot, or because on the firstboot there were no MB AGP drivers installed). I also didn't, but should have, copied the old modem drivers too. I didn't put these on floppy disk, and didn't need to.
bulletI copied the MB Driver CD on to the hard disk, and checked on the AsRock website for updates and downloaded them.
bulletThere is discussion further down about recording settings, this may include an mtu setting for the LAN Connector. If you used a utility to set this you may want to have it around to use again, or see notes about reading it from the registry

It would be nice to preinstall the drivers for the new MB devices. I tried that for the AGP driver but the installer wouldn't let me as it detected that the chipset wasn't present.

Software Preparation - CPU Dependent Programs

You will be changing the CPU. Normally most software will simply run quickly, but there may be some specialised pieces that require thinking about:

bulletVMWARE (OS virtualisation). Suspended machines probably need to be unsuspended. Read More

Software Preparation - Login Account

Chances are that you first login while the display is running in VGA mode. All desktop icons get repositioned to fit in the woefully small screen. So it would be a good idea to have an account (an Administrator) that doesn't have a nicely laid out desktop to use for that. And of course you will need an Administrator account for software installation.

Software Preparation - Backup

I use a "partition to file" copier (Acronis True Image 8). I don't think I would do this procedure without either a "file" copy on an external hard disk, or a "partition copy" on a separate hard disk (temporarily removed). And also these programs have "bootable" versions of the programs so you can reinstall the partition WITHOUT needing to boot it from Windows, this has to be essential. Before doing the backup it may be worth cleaning up excessive temporary files and similar junk. For safety, update the repair information before the backup.

So, with the appropriate Boot CD (so the program can run standalone), check it does boot AND that it can actually read the file backup copy on the external hard disk, or partition copy on another drive. But it wasn't needed!

And as I had an external OneTouch go bad on me recently, so I had two copies of the backup.

On reflection a disk check would have been a good idea too.

Record Some Setup Info

Device Manager Settings

A screen dump/print of the fully expanded Device Manager Tree might be useful.

LAN Connector Setup

Whether or not you will be throwing away your LAN card, the chances are that it will be reinstalled (by Windows) as a new Connector, and the old connector will be retained as an invisible "ghost". Whether or not you delete the entry from the Device Manager (see below) you may want to save the connector setup information (which may just be that it is automatically setup by DHCP, or may be specific IP and DNS settings), but also include any mtu setting that might be required by your internet connection or know how to apply them with a utility you used previously!

Display Adaptor (graphics card) Settings

The graphics card drivers will probably be reinstalled, so record your screen resolution and depth and refresh settings and anything similar.

Other Devices

You may want to check and record modem settings and any other similar devices.

Software Preparation - System Preparation

IDE Driver

As per the "problems" article, IBD Solution 2  above I changed the IDE chipset driver in Computer Management to the Standard one "Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller" see Appendix.

VGA Driver

The IBD Solution 2 also says to select VGA mode if the graphics card will be changed. As I found that even though I kept the card it actually started in VGA mode there is an argument both for saying you should always select the VGA driver and also for saying it doesn't matter as Windows will do it for you. Safety dictates you should change the driver, see Appendix

DON'T RESTART YET (well if you do Windows may reinstall your proper driver and undo this step!)

Other Device Manager Changes

Also it is worth deleting the Device Management entries for devices that will go, else they remain as "ghosts" (see later for how they can be removed). In fact there will be various system devices left as ghosts after this procedure, not much that can be done unless the whole Device Manager tree gets rebuilt. So if you will be throwing away say a LAN card, find the entry in the Device Manager and delete it. BUT read earlier section about recording setup details.

Change from Dual/Multiple to Single CPU - If you are going this way!

If you are changing "down" in CPU/cores count to one then you probably need to change the HAL at this time. See the instructions for the reverse change near the end of this article.

These changes happen after the backup - they can easily be redone if the original backup has to be reinstalled and you try again.

Time to turn off the PC (without restarting and allowing Windows to redetect your "old" hardware), and say goodbye to that ancient motherboard

Hardware Change Time

Use protection - an earthing wrist-strap.

Examine the old motherboard and see how it is removed. Make sure you can identify the purpose of every cable attached to it and know where it will go on the new board (take a photo perhaps). I found that the connector for the power LED was a little different, I'll live without that, and that I could no longer plug in the PSU fan speed monitor cable. But come to that the board doesn't seem to have a fan / temperature monitor utility anyway.

I started by fitting the CPU and fan, and memory to the new MB. Be careful.

This next phase is a preference, but does involve a little risk. Before I took the old MB out I wanted to check whether the new MB was likely to work. This meant running the MB somewhat precariously balanced over the of of the old one. Not a recommended procedure I'm sure.

I removed just the graphics card, power connectors and the connectors to the "front panel" from the old board.

I used a piece of cardboard to rest the new MB above the old MB (supported on bits of PSU and case) and connected the parts just removed to the new board. The front panel connectors are needed for the soft power switch and reset button to work, and to hear any error beeps from the speaker.

I switched on, hurrah, a single beep and some text appears on the screen. Although oddly the main BIOS doesn't always seem to appear after the graphics card BIOS signon is cleared - and when it does appear it disappears very quickly. The ASRock manual says nothing about which key to press enter the Setup screens either.

Still with the board "suspended" (but switched off again) I plugged in the hard disks and all the other cards.

Or you remove all the cables and cards from the old MB, remove the board, vacuum out the dust, insert the new board, fasten it and put back all the cables and required cards.

I switched on, (this time) the Windows start-up screens appeared,  Windows booted, and displayed a VGA mode login screen. I logged in (see note above about an account with no pretty desktop layout) and the "New Hardware found" wizard appeared (leave it alone for a moment).

Have a browse around to see if things look OK, but this is not easy in VGA.

What If It Doesn't Boot?

Record the message accurately. Firstly check that the board, graphics card and memory are working (Power On Self Test stuff, read the manuals - just possibly you have a BIOS version that doesn't support your processor). Read the documents listed above. Worse case should be a reinstall of Windows over the top. Sorry, this document doesn't cover that topic.

New Hardware Detection

Before the Wizard runs it is best to use the installers for any chipsets that come with the motherboard. This usually means cancelling the Wizard first. I would also have run the graphics card installer if I had it at hand, instead I had to wait until I had network connectivity to download an up-to-date driver (both because I didn't think I was going to need this and now couldn't find the CD and the CD Drive wasn't connected because I hadn't realised a longer cable was required).

Let the Wizard detect what it can also detect and reboot.

Login (other account as you are probably still in VGA mode). Windows can detect yet more hardware, take note of what it wants, reboot if necessary. Try to install the graphics card drivers if not already done (they may not be installable until after any AGP drivers have been rebooted), and or try to change the graphics setting to something more bearable. Actually, before you install the graphics card drivers you may want to read here about deleting Device Manager Ghosts.

Open up the Device Manager and expand subtrees to check:

bulletIDE Controller - Look to see that a new chipset controller has replaced the "Standard" one installed before the motherboard change. If not, check that there isn't a chipset driver you have forgotten to load (Windows seems to have a lot anyway) and try a manual Driver Update.
bulletAnything else that seems relevant to your install.
bulletThose yellow "warning " icons - investigate.

After the new hardware has been detected you may want to review the "Ghost" entries in the device manager, see the appendix.

Check What Works & Troubleshooting

Network Connectivity

Network connectivity is always useful. The LAN controller should have been detected and will have been set to use DHCP by default. Apply any manually set IP, Gateway and DNS values if required. If you get the message:

"The IP address XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX you have entered for this network adapter is already assigned to another adapter Name of adapter. Name of adapter is hidden from the network and ...." then you have a "ghost", read here.

mtu problems

I had forgotten the problems that can result from not having an mtu value set if it is needed. Consequently some web sites  seemed to be dead, ie there was no response, not a 404 or DNS error message, (eg www.google.com and www.msn.com) and I thought I had a serious LAN connectivity problem, but then I realised that ping was working and that other sites worked fine (www.amd.com), but others seemed slower than usual (www.seekz.com). This is usually a fragmentation issue (tested with ping -f and -l settings) and is solved by having a small enough mtu value set for the Lan Connector. Use whatever tool you originally used, or edit the correct value into the registry.

Other Hardware

Check through it and setup as required.

Dual Core / Dual Processor Installation

Run the Task Manager, select View/CPU History and check that "One Graph per CPU" is checked. On the Performance sheet do you see one or two graphs? If there is only one and you have a multi (core) processor then the HAL needs changing. Read the Appendix to ensure you know what to select. The change is easily made in the Device Manager, read here.

Check the Task Manager again. Rebuild the repair information

Cooling

If you have reduced the cooling (noise) check nothing is getting too hot!

Unwanted Software

You may need to uninstall old MB-specific utilities, such as the Asus Probe, probably they should go as part of the preparation.

Bios Updates

If it's not broke don't fix it. Wait for others to find the problems.

Tuning/Overclocking

The BIOS should provide a reasonable performance level "by default", overclocking it is not covered here.

Conclusion

That's it. The only "problem" I had was the web site access, fixed by setting the mtu. If I listen carefully I can just hear it. Good Luck.

Follow Up

Two Weeks Later

1) I note that the AMD Dashboard V2 seems to leak when it is not minimised, but the leak is discarded by minimisation.

This article, and separate appendix, is copyright (c) 2006 Camel Services Ltd. It may not be reproduced without permission.

 

2006 Camel Services Ltd. www.camel.co.uk