Changing a Motherboard or Moving a

Hard Drive with XP Installed

Revised 4/19/05 to incorporate new procedure based on MS KB824125

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Important information to consider before attempting the move of XP to new hardware. Please read carefully and follow through with the recommendations!  

If you found this web page before attempting to move a currently installed Windows XP to new hardware. I highly recommend you either create an image of the hard drive or make sure you have all important data that can not be replaced from other media backed up to XP compatible media before proceeding. Even under the best of circumstances the chances of booting a hard drive moved from another computer is a crap shoot, and doing so without an image or backup is asking for trouble. I hope this advice does not fall on deaf ears.

  Windows .QIC and CD-R/CDRW's using the packet writing format will need to have XP compatible software installed to access the information. *

  Advisory: Changing a Branded OEM XP system motherboard to a non-factory replacement motherboard or moving a hard drive with OEM XP pre installed to a non-OEM system is not advised. The new OEM EULA states: The sale of XP OEM software is only allowed when accompanied with a complete computer. Defined as "We grant you a nonexclusive right to distribute an individual software license only with a fully assembled computer system. A "fully assembled computer system" means a computer system consisting of at least a central processing unit, a motherboard, a hard drive, a power supply, and a case." A non-password protected explanation can be accessed from the link below.

OEM Microsoft Windows (including XP Pro and XP Home) Licensing Changes You Need To Know About!

Two problem areas exist.

  1. Non-compliance with the OEM EULA.
  2. The OEM's practice of using a set of restore disks or hidden restore folders on the hard drive to satisfy Microsoft's restore requirement.

The first example can result in a denial of activation. The second means you have no media (i.e. no XP CD) to use for the repair install if it is necessary.

Generic OEM versions would seem to classify the builder of the computer as the OEM and as the OEM can determine what upgrades are allowed. See this link to confuse you even more. OEM

New OEM restrictions initially affecting the top 20 Direct multinational OEM's.

  As of February 28th 2005, all COA keys affixed to the computer case will have internet activation disabled. A mandatory phone call will be prompted to receive an override key after answering a series of questions which manually verify them as legitimate. >>More See 59 and 60>>> and More

  This does not affect unbranded OEM versions purchased with authorized hardware through legitimate vendors. Branded OEM versions [I.E. Dell, HP, Gateway, etc..] purchased from eBay and other similar vendors will be affected and may lose the ability to activate the questionable copies.

Also make sure you read through the entire OEM NOTES from the OEM XP system motherboard link.

  Since in my opinion the repair install or upgrade run from Windows  is an absolute necessity when changing a motherboard or moving a hard drive with XP installed. I would not attempt booting into the new hardware configuration when the option to do a repair install or upgrade run from Windows is not an option. If you do make the choice to boot Windows XP without doing the repair install or upgrade run from Windows, I once again highly recommend you create an image of the hard drive or make sure you have all important data that can not be replaced from other media backed up to XP compatible media.

 Backups of Windows that create .QIC and CD-R/CDRW's using the packet writing format will need to have XP compatible software installed to access the information. *

This article explains:

1. Preparing for a motherboard change with XP installed.

2. Changing/Replacing/Upgrading a computer motherboard  currently running XP. 

3. Moving a hard drive with XP installed to a new computer.

4. Setting XP to new motherboard and hardware.

5. Activation

Preparing for the Change

As with all changes that have the potential of data loss, it is strongly recommended to make a backup of all important data that cannot be restored from other media. You should either create an image of the hard drive using third party imaging software, tape backup, backup to CDRW, floppies or the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard located on the XP CD. (F.A.S.T), etc. If you have information located in non-standard locations, do not expect the backup device or software applications default settings to backup the data. You will need to make custom adjustments to the backup settings.

Check the motherboard manufacturers web site for updated drivers and any drivers that need to be loaded from a floppy at the beginning of XP installation.

Check the motherboard manufacturers web site for BIOS updates for the new motherboard. As with all hardware, you should always check for updates.  Download and Flash the BIOS to the latest version before setting up your motherboard with the hard drive setup with XP. BIOS

The Change of hardware

 Changing the motherboard on a computer currently running XP  Back

  1. Start Windows and Logon as Administrator.
  2. Insert the XP CD in the CD drive.
  3. Let Autorun start.
  4. Click on Install.
  5. Select the Upgrade [recommended] from the Windows Setup window Installation Type list.
  6. Click Next
  7. Follow on screen prompts until computer restarts.
  8. Turn off computer as it restarts.
  9. Remove power cord from computer.
  10. Open Case.
  11. Use either an anti-static wrist band or make sure you touch bare metal before handling or touching a component.
  12. After labeling all cables and other power connectors; remove cables from motherboard.
  13. Remove old motherboard and replace with new motherboard.
  14. Attach cables and power connectors by consulting the motherboard user manual, and the labels you made when you disconnected them from the original mother board.
  15. Reboot and access BIOS
  16. Depending on the BIOS and OEM manufacturer, set date and time [very important], hard drive detection, CPU settings [if necessary] and boot order.
  17. You will need to set the CD DRIVE  before the Hard Drive in the boot order when booting from XP CD to Repair Install.
  18. For this Upgrade procedure, Ignore "Press a key to boot from CD" on restart.
  19. EXIT and say YES to SAVE BIOS settings.
  20. Reboot
  21. Allow upgrade to continue.
    • Setup installs the HAL [Hardware Abstract Layer]
    • The IDE controller drivers [Hard Drive]
    • Other drivers that the new motherboard must have.
  22. Before connecting to the internet, read the Blaster worm warning !
  23. and then click the browser back button to continue.

    Moving a hard drive with a currently running XP  installed to another computer.     BACK

    The following applies to currently working XP systems.

     For moving a hard drive from non-booting XP system

      The following information works if the hard drive being moved is a single partition or multiple partitions on a single drive on the computer or if XP is installed on another hard drive [other than the primary master partition Disk 0] and all hard drives from the system XP is moved; are also moved and cabled exactly as the previous computer.

  24. Follow the above steps 1 - 7 before shutting down Windows on the computer the hard drive/s are to be removed.
  25. Press Pause/Break as soon as computer reboots. Remove XP CD.
  26. Turn off computer
  27. If multiple hard drives are being swapped, write down and label how they were configured. It is very important to preserve the cabling so all drives retain the same drive letters.
  28. Remove the hard drive or drives
  29. Install hard drive with XP installed to new computer, making sure to duplicate the cabling of computer hard drive/s is moved from.
  30. Power on the computer and access the BIOS by pressing the key combination prompted by the BIOS, configure as described in the steps #16 & #17 above.
  31. EXIT and SAVE BIOS settings.
  32. Press Pause/Break, Insert XP.
  33. Press Pause/Break again to continue upgrade.
  34. Before connecting to the internet, read the Blaster worm warning !

Setting XP to new hardware

Option #1 Repair Install to SET XP to New Motherboard

Option #2 IDE replacement and Safe Mode procedure to SET XP                 to New Motherboard.

Option #1 Repair Install

Do Not BOOT into Windows XP on first boot after Motherboard or Hard Drive change! If  booting from CD is not an option, return to BIOS and make sure booting from CD is the first boot option. Booting into Windows is only an option when you do a direct replacement of the Motherboard, otherwise it is like playing Russian Roulette. If you lose, it is fatal!

If your computer does not support booting from the CD, check your OEM or Motherboard makers web site for updated  BIOS.


Perform a Repair Install by following the step by step below.

  1. When you see the "Welcome To Setup" screen, you will see the options below  
  2. This portion of the Setup program prepares Microsoft
       Windows XP to run on your computer:

       To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER.

    This is the option you want to enable to proceed to the Repair Install.

  3.     To repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console, press R.
    To setup Windows XP now and Repair Install , press ENTER.For the Repair Install do not choose "To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press  R", (you Do Not want to load Recovery Console). I repeat, do not choose "To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press  R".
       To quit Setup without installing Windows XP, press F3.
  4. Press Enter to start the Windows Setup.
  5.   Accept the License Agreement and Windows will search for existing Windows installations.
  6.   Select the XP installation you want to repair from the list and press R to start the repair. If Repair is not one of the options, read  this Warning!!
  7.   Setup will copy the necessary files to the hard drive and reboot.  Do not press any key to boot from CD when the message appears. Setup will continue as if it were doing a clean install, but your applications and settings will remain intact.

Blaster worm warning: Do not immediately activate over the internet when asked, enable the XP firewall before connecting to the internet. You can activate after the firewall is enabled. Control Panel - Network Connections.  Right click the connection you use, Properties and there is a check box on the Advanced page.

KB 833330 Blaster removal

What You Should Know About the Sasser Worm and Its Variants

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-011

  Reapply updates or service packs applied since initial Windows XP installation. Please note that a Repair Install from the Original install XP CD will remove SP1/SP2 and service packs will need to be reapplied.  

Service Pack 1

Service Pack 2

An option I highly recommend is creating a Slipstreamed XP CD with SP2.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2)

Another Slipstream step by step

Option #2 Setting XP to new hardware.

  This option should only be used when you have a complete backup of your data that can not be restored from other sources.

The original source of the modified information below came from

  Before you swap out the current motherboard go to device manager and select the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller and select your current storage controller.  Right click, select update driver and select install from a list or specific location.  Click don't search I will choose the driver to install and select the standard dual channel IDE controller.

  This will prevent the inaccessible boot device blue screen. 

  With this method, booting the first time with the new motherboard should be done in Safe mode.  XP will install the drivers it needs and you can install the new motherboard drivers. I would suggest accessing the motherboard web site to get the latest drivers and bios updates rather than use the CD media included with the MB. The CD is usually a couple of revisions behind the latest updates.


Top of Page

  What happens when you change a motherboard or move a hard drive depends on the accumulated changes made within a 120 day period since initial activation. As a precaution the windows\system32\WPA.DBL  and WPA.DBL should be copied to a floppy before doing a repair install. For more information see Alex Nichol's article on XP activation.

It also depends on the version of Windows XP intended for the move.

Retail versions of XP

  Retail versions of XP can be moved from and reinstalled as many times as you want as long as it is in compliance with the EULA. The EULA states: You may install, use, access, display and run one copy of the Software on a single computer, such as a workstation, terminal or other device ("Workstation Computer")

OEM versions of XP

  According to the OEM EULA, systems pre installed with OEM  XP versions cannot be transferred to another computer. This is defined in the OEM EULA.

  OEM versions sold with a piece of hardware are tied to the original computer it is installed on. From the link [clarification], hardware can be upgraded and only the change of mother board will qualify as a non-original computer.

For clarification:


Microsoft Corporate and Legal Affairs
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399

What information are you required to give?

  As long as it is only installed on one computer, nothing needs to be said other than it was uninstalled from one computer and installed on another or the hardware was upgraded on the same computer. You do not need to or have to provide more information.

 Why was activation added to XP?

  The purpose of Activation is to make the general public aware it is a violation of the Windows XP EULA agreement to install a single licensed copy to more than one computer at a time. It was not expected to stop the ability to disable or work around the activation.

  You can effectively recover from most non-boot situations from the information included in this web site.

Email replies will be accepted and answered when time allows. 

Michael Stevens MS-MVP XP SHELL            


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