Reinstalling Windows can be an extremely infuriating process. Coupled with the fact that you lose a large majority of your installed programs – avoiding formatting is generally a notion shared commonly amongst Windows users. However, in most cases – such situations are unavoidable.
Whenever you upgrade to a newer architecture, chances are that you end up replacing your motherboard as well. When you do so, you are basically replacing a key component of your system which can have drastic impacts on the performance of your system and allows you to experiment with new CPU chips and RAM sticks.
Do I Need To Reinstall Windows With New Motherboard?
Windows does not operate properly when you make drastic hardware changes. Moreover, Windows binds your license to your hardware. So, when you change it – you will need to re-activate it. To re-activate it properly, you will need to reinstall Windows to go through the entire setup process again.
- Going through this process can be extremely cumbersome, especially if you don’t have a Windows Installation Media tool in handy. Therefore, we always recommend having a USB Flash Drive with the latest installation of Windows in hand before you go forth with your ventures.
You can use the Windows License Troubleshooter to re-activate your Windows immediately after replacing a motherboard. With a retail license key of the operating system, you can get up and running with a re-activated version of Windows and a brand new motherboard quickly!
Before we get to that, though, there are a few pre-requisites that you must meet. Firstly, you must have a retail license for Windows. Here’s how you can check:
- Open the Command Prompt on your PC
- Now type in – slmgr /dli
- You’ll see a Pop-Up Window opening up. Look at the Description part of the window.
If you have anything other than a Retail version of Windows, you will not be able to re-activate Windows without reinstalling it. But, if you are lucky enough to have a Retail version, here’s how you can re-activate it after reinstalling a new motherboard:
- Open the Windows 10 / 11 License Troubleshooter by pressing WIN + I
- Now, head to Update And Security -> Activation
- If you see a prompt stating WIndows is not activated, don’t worry! That’s what we’ll fix.
- Now, head to the bottom of the prompt and click on troubleshoot.
- After doing so, select the I have changed my hardware recently option.
- Voila! After a few minutes, Windows will be re-activated regardless of your recent hardware changes.
Do I Need To Re-activate Windows If I Add More RAM To My PC?
No, because Windows uses your motherboard as a reference point. Since you are not changing your motherboard, Windows will still recognize your device as the same. If you were to take our recommendation, we think it is a great habit to format your Windows installation after adding in more RAM.
Certain hardware changes like adding RAM can lead to software glitches and artifacts, especially during gaming.
So, it is a great practice to format your Windows installation after you get RAM. However, you won’t need to reactivate it as you can just Reset your installation from within Windows. Here’s how:
- Open the Search menu, and type Reset this PC
- After clicking on the first option, wait for Windows to prepare the installation.
- You will now be able to choose between two options, either Keeping your files or Remove everything. Here’s the difference between the two:
- With Remove everything, all partitions, drives, and backups are erased, and you are left with a fresh storage device.
- With Keep my files, your C drive or your default Windows installation partition is still removed. However, everything else remains untouched. If you have just one partition, both options achieve the same thing.
- Now, you can simply follow the on-screen instructions, and you will be able to get a fresh, clean installation of Windows, which is activated from the get-go.
You do not need to re-activate Windows when you replace your CPU either. Your computer will run flawlessly when it boots up the first time after a CPU change. There are no caching or paging errors that can pop up when you change a CPU.
Unlike RAM, formatting or reinstalling Windows after changing your CPU will have no performance impact. So, if you suddenly feel like your PC’s acting up – there might be another hardware issue that’s the culprit.
Does Changing The Motherboard Also Change The Operating System Of My PC?
Changing or replacing your motherboard will not affect your operating system / WIndows installation. The only issue you’ll run into is your Windows not being activated after booting it up. However, changing your SSD or storage medium will lead to a change in your Windows Installation.
In essence, your Windows installation is located on your storage medium. So, if you were to change it, your installation will also change depending on what’s present in the medium. So, no matter how much hardware swapping you do, you will need to re-activate Windows as the worst-case scenario and nothing else.
In some cases, you might end up corrupting your Windows installation when changing your motherboard. Because your license key is directly bound to your hardware ID present on your motherboard. So, when replacing it – your operating system has a chance of malfunctioning. Generally, though, this seldom happens. This is because Windows 10 and 11 create automatic restore points are regular intervals.
So, if you have a corrupt installation, it’ll be reverted automatically.
Therefore, when you do change your motherboard, while it is unlikely, we still recommend backing up important files in your default Windows installation partition just in case. You don’t need to worry about your other partitions drive, as only your Windows partition can be corrupt in the worst-case scenario.
Do I Need To Reinstall My Drivers After Replacing My Motherboard?
Yes, because most drivers like your audio, chipset and processor are directly correlated. So, you will need to open your motherboard’s support page and download all the relevant drivers. Windows typically tends to download drivers on their own, given that you have a working internet connection.
However, there are particular cases where your OS might not be able to pick up your driver automatically. In essence, though, Windows will always reinstall the following drivers whenever you change your motherboard:
- Sound Card
So, if any of the above components of your computer randomly stop working, it can immediately be attributed to your drivers not being installed/downloaded properly.
If you have external devices or multiple drives connected to your PC, they may not be detected before all your RAID / USB drivers are installed. Don’t worry, though, once the drivers are back up. All your data will be back up safe and sound.
What To Do If Ethernet Driver Stops Working?
Download the required driver from another device, put it on a flash drive and then install it on your system. Since Windows won’t be connected to the Internet, there will be no automatic driver downloads until you get this primary driver up and running.
If you can’t find your driver, we recommend entering your motherboard’s model number (found on the box) and heading to the support page. After which, you’ll be prompted to enter your operating system, and voila! All your drivers will be available.
You will never need to download Windows if you replace your motherboard. However, you will always need to re-activate it whenever you change your motherboard. On PCs with a retail version, you can just use the troubleshooter to get your WIndows back up.
Without access to the troubleshooter, you will need to find your key or sign in to a Microsoft account linked to a genuine Windows installation. While it is a tedious process, in the end, some sacrifices do need to be made when you are getting your new system up and running!
Hey, I’m Hammad. I write for this website to help you with the IT advice about PC, RAM, CPU, Motherboard, PSU, and other PC components.
I will provide detailed guides with images, and explain step by step so you can understand the process. Check all my articles here.