A while back my main desktop PC failed. Something let out the magic smoke on the motherboard. The hard disk was fine, the machine just wouldn't boot. The hardware itself was a few years old, a Core 2 system that was starting to show its age. Some of the applications I'd been using were struggling – so it was definitely time to get a new PC.
The plan was to transplant the old hard drive into a new machine, and try out Windows 7's ability to reconfigure itself to a new machine. With at least three generations of processor to leapfrog, a new motherboard architecture to use, and a switch from DDR2 to DDR3 memory, it was going to be an interesting challenge. I'd done some shopping around, and had chosen an OS-less PC configuration from Scan (and was also pleasantly surprised at just how many system configurators would sell me a PC without an OS).
Ordered on a Friday, the new machine arrived Monday morning (another pleasant surprise, as I was expecting a few days wait for a machine to be built and tested). A Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and integrated graphics, it was intended to be a typical development PC, able to run a couple of operating systems and all the developer tools you'd want. It didn't take long to swap the bundled SATA 1TB drive for my old disk, thanks to the quick release disk mounts in the CoolerMaster case.
Time for the moment of truth: would Windows 7 perform as expected?
All you really need to do is boot normally. There's one thing to remember when installing an existing Windows 7 boot disk in new hardware – don't choose a repair install. It won't give you any problems, and will probably fail, but it does waste time. Booting normally, Windows will revert to default drivers where necessary, and will either go online to download what you need (or in the case of the new network drivers and USB 3.0 drivers needed for the Asus motherboard, will prompt you for the appropriate driver disk, which was waiting in the DVD drive). The whole process took less than 15 minutes and two reboots, including downloading and installing all the Windows and application updates that had accumulated since last September.
Finally I just had to reactivate some of the applications on my PC – including Windows itself. That wasn't surprising; after all I'd just changed everything that Windows knew about, apart from the hard disk it was running on. Still, that too was painless, with the PC handling it all automatically. There's one task remaining, to move it all to the new PC's 1TB disk, with a longer term plan to switch to SSD for OS and applications, with spinning disk for data and files.
And there we have it, a new PC with the current generation of hardware, running an install of Windows that has made the journey from Vista to 7, from Pentium 4 to Core to Sandy Bridge, and from 32 bit to 64. The result is a machine fast, and ready for the next step to Windows 8.