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There are few things more exciting than opening up a box in expectation of what joy lurks inside. New motherboards and other shiny cool stuff like that are really high on my list of joy in a box. Yeah I am a geek. But let me tell you geeks can have fun; a whole heap of fun actually, especially if you box clever and being a geek is all about boxing clever after all. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have all the bits and pieces that you are going to need at hand. The hardware is normally the easy part. That is what is in the boxes after all, still shiny and new. But the other stuff is a bit trickier to get right. Installing a clean operating system (OS) is recommended with a new motherboard of course. And ideally you only want to do the OS install once.  What I do is have a check list that I go through before I dismantle my old PC or if I am not going to have an internet connection handy for my OS install.

Check list

USB Hard Drive

OS Disc and Product Key

All Drivers

PS/2 adaptor

  • USB hard drive – I like to have two USB drives. One small pen drive formatted to FAT32 so that I can flash my bios to the latest available before I do anything else. And a larger USB storage solution that will have all my files and applications that I am about to migrate over to the new system. This storage drive will also contain all my drivers and utilities that I will use with a fresh install of my OS of choice.
  • OS disc and key. It is very easy to make a USB drive Win7 installation disc with the Windows Win7 tool. But even then you will need to have your serial number or product key handy to input when prompted. I hate having to go searching for my product key after I have started only to find I have saved it as a text file on old hard drive.
  • Latest chipset drivers. Often the motherboard product page is not as current as the main support page of the chipset provider. It is an easy process to download all the drivers needed for the platform directly from the source. Make sure that if you want to use the chipsets native RAID options you download the latest drivers for those too.
  • Graphic card drivers – this is next on the list. I make sure I have the driver version that I prefer. Most of the time I just use the latest WHQL drivers. I tend to stay away from beta drivers for my 24/7 systems.
  • Other Devices - If I have other components that you are going to include in your build like a dedicated NIC card or a specialised audio solution. These do require a driver to make them work, and I prefer to download the latest versions. I know that a Win7 OS installation with an internet connection will do an automatic update and search for and find drivers for all my devices 99% of the time. But I want to use the drivers I know work best or are up to date. That is not always the case with the drivers that Windows finds automatically.
  • PS/2 adaptor – Just in case a keyboard or a mouse decides not to work via USB ports. This has saved me heaps of frustration in the past and no doubt will do so in the future.

It is not really required to flash the BIOS when doing the initial OS install but because I tend buy motherboards as soon as they are released the release BIOS that ship with the first motherboards are not as mature as later releases. I just find it easier to do the BIOS flash up front and not have to try problem solve later if a 3TB hard drive will not be picked up or boot. The same could be said for the drivers of the chipset or components that are going to be used; they are not really required to be downloaded beforehand as most of the time Win7 will automatically install suitable drivers. However experience has shown me that relaying of the internet while doing a fresh OS install is not always a good idea. I have had one instance recently that a motherboard did not have their LAN ports picked up during a Win7 install and needing to have the specific driver installed separately. Using the provided disc that came with the motherboard is all good. But those drivers might not be the most current and the result is newer updates are layered over the original chipset or component install. So I go the Boy Scout route and believe in being prepared and download all the latest drivers that might be needed before I start my OS install.

Now all that is left is to put the bits in the box into their right places and start the OS install.

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