Rebuilding My Computer – Again

September 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

My home desktop computer is an important tool for me. I use it for photography, printing, communications, publishing, research, storage and a hundred other things. At times, like when working with multi-layered Photoshop projects, I put a significant load on it. Fortunately for me, my day job involves building computers, so I have always been able maintain an up-to-date and high performance system.

 

Recently I’ve started to have some issues creep in. First the sleep mode failed and nothing I could do would make the system wake from sleep properly. I began getting occasional “blue screen” crashes. Then I started having a condition where the system would freeze for up to twenty minutes after it began to launch Windows.

 

I dug into this on the internet and gathered as much information as I could, trying to find a root cause. It seems that my motherboard, an Intel DZ68BC, does not play well with Intel 3rd generation, Ivy Bridge CPUs, which is what I installed about six months ago. Before then the system ran well but was underperforming with a 2nd generation, Sandy Bridge i5 CPU. The DZ68BC is qualified for both the 2nd and 3rd generation of Core-i CPUs, but it seems to be a well known secret that with Ivy Bridge CPUs there are issues. Further searching lead me to the understanding that to really get the best out of an Ivy Bridge CPU I should migrate to a new motherboard with a Z77 chipset.

 

I watched NewEgg’s sales for a while and by and by an Asus P8Z77_V-LX motherboard turned up at the very reasonable price of $50. This was not Asus’ top of the line board in this family, but I did not need all the overclocking features that the top boards offer anyway. I wanted to run my system at stock speeds and this board would serve my purposes well. I ordered the board and waited until I had the time to convert my system to the new board.

 

Before converting the system I planned the conversion and took a couple of steps that I thought would smooth the process. All of my data is on drives other than the C drive, which meant that I would not have to worry about corrupting them or making any backups other than what I normally do. The C drive would be more problematic as there would clearly be new drivers required for the new motherboard and a fresh load of Windows 7 would be a good idea.

 

Reloading Window is a big deal. If you just take the Windows installation disk and run it, it will install Windows and wipe out all of your application and user data at the same time. I have dozens of applications installed, each with custom settings, and I did not want to have to recreate them. Fortunately, there is a little known way of tricking Windows into performing a system upgrade instead of an installation, and in an upgrade all the applications and user data are left intact. More information o this process is available at http://www.winhelp.us/non-destructive-reinstall-of-windows-7.html. Using an extra hard drive I had, I cloned my C drive, installed it as my operating C drive and ran the upgrade as a test of the process. It worked - though the fresh Windows load did not solve all of the DZ68BC issues. I reinstalled my real C drive and set the clone aside for future use.

 

Over Labor Day weekend I found the time to actually do the conversion to the new motherboard. After physically installing the board I connected the cloned C drive just to see if it would boot up and run. It did, albeit with some display and network issues that were expected because the proper drivers were not yet installed. Heartened by this, I swapped the C drive back to the original one and restarted the system. It hiccupped a few times but got going without much difficulty. With the correct network and display drivers installed, the system was running quite well. I moved on to the Windows reload, which took about four hours to run, but did not present any problems. I did have to contact Microsoft to resolve an expected issue with my license validity – new boards on old licenses will have license key issues.

 

The new motherboard is working well. For the most part it works just like the old one, but the sleep function is working perfectly and the system will cold boot consistently in about six seconds. I’ve not seen any blue screen crashed yet but as they say in science, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” - the jury is still out. But, all applications are running and all my data is where I expect it to be. I think this is going to work out just fine. 


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