What to do? Buy a new motherboard and rebuild? Or wait for failure?

I’ve got computer problems. Don’t know what to do. I’ve a Windows PC, custom built, about 5 years old with an Intel Core i7 mother board. I’ve recently added Windows 10, so now It’s a dual boot Windows 7/Windows 10 with an SSD for the Windows 10 OS and and a HHD for the Windows 7 OS, a 4 tb RAID array for holding my data, including music. It has an internal sound card, the ASUS Xonar Essence II. Recently had to replace the power supply. All primo components when new.

Externally, for sound I have an Audiomat Arpege Tube amp and Spendor S3/5 Monitor Type speakers. I have a Roon subscription, and a Rega CD player and I can get some pretty nice music to listen to. That is IF the sound card works. It usually doesn’t.  

So the computer problem is vague. Computer crashes on me, and I will have to reboot. Or it just freezes sometimes. Nothing very significant, but I just have an instinctive feeling something is wrong. My tech tells me there’s no easy way to diagnose “instinct”. Which I definitely understand. He advised me to keep it until it actually fails.

BUT, there’s another issue. I hate Windows 10 and want to stick with Windows 7 (which is why I have a dual boot system). So If it takes a long time to fail, maybe I won’t be able to buy a motherboard that supports Windows 7. How much longer will motherboards that support Windows 7 still be on the market? (I’m not even sure I can still buy one.) So I keep thinking I need to buy a new motherboard NOW, one that will support Windows 7 while they are still available. I will want to build a reasonably quiet computer, one that minimizes at least some of the criticisms about computers for audio. But, much as I’d like to I cant afford to go overboard about sound.

So finally I get to the important bits.

Is there a favored Windows 7 motherboard for audiophile computers?
Do I really need a specialized power supply, or can I reuse my almost brand new one?
Do I need all my hard drives to be SSDs? Or can I reuse all my existing hard drives?
Do I need a specialized video card? (I don’t play video games.)
Is there anything I’m forgetting to ask about?

Another topic, but I’ll mention that I have a lot of problems with my present internal sound card. The dang ASUS Xonar Essence II sound card won’t stay up and running. I’ve twice sent it to ASUS, who tell me nothing is wrong. I’ve three times hired a tech to see what’s wrong and they eventually get sound out of it, but it just won’t stay up. It’s down again today. Zero sound. I’m ready to throw the ASUS card in the trash at this point. I’ll want to invest in something external to replace it. So my ASUS sound card is not a candidate for transfer. I’ll need to buy an external  DAC and I don’t know what else. But first priority is a new custom built computer.
Be aware that Microsoft will be discontinuing support for Windows 7 less than seven months from now. To be precise, on January 14, 2020. Which means that after that date security patches for it will not be issued, and a Windows 7 computer will then be less than fully safe to use on the Internet.

I can’t answer your question about motherboards that would be W7 compatible. But FWIW, I went from Windows 7 to Windows 10 on several of the computers I have in my house (including three desktop computers of differing vintages that I built myself), and I’ve been completely happy with it after making some minor settings changes and tweaks (for example, deleting most of the garbage that appears when the Start button is clicked).

And a W10-based desktop build I did very recently (using an MSI MEG Z390 ACE motherboard and an i9-9900k CPU) has been absolutely rock solid in terms of reliability and freedom from crashes, as well as incredibly fast! I should add, though, that I don’t use it (or any other computer) in conjunction with my audio system. I can provide further description of what is in it if you are interested.

-- Al

I'm not a tech but I do use my pc constantly for streaming.  Of course 7 is better than 10.  I was forced to upgrade to a new pc but found a nice solution, Classic Shell.  It allows things to at least "appear" to work like 7.

My other very personal opinion is that I greatly prefer an external DAC.  Less interference from the internal workings of a pc and more flexible on upgrades.  Most DAC's have built in SPDIF converters so you just have to run a usb cable into them.
You can no longer do a clean install of Windows 7.  Microsoft shut down the Windows 7 update server a few years back.  Windows 7 install needs to access the update server to verify that it's a legit copy of the OS and to download the latest Windows 7 installer.  I had a buddy that needed to re-install Win7 after a Hard Drive failure.  I ended up creating an image from another machine.  It was a real PITA!  Told him never again.  

I would take Elevick's advice and run the Windows 7 shell over Windows 10.
If you're even marginally computer-competent there's no reason not to run W10.
I am not really a very savvy computer person but I have to say your setup sounds needlessly complicated and also not geared towards high sound quality. Are you running the computer straight into your integrated amp or into a DAC?
You can no longer do a clean install of Windows 7. Microsoft shut down the Windows 7 update server a few years back. Windows 7 install needs to access the update server to verify that it’s a legit copy of the OS and to download the latest Windows 7 installer.

@prpixel Thanks for that information, which I hadn’t been aware of.

But see this page, though:


Did you try entering a product key on that page, and after doing so downloading the installation files from there? And if so, where did the process fail? Did it refuse to verify the key, or refuse to download, or refuse to activate following installation, or did some other roadblock arise during the process?


-- Al

I inserted his Win7 (Full Version w/verified product key) into the DVD Drive and ran setup.  Windows tried to download the latest version of the installer, but failed to find the Update Server.  So, it errored out and wouldn't let me continue.  I then tried to skip the installer update but same result.  I then called MS and they directed me to that page.  So, created ISO image on both DVD and Thumbdrive.  Tried the install again and got same error.  Called MS again and said WTF?  They then told me to purchase Extended Service Contract to get access to Update server.  Called them several more times but I got the same answer.  Cost was prohibited so said thanks but no thanks.  Ended up making an image from another computers Hard Drive and changed drivers, and other things, to make it a legit copy.  The whole process ended up taking some time with all the hoops I had to jump through and registry edits.

That was the last Win7 install I've done.  Over the years I've done sooo many Windows installs that I've lost count.  I've been working on computers since the Commodore PET.  Well, that brings back memories: TRS-80, TI 99-4A, Atari 400/800/1200XL, VIC 20, C64, Apple II/IIe/IIc/III, Franklin Ace, LISA, MAC, IBM XT/AT/PCjr, Compaq Transportable, etc, etc, etc.  Now I feel really old.  Pretty soon I'll be doing clean installs......of diapers.  

Actually for some reason you took the wrong direction from the beginning to end up in a dead end with no help from level 1 donkeys of MS support...
Would have been easier, after a proper backup, to boot from the CD, Not from Windows, format the drive and start the installation. No need to be connected to internet and find an updated installer it's on the disk.(Everything is on the disk...) Provided  that you were not trying to install a 64bit version on a 32bit MB, I can guarantee you that (If the hardware was ok), W7 would have installed 1st time without any problem. Maybe you were trying to minimize the impact of a full reinstallation, I don't know, but I always prefer to not re-use or start from a corrupted system when I reinstall. 
Anyway it's all done now and too late to try again, so take my info just for what it is, a simple comment.(From a MS engineer though. :) )

Yes, I was booting from DVD/Thumbdrive.  His HD had failed and I had installed a new drive, so not possible to boot from Windows.  I was not trying to install over a previous installation.  Also, I tried to install without being connected to the Internet, but no go.  I did not understand it, because I know lots of corporate clients still use Win7 and need to do clean installs.  Also, I had done many, many, many clean installs of Win7.  I made several calls to try and find a "Level 1 Donkey" that had a clue.  Also, I used to work for MS, so I called a member of my old team, but not his department.  

I don't know what caused the problem, I only know what I was told and what I experienced.  I haven't tried a clean install of Win7 since, so.  Like I alluded to in the previous post, I'm pretty much retired.  (MCSE, MCSA, MS A+, MS MTA, Novell CNE).  Anyway, pissing contest over, back to the original problem.

Did the "crashing/freezing" start before doing dual boot?  Have you tried to remove the Asus Zonar SB, uninstall the drivers and run the machine that way.  Latest BIOS on mainboard?  Have you run a memory diagnostic?  All drivers up to date?  

As for a small and quite machine, why not pick up a latest gen Intel NUC.  Put in a 2TB NVMe drive and go USB out to DAC.  Unit is small and near silent under normal use.  Great for surfing, email, YouTube, word processing and light gaming.  If you need something with more horsepower, the Compulab Airtop is 100% silent and sports a i9-9900K and Nvidia Quadro  4000 RTX graphics, but it's pricey.
Ok... By choice, and because as a pro I can’t waste my youth (Although I’m quite retired from pcs as well) trying to find out what the origin of the problem was.
My position is (was) simple: If windows doesn’t install correctly first time, I remove all the removable hardware and give it a second chance with a new hard drive. If it’s still not ok, well... it more or less speaks for itself :), it’s pretty much down to the MB and I get an acceptable diagnostic for the client. Of course you can investigate endlessly to find the real cause, but in my business model I decided to not going this route. So I’ve always been prone to full reinstalls rather than fixing deep buried corruptions, and replace parts rather finding unfoundable mysterious drivers for example.

PS: Seen some bad disks quite often, poor CD players, or Mb’s sensitive to what service pack the system disk was coming with, or what version of Windows, for ex: Windows 8 and 8.1 . That sort of stuff ruining clean installs...

As for playing music from a pc, I agree, using a DAC through USB is probably the best way to go, as what comes out of this headphones socket is not reliable... Ex: My laptop (HP Envy15 16GB 1TB SSD) sends out compressed audio and there is not much I can do about that. Now that I have a DAC the sound is amazing!
Agreed, strip it down to the essentials.  When all else fails, clean install time.  

What to do is accept the fact that MS killed 7.  Sorry.  R.I.P. # 7.  Not one computer I have own that did not have Windows 10 as the OS to start with had problems.  Also a 2014 set up after July 2019 is going to feel really old.  Intel and AMD have moved forward enough to where chips and boards work differently together from previous generations so the line for backward compatibility for chips and some components doesn't have more than 2 years of depth.  But that mainly is regarding chips and motherboard components.  Your power supply can be reused as well as your storage drives. Using the older drives may not take full advantage of the newer equipment but that concern should not drive your actions. I also wonder about your hardware if you were having previous problems with your power supply and what a failing supply may have done.

What I do not understand is the frustration with the sound card because the rest of your equipment doesn't seem to match to a sub $200 soundcard.  I would recommend an external DAC but if you want to upgrade your processor, motherboard, and RAM first or audition and save for a new DAC, the newer boards have audiophiles covered.  The complaints of older threads regarding USB, onboard processing, jitter, clocking, power stabilization etc. are being addressed by the PC industry.  Here is an example of what is on this motherboard before you want to look at spending money on another soundcard.
  • 127dB SNR AMP-UP Audio with High-End ESS SABRE 9018K2M DAC, LME 49720 and OPA1622 OP-AMP, WIMA audio capacitors

It seems like with the RAID you have a full tower so the motherboard to get will be an ATX in size which is good for you because I am still waiting for some of the full size options drop to the smaller sizes so I can build a Windows10 media server/streamer for my setup with Thunderbolt 3.
I first want to apologize for being so unresponsive!!  I had expected to be notified by email when a response came in, but none has!!  So I have just now revisited this page and found to my surprise there were many responses, so I will need a little time to respond individually.
Addressing the Windows 7 vs Windows 10 responses:

The owner of my tech support company has been to my house twice on service calls and each time we’ve talked he mentions his strong preference for Windows 7 and disdain for Windows 10.  He says it’s rock solid, the best OS Microsoft has even released and he calls Windows 10 some bad names.  He does go into details which I won’t bother repeating, but they give me what I consider a reasonable reason for sticking with Win 7.    I don’t use my computer except for music, so I’m not very concerned about keeping up to date.   Besides, I’m getting to the age that I think this will probably be my last computer.