To build a computer, the first thing you need is a motherboard. The motherboard is the central component that links all of your other components together. It manages power distribution throughout the system. It allows your CPU and RAM information to be sent to your hard drive or optical disk drive. It connects you to peripherals such as keyboards and mice.
In addition to doing all of these things, however, a motherboard also needs to be compatible with all of the components in your system. There are many different chipsets available with varying capabilities, depending on what you want from your machine.
The chipset affects how powerful a computer can be in several areas: processor speed, number of ports for connecting various devices (USB 2.0, 3.0, 1394 Firewire), and quality of integrated components (audio, network). If you want the best performance with a minimum of fuss, you need a motherboard with a high-end chipset.
If you want your computer to be as compatible with older components as possible, you will want a low-cost chipset. If you have a bunch of hi-powered Graphics Card and newer CPUs, however, it may be worth paying more for a motherboard with a high-end chipset so that it can handle those components better.
The motherboard is the primary circuit board of a computer. It manages power distribution throughout the system. It allows your CPU and the RAM information to be sent to your hard drive or optical disk drive. It connects you to peripherals such as keyboards and mice.
This connector allows you to put your computer’s processor on the motherboard. This is where the central processing unit (CPU) of your computer goes, and it is what allows information to be processed by all of your system’s components.
Motherboards come in different CPU socket sizes. The motherboard needs to match the socket size of your processor, or else you cannot put it onto your board.
A CPU socket comes with bent pins; once inserted into the motherboard, they connect with other components on the system to send electrical signals throughout all parts of the computer.
It is possible to install a CPU without using a socket, but this is much more difficult and risky. In addition, it may not be possible for your motherboard to actually take the processor in question.
The chipset determines how powerful a computer can be in several areas: processor speed, number of ports for connecting various devices (USB 2.0, 3.0, 1394 Firewire), and quality of integrated components (audio, network). If you want the best performance with a minimum of fuss, you need a motherboard with a high-end chipset.
Chipset compatibility with a motherboard is crucial. You can have a phenomenal amount of power on your computer. Still, suppose you only have an older chipset on your motherboard, such as one from the middle of the last decade (or earlier). In that case, modern components like USB 3.0 devices and powerful graphics cards will not communicate properly with the motherboard.
Take care when choosing a motherboard; make sure that its chipset will be compatible with everything else you want to put into your PC. If you love older components and don’t mind having some limitations, an older chipset will work for you. Otherwise, it’s best to choose something more up-to-date.
Choosing a Chipset
When choosing a chipset, it is essential to consider what you want from your system. Do you need better-integrated components? Do you have plans for large numbers of USB devices, or are you planning on putting in something like an excellent video card that might require more power than an older chipset can handle?
If you want to play the games of today, then any good motherboard will do, but if you’re thinking about using high-end components with your computer, it may be worth paying more money for a motherboard with a high-end chipset.
The motherboard chipset also determines how much memory you can have inside your computer. For example, if you want to play games, it may be worth it to pay for a motherboard with an 8 or 12-core processor so that your computer’s performance will not be held back by the speed of its RAM.
The motherboard has many expansion slots to allow for the connection of certain types of devices. For example, PCI and PCIe are both used for connecting graphics cards; one is an older version while the other is a newer standard that allows a greater bandwidth (which translates into better performance).
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) is a standard for expansion slots that is very fast. Some video cards come in the PCIe format, and high-performance network adapters also use this type of slot. Anything designed to transfer large amounts of data quickly will use PCIe.
M.2 and U.2
Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) or M.2 is a new standard for expansion slots, which are much smaller than the older ones but capable of vastly improved performance. SSDs are usually mounted on M.2 cards, although they can also be placed inside an adapter that fits into a more standard expansion slot size; conversely, if your motherboard supports it, you can put one of these cards into an adapter that makes them compatible with older sizes.
Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) is an older standard for transferring data between devices and a motherboard, and it is still in use today. These expansion slots can be used with both traditional mechanical hard drives as well as the more modern solid-state drives, although many new motherboards do not support SATA at all since M.2 and U.2 are faster; they also offer more bandwidth than SATA can handle (which can result in wasted performance).
Ram modules are used to store data to be recalled for use shortly and easily temporarily. For example, when you open up a game, it will load into RAM instead of taking up space on your hard drive; this makes it easier for the game to access the files that comprise its world since they’re stored in one place.
Having more ram on your computer is very useful because it allows for more programs to run simultaneously without slowing down or having them all fight over available resources (which would make everything move slowly).
The motherboard chipset also determines how much memory you can have inside your computer; older motherboards tend to support less ram than newer ones. If you want to play modern games, it may be worth paying extra for a motherboard with an 8 or 12-core processor so that your computer’s performance will not be held back by the speed of its RAM.
The motherboard form factor refers to the size of the board itself, and there are three primary standards that you should be aware of: ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX.
ATX is the largest standard, which means it can accommodate many different components; this makes it best for people who want to upgrade their computers over time.
Micro ATX is the smallest of the three, which means most standard components will not fit inside it. This makes it best for people who want to build a computer out of pre-existing parts or don’t plan to upgrade their motherboard very often.
Mini ITX is somewhere between; its compact size allows for excellent airflow and other advantages, but it is not as easy to find components for as the other two standards.
The motherboard of a computer has many internal connectors for the power supply and case to plug into. You can use a motherboard reference guide to figure out which cable goes where, but it is also helpful to consult your motherboard’s manual since some have diagrams that map out each connector’s purpose.
Power and Data Connectors
24-pin power connector
8 or 4-pin 12V CPU power connector
PCIe power connector
SATA Express/SATA 3 connectors
Front-panel header: a group of individual pins for the power button, reset button, hard drive LED, power LED, internal speaker, and case features
Front panel audio header: powers headphone and speaker ports
Fan and pump headers: for CPU, system, and water cooling
USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 headers
S/PDIF (digital audio) header
RGB strip headers
The motherboard’s ports are what connect peripherals like a keyboard and mouse to the computer, as well as more complex devices. Many different types of ports serve other functions; some motherboards list their available ports on the back or list them online, but you can also use a motherboard reference guide to see which port does what.
PS/2: an older type of port for keyboards and mice
USB 2.0 x 4
USB 3.1 Gen 1 type A x 2
HDMI output x 1
VGA video output
RJ45 LAN connector / Gigabit Ethernet / port network card compatibility
What You Need to Know About BIOS
The BIOS is an acronym for Basic Input/Output System. This is the firmware that loads before your operating system boots up, and it’s responsible for starting up and testing all connected hardware. The BIOS also includes extra features like overclocking to speed up your computer, adding more memory, or performing updates; however, you should only perform these types of changes if you understand what they do.
The first thing a booting computer does is check for a valid Operating System on a storage device (hard drive, solid-state drive, etc.). Once this option has been chosen, and Windows has finished loading onto RAM from where it was stored on the hard drive, the UEFI takes over as the next stage in the boot process. The UEFI provides a menu to select which device you want to boot from in this new environment. Depending on what peripherals (keyboard, mouse) are connected to the motherboard, you can choose between booting Windows or BIOS settings.
What’s a PCB?
PCB is an acronym for the printed circuit board. These are the green boards you often see inside computers and other electronic devices, and this type of computer case provides a surface to mount different components. It also helps protect them from short-circuits and electromagnetic interference (EMI), which can cause problems like random reboots or bad data transfer rates.
As mentioned above, most motherboards have internal headers that connect power, fans, USB ports, front-panel audio ports, and more with the motherboard itself.
Choosing a motherboard is essentially just choosing what fits your needs best; however, you can use a motherboard reference guide to see what they all do and which is appropriate for you and consult the manual that came with your motherboard.
Remember that not all motherboards are compatible with each other, so make sure that yours matches what you’re trying to install it inside of (a PCIe riser cable may be required for specific boards).
Finally, if you’re looking for the best motherboard, you might want to consult this guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my motherboard compatible with Windows 10?
If you buy a motherboard now, it will likely be compatible with Windows 10; however, if you’re buying something that’s already several years old, this might not apply to you.
Most motherboard manufacturers include a list of compatible operating systems on their respective websites. Still, you can also ask their customer service if the motherboard is compatible with Windows 10 and other operating systems as well. My motherboard requires an additional PCIe riser cable; what does this mean?
If your motherboard requires an additional PCIe riser cable, it will likely look like a small board that connects vertically to another larger board (the motherboard). This allows for more components to be added without taking up too much space inside the computer case. Some boards have these built-in, while others are sold separately.
What's the best way to clean the dust off of my motherboard?
The best way to get the dust out of almost any electronic device is to use a can of compressed air. These cans are sold at most computer stores and cost around $10-20 USD each, depending on where you go. Ensure that the label shows it’s safe for computers before trying to clean anything with it, though.
What is the function of a motherboard?
The motherboard provides many functions to a computer: it connects all components and peripherals and acts as the central hub for everything. It also helps manage speeds from different sources (RAM, CPU, etc.) and ensures that all data is transmitted correctly from one component to another.
What is the motherboard chipset?
The chipset is a set of chips that allow different components (keyboard, mouse, etc.) to communicate with the motherboard. Windows can use the information they provide to help you control your computer. For example, pressing keys on the keyboard allows it to tell Windows what you want to type; this way, all other input devices like mice or gamepads can easily communicate with Windows.