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- Main Circuit Board
- Printed Circuit Board
- System Board
What Is a Motherboard?
If the CPU is considered the Brain of the computer, then the motherboard is the heart of any computer.
It is that flat, square plastic board inside the computer with chips, printed circuits and expansion slots on it that everything is connected to. Every essential component directly or indirectly involved with making the PC function properly is either on, attached, or connected to the motherboard. For all intents and purposes, the motherboard is the computer.
What Does a Motherboard Do?
This board sits inside of your computer case, it is what many of your other computer’s devices plug into. It is called “main” or “mother” board because most of your computer’s devices (CPU, Memory (RAM) Chips, Video Card and Network Card) plug directly into it.
Devices such as the ones mentioned above plug directly unto the motherboard via expansion slots (see the white slots in picture, just below).
What are all the Sockets & other stuff on a Motherboard for?
Motherboards have several sockets and slots:
- CPU Socket
- Memory (RAM) Sockets
- The Chipsets – A critical component of your system board is the chipset. The chips that constitute the chipset (RAM) are the sophisticated microprocessors that are pre-programmed to handle the hardware functions of your computer. It is your chipset that determines whether or not your board runs at 66MHz, 100MHz, 133MHz, 200MHz, 500MHz, etc. for the Front Side Bus (FSB).
- The BIOS Chip
- IDE Connectors for connecting Hard Drives and CD/DVD ROM Drives
- SATA (Serial ATA) connectors also for Hard Drives or CD/DVD ROM Drives
- Power Supply Connector to power up motherboard
- Power Supply Connector to power up CPU (Processor)
- Universal Serial Bus (USB) Connectors to connect USB slots on your system unit casing
- Fan Connectors
- Power Switch & Reset Switch Connectors
- Hard Drive (HDD) LED & Power LED Connectors
- System Speaker Connector
- The Expansion Bus – The Expansion Bus is where you place your Adapter Cards, types of Expansion Bus or Expansion Slot are: PCI Slots (Peripheral Components Interconnect) – the most popular slot PCIe Slots, used for Video Cards.
- PCI Sockets (Expansion slots) for Sound Cards, MODEM Cards, Network/Ethernet/LAN Cards
By clicking on the image below you can get a pretty good idea of the various parts of an actual motherboard. This will include things like where the memory (RAM) modules are inserted as well as the slot where the CPU must be plugged in.
On most high-end computers, the motherboard from which they are constructed from will contain separate components that are plugged onto the board. However, on many low-end boards the components are built right into the motherboard itself. Motherboards that have ports built into them are called “integrated motherboards” (see Below).
Pros and Cons of Integrated Motherboards:
An integrated motherboard provides expandability because ports are built in and do not require separate adapters. If the motherboard includes the serial, parallel, and video ports, there is more space available for other adapters such as network or sound cards. Some motherboards include the network connection and the ports normally found on sound cards.
Ports built into a motherboard are faster than those on an expansion board. All adapters in expansion slots run slower than the motherboard components. Computers with integrated motherboards are easier to set up because you do not have to install an adapter or configure the ports.
Normally, systems with integrated motherboards are easier to troubleshoot because the components are on one board. The drawback is that when one port goes bad, you have to add an adapter that has the same type of port as the one that went bad.
What is Meant By “Motherboard Form Factor”?
Motherboards come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and types. The industry name for this is called a motherboards “Form Factor). The 3 most common form factors are: ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ATX.
Below is a little more background info on each one:
- Standard ATX (Usually just called ATX) – Created by Intel in 1995, this continues to be the preferred form factor, although micro ATX is pretty popular.
- Micro ATX – Created in 1996 (or 97), it is a smaller variant of the ATX form factor. Many of your fully integrated motherboards are built in the micro ATX form factor. This type of board is used a lot for many desktops and small form factor (SFF) computers.
- Mini ITX – Designed by a motherboard company called AOpen in 2005, this motherboard is Mini-ATX is slightly smaller than Micro-ITX. Many of your home theater PCs (HTPC’s) are constructed on this form factor.
Note: The beautiful thing about motherboards is that each manufacturer makes them to conform to the above standards. So an ATX motherboard made by ASUS will for the most part be built to the same standard as one built by FoxConn. So you are guaranteed that they both will fit in a case that was designed for an ATX motherboard.
Checkout our Motherboard Resource Page