Do you really know what your PC’s motherboard does?

The motherboard is used to connect all the parts of a computer. The CPU, memory, hard drives, and other ports and expansion cards connect to the motherboard directly or via cables.

The motherboard is the piece of hardware that can be thought of as the “backbone” of the PC, or more appropriately the “mother” that holds all the pieces together.

Phones, tablets, and other small devices also have motherboards, but they’re often called logic boards instead. Its components are usually soldered directly to the board to save space, which means there are no expansion slots for upgrades like you see on desktop computers.

The IBM personal computer, which was released in 1981, is considered to be the first computer motherboard (it was called “planar” at the time).

The most popular motherboard manufacturers are ASUS, AOpen, Intel, ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte, and Biostar.

A computer’s motherboard is also known as a motherboard , mobo (abbreviation), MB (abbreviation), system board, motherboard , and even logic board . The expansion cards used in some older systems are called daughter boards.

motherboard components

Everything behind the computer case is somehow connected to the motherboard so that all the pieces can communicate with each other.

This includes video cards, sound cards, hard drives, optical drives, the CPU, RAM, USB ports, a power supply, etc. Also on the motherboard are expansion slots, jumpers, capacitors, data and device power connections, fans, heat sinks, and screw holes.

Important motherboard data

Desktop motherboards, cases, and power supplies come in different sizes called form factors. All three must be compatible to work properly together.

Motherboards vary greatly in the types of components they support. For example, each motherboard supports only one type of CPU and a short list of memory types. Also, some video cards, hard drives, and other peripherals may not be supported. The motherboard manufacturer should provide clear guidance on component compatibility.

In laptops and tablets, and increasingly even in desktop computers, the motherboard often incorporates the functions of the video card and the sound card. This helps keep these types of computers small. However, it also prevents those built-in components from being updated.

Poor motherboard cooling mechanisms can damage hardware connected to the motherboard. This is why high-performance devices like high-end CPUs and video cards are often cooled with heat sinks, often using built-in sensors to detect temperature and communicate with the BIOS or operating system to regulate the fan speed.

Devices attached to a motherboard often require manually installed device drivers to work with the operating system. See How to Update Drivers in Windows if you need help.

Physical description of a motherboard

On a desktop, the motherboard mounts inside the case, facing the most accessible side. Securely attached by small screws through pre-drilled holes.

The front of the motherboard contains ports to which all internal components connect. A single socket/slot houses the CPU. Multiple slots allow the connection of one or more memory modules. Other ports reside on the motherboard, and these allow the hard drive and optical drive (and floppy drive if present) to be connected via data cables.

Small cables on the front of the computer case connect to the motherboard to allow power, reset, and LEDs to function. Power from the power supply is supplied to the motherboard through a specially designed port.

Also on the front of the motherboard are a number of slots for peripheral cards. These slots are where most video cards, sound cards, and other expansion cards are connected to the motherboard.

On the left side of the motherboard (the side that faces the back of the desktop case) there are a number of ports. These ports allow you to connect most of your computer’s external peripherals, such as your monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, network cable, and more.

All modern motherboards also include USB ports, and increasingly other ports like HDMI and FireWire, that allow compatible devices to connect to your computer when needed: devices like digital cameras, printers, and so on.

The motherboard and desktop case are designed so that when peripheral cards are used, the sides of the cards fit just outside the back end, making their ports available for use.

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