Choosing the Right Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the main components of a computer. It ensures communication between the components, such as the processor and the hard disk. It is also known as a mainboard and main circuit board. It is a large printed circuit board with connectors and slots where the various components and devices are connected.

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  • What are the different types of connections on a motherboard?

    A motherboard has different types of slots and connectors, sometimes also called ports. The number of these connections varies depending on the model.

    • Serial ports (COM1, COM2, COM3, COM4): are being replaced by USB ports.
    • Parallel port (LPT1, PRN): This is found on older motherboards and is used to connect the printer.
    • USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports: Used to connect computer peripherals such as the keyboard, mouse, and printer.
    • PS/2 (Personal System/2 or mini-DIN) ports: These are used for the keyboard and mouse, but are being replaced by USB ports.
    • HDMI port: Used to connect the computer to a television or monitor and can transmit 8k signals.
    • DisplayPort: The image is transmitted from the computer to a monitor. These appeared in 2006 and should replace the HDMI port.
    • S/PDIF optical port: Allows you to decode digital formats.
    • RJ45 port (Ethernet): Connects the computer to a local network or a router.
    • IEEE 1394 port: Similar to USB; the host controller is managed cooperatively by the connected devices.
    • M.2 and U.2 ports: Used to connect NVMe drives. They appeared in 2013 and allow the use of SSD disks with speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s.
    • PCI slots: Allow expansion cards to be connected to the motherboard. This is where the video card is installed.
    • SATA (Serial AT Attachment) ports: These are used to connect any compatible peripheral, such as a hard disk or DVD player, to the motherboard.
  • What are the motherboard formats?

    Motherboard formats are also known as form factors. This refers to the physical dimensions of the motherboard and the position of the holes for screwing the board into the case.

    There are different standards:

    ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) format: The most common format. Created by Intel in 1995, the ATX format incorporates several ports and 7 expansion slots.

    ATX motherboards are available in different sizes:

    • Mini ATX, with 6 expansion slots
    • Micro ATX are smaller, with fewer connectors
    • FlexATX, even smaller

    These motherboards can only be installed in ATX cases.

    Advantech ATX motherboard

    Advantech ATX motherboard

    BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) format: Appeared in 2004 and was supposed to replace the ATX format, but the latter is still very common today.

    It offers a better organization of the components inside the case, which favors air circulation and reduces noise and internal temperature, even with a single cooler.

    There are formats that are no longer manufactured but can still be found in older computers, such as the AT, AT Baby, LPX, or NTX form factors.

  • What is a motherboard socket?

    The socket, also known as a CPU slot, is a square slot where the processor (CPU), the brain of the computer, is installed. All motherboards have a socket. This connection allows the processor to communicate with the other essential components of the computer, such as RAM and the video card (GPU), and with the peripherals. Generally, the motherboard socket is female and the processor socket is male, i.e. it has pins.

    Each processor family has a specific socket. You should therefore make sure that the motherboard and processor are compatible. Note that some motherboards have the processor soldered on.

  • What is a motherboard chipset?

    The chipset, made up of chips and electronic circuits, is responsible for communication between the processor and the graphics card, storage devices (such as the SSD), and any peripherals connected to the motherboard (such as expansion cards and USB devices). The chipset manages the buses and can connect to more PCIe lanes than the processor.

    Each processor family is compatible with a chipset family, and each chipset family offers different functionalities.

    Here are some examples of chipset families:

    Intel Chipset

    • High-end: Z000 (Example: Z490)
    • Mid-range: B000 (Example: B460)
    • Low-end: H000 (Example: H410)

    AMD Chipset

    • High-end: X000 (Example: X570)
    • Mid-range: B000 (Example: B450)
    • Low-end: A000 (Example: A520)
  • What are motherboard buses?

    Buses are used to connect components and peripherals to the motherboard. There are internal buses and external buses.

    Internal buses: also known as data buses, connect the computer’s internal components (processor and memory) to the motherboard. They are also called local buses.

    They can be connected to the northbridge or southbridge of the chipset:

    • Northbridge: Connects the fast components, such as the memory and graphics card.
    • Southbridge: Connects the slower components.

    External buses: Connect the computer to external peripherals such as a printer, hard disk, or scanner. The USB and eSATA connectors are examples of external buses.

  • What is the BIOS?

    The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is the program responsible for managing the motherboard. When the computer is switched on, the BIOS is initialized and performs various essential operations (recognition of a USB stick connected to the motherboard, deciding the order in which the disks are booted, amount of RAM installed, etc.). Through this software, you can select the different communication parameters of the components, such as the frequency of the RAM, for example.

    In short, it’s the motherboard’s control center. However, it is less and less common in PCs due to its vulnerabilities, with manufacturers opting more for the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface).

  • What are the possible compatibility problems and how can they be avoided?

    When choosing a motherboard, it is essential to ensure that you choose a model that is compatible with your computer’s components. Here are some tips on how to avoid possible incompatibilities:

    Case: The motherboard must have the same shape as the case. For example, an ATX-format motherboard is only compatible with an ATX case. In addition, the case’s dimensions must also be compatible with those of the internal devices. For example, the dimensions of the new video cards are not compatible with all cases.

    Socket: The motherboard must have the same socket as the processor. For example, a motherboard with an Intel LGA1150 socket is only compatible with an Intel LGA1150 processor.

    RAM frequency: Must be compatible with the processor and motherboard.

    Power supply: Make sure the power supply is sufficient to power all the components.

    Port speed: Does not pose compatibility problems, but may limit transfer speed.

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