Monthly Archives: April 2016

Intro to Motherboards

You’ve likely heard of a motherboard and know that it serves some kind of purpose in terms of allowing your PC to work. If you’d like to know a little more about this fundamental computer component, read on.

A motherboard is the main printed circuit board (PCB) of any electronic computing apparatus; it is upon your computer’s motherboard that its other components are either directly installed or connected secondarily. Motherboards are also known as mainboards, system boards, baseboards, planar boards, and logic boards.

mbYour computer’s CPU or central processing unit (the brain of your computer) is installed directly onto your motherboard. Also posited on the motherboard are its various types of data storage, from RAM or random-access memory for temporary information storage (including all of its various caches), to ROM or read-only memory for permanent data that your computer needs to function. Upon inspection of the motherboard you’re likely to find important computing sub-systems like the central processor, the chipset’s input/output and memory controllers, interface connectors, and many, many more components that make your computer your computer.

Motherboards earned their name because they are, in a sense, the “mother” of all components; they beget peripherals, interface cards, and even something called daughtercards, which include sound cards, video cards, network cards, hard drives, TV tuner cards, and cards providing extra USB or FireWire slots.

A system that might be indirectly attached to your computer’s motherboard is the sound card. Whether the sound card is directly installed on your device varies from machine to machine; it can be installed directly or it can be connected through an expansion slot.

Motherboards usually require some kind of cooling system in order to function correctly in the long term; some are cooled using heat sinks mounted on larger chips like the Northbridge. Many devices use fans as well, which tend to be mounted on heat sinks. Keeping motherboards cool has become an increasingly important and difficult task as time goes on and computer clock speeds and power consumption rise. If a motherboard is insufficiently cooled, it can cause damage to its internal components and lead to a devastating computer crash.

mb2Motherboards vary about as much as computers, and their variance in size and form is known as a computer’s form factor. Form factors can be specific to individual computers, but the motherboards utilized by IBM-compatible systems are designed specifically so that they can fit various case sizes and enable some flexibility. In order for a computer to function, its case’s motherboard and PSU form factor must be compatible.

Laptop computers tend to use smaller, more integrated and specialized motherboards that enable excellent processing from miniature computers, but also can cause difficulty with repairs down the line. The failure of one laptop component may cause an entire motherboard to need to be replaced, and laptop motherboards tend to be significantly more expensive than desktop motherboards.

So obviously there’s a reason that motherboards are often called the “central nervous system” of computers; they bring together all the other components to make computers able to function.