Motherboard for Dummies: A Beginner’s Primer to Motherboard Parts and Function

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Motherboard for Dummies: A Beginner’s Primer to Motherboard Parts and Functions

Have you ever asked what the inside of a computer looks like? Have you ever tried to get to know how these machines work? Or have you ever felt intimidated with basic computer terms such as motherboard and processor that these prevent you from learning more about them?

This article discusses basic information about the parts of a motherboard and their corresponding functions. Knowing more about the motherboard helps you appreciate its value and importance in considering a computer system.

What is a Motherboard?

The motherboard is probably the most crucial aspect of your computer that connects all its components. Also known as the system board, mainboard, or MoBo, the motherboard acts as the central platform for communication of all the other parts of a computer system.  This piece of circuitry board unites all the different parts of the machine. A motherboard transforms these separate components into a single, seamlessly working computer.

What are the Types of Motherboard?

There are two types of motherboards, namely AT motherboard and ATX motherboard. AT motherboard is the older of the two mainboards and were used in the earlier versions of 286/386 or 486 computers or during the 1980s. This type of board is made up of advanced technology (AT) power connectors. It uses two twelve pin pugs to power the motherboard.

On the other hand, the ATX motherboard stands for Advanced Technology Extended motherboard. It was developed in 1995 and is still primarily used at present.  P2/P3 or P/4 processors use this type of board. The ATX motherboard uses one 20-pin plug for its power supply.

This simple guide to find out what motherboard you have enables you to maximize your motherboard’s capacities. It also gives you an idea about the performance of your motherboard.

What Makes Up a Motherboard?

As mentioned above, the motherboard is made up of various components, each with their specific role, to create a single computer system. Below are the different parts of the motherboard with their corresponding functions.

Basic Input / Output System (BIOS)

The BIOS is an integrated chip that contains all the information and settings of the motherboard. Users can modify the settings and information through the BIOS mode in your computer. The computer uses the BIOS to start the computer system after it is turned on. The BIOS also manages the data communication between a computer’s operating system and all the other hardware devices attached in it such as the hard disk, keyboard, mouse, and printer.

Cabinet Connections

Front Audio, Front USB, HDD LED, Power Indicator (LED), Power Switch,  and Reset Switch are all connected to the cabinet connections. They provide a space where buttons can link in the motherboard.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) Socket

The central processing unit socket is a vital motherboard component that installs the processor on a motherboard. It contains the CPU and creates the electrical interface and communication with the CPU. It allows placing and replacing the CPU quickly without the need for soldering.

Complementary Metal Oxide Semi-Conductor (CMOS) Battery

Also known as a real-time clock (RTC), non-volatile RAM (NVRAM), or complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) RAM, the CMOS battery is a 3.0 volts lithium type cell with a lifespan of up to three years. The CMOS battery supplies power to the CMOS chip even when the computer is turned off. Moreover, the CMOS battery serves as the storage of information in BIOS and ensures that the computer clock is still operational even when the computer is shut down.

Co-Processor

The co-processor’s primary purpose is to assist the central processor in computer graphics generation and mathematical operations.  Without it, the central processor cannot perform relevant tasks expected in computers.

Expansion Slots

There are four expansion slots in use, namely ISA slots, PCI slots, PCI express, and AGP slot. Expansion slots are pockets on the motherboard that allows expansion card insertion. It provides added features in a computer.

Industry Standard Architecture or ISA slot is a 16-bit bus seen in AT motherboards and tagged in black color. They are the oldest expansion slots.  You will find traditional display and sound cards in ISA slot.

Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots are essential components of a motherboard. They accommodate add-on cards and support a 64-bit high-speed bus. PCI express, on the other hand, is the latest and fastest component of the motherboard and supports full duplex serial bus.

Finally, the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) slot works, mainly, for the latest graphics card. It works together with PCI express to install high-end gaming display cards.

Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) Connector

The IDE connector connects the hard drives and optical drives to the motherboard. It presents as a 40-pin male connector attached to the IDE hard disk drives and a 34-pin male connector attached to a Floppy Disk Drive.

Memory Slots

The memory slots house the computer’s memory modules. Depending on the motherboard, memory slots can be as many as eight memory slots on high-end gaming motherboards or as few as two slots in low-end motherboards.   Do take note on what type of memory your motherboard supports so you can purchase the corresponding memory modules.

Specifically, DDR1, DDR2, and DDR3 are the three different types of memory used in the motherboard. The DDR3 is the current industry standard memory architecture, and newer motherboards support it. On the other hand, older motherboard models support a combination of DDR1 and DDR2.

Lastly, take into account the number of memory slots available in each motherboard. It will determine the highest memory capacity you can install in your motherboard.

Power Connectors

Any electronic device needs a power supply to operate, and a motherboard is not an exception. Usually a 20 or 24-pin connector, the power connectors are positioned either near the right edge of the motherboard or somewhere near the processor socket on older versions of motherboards. The power connectors supply power to the motherboard and all of the other components that make up the computer system.

In addition, the newer models of motherboards now have an extra 4-pin or 8-pin connector close to the processor. It supplies an additional power directly to the processor.

Serial Advance Technology Attachment (SATA) Connector

SATA connectors are 7-pin connectors attached to the SATA hard disks or optical drives. They perform faster than the IDE interface.

Knowing these parts and functions, you now have a better understanding of what type of motherboard suits your needs.  Should you decide to upgrade or purchase a new motherboard, you can confidently choose the specific components and features you want to have in your latest computer system.

Author Bio:

Petr Kudláček is the founder and CEO of software development company Apro Software with a solid tech marketing experience under his belt. His multi-slasher credentials also include being a  writer for itechgyan.com and softwarebattle.com. Whenever time allows, Petr embarks on meditation activities.

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