Choosing a Motherboard


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If the processor is the brain and the RAM is the memory, then the motherboard is the backbone of the computer. This is the circuit board that contains the slots and sockets that everything else plugs into. This is a guide on which motherboard to buy to get the best out of all your other components.

What is on the motherboard

Which model should I buy?

Should I buy a microprocessor/motherboard combo?




What is on a motherboard

Today's motherboards, come with a whole host of features that you used to have to buy separately. Many motherboards now come with onboard sound, eliminating the need for a sound card, video, networking ports and USB ports. You'll probably find several differ types of slots on you board. It is important to know what these are for, as the number of them on your motherboard will affect the number of hard disks, memory chips, graphics cards, optical cards, modems, network cards, sound cards etc you can add to your system.

AGP slot

This is for the graphics card, you only need one AGP slot.

DIMM slot

This is for you memory. There are several different types of memory and these are discussed on the memory page. 2 slots = good, 4 slots = better.

PCI slot

This is for cards like your sound card, network card, modem etc. These slots will be the ones you use most of, so make sure you have plenty - at least four.

CPU socket

Make sure that the socket type is right for the processor you have chosen and the case you have chosen. See the section on Jargon in the choosing a computer case in this guide.

There will also be a number of ports on the edge of your motherboard, which will form part of the backpanel of your PC. In the example on the right there are PS/2 ports for connecting keyboard and mouse, a parallel port for a printer or scanner, serial ports that will rarely be used, a couple of LAN ports, four USB ports and a sound port. More and more devices like printers and scanners are connecting the the computer using USB, so more than two of these is good news.



Which model should I buy?

There is no perfect motherboard. Things you should take into account though:-

  • Can my motherboard cope with a processor this fast - There is usually a maximum processor speed quoted when you are buying a motherboard.
  • Do I want to upgrade my processor at a later date. That 3.2 Ghz processor may cost a fortune now, but in a years time they will be virtually giving them away. If you want to upgrade in the future make sure your motherboard will be able to cope.
  • Do I have enough slots for all the cards I would like to add.
  • What sort of motherboard socket do I require. Socket 423 and Socket 478 are for Pentium 4s, Socket A(462) for Athlon. Your processor will determine your motherboard. Your motherboard will in turn determine your case.

Should I buy a microprocessor/motherboard combo?

Yes! These are a good idea and saves a little bit of time. You don't have to worry about incompatibility problems or about attaching the processor to the motherboard, or the added complications of using thermal cement and taking anti static precautions. Usually they are close in price to the parts separately so why bother with the extra work.



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