Get to Know the Basic Motherboard Parts and Their Functionality


Taking a look inside a computer can be a bit overwhelming. If you aren’t familiar with the parts, it can seem like a confusing jumble of circuitry and components. Today we will take a closer look on the motherboard parts.

But within any computer is several standard parts which play a big role in the functionality of the system. These parts are crucial to the computer’s function, and the surprising thing is that many of the parts are not as complicated as some would think.

Take the motherboard for example. This could be looked at as the “skeletal system” of the computer, in a sense.

While some people may think the case itself has a closer claim to that title, the motherboard is a component that connects with every other part in the system and provides them support. At the very least, it’s the foundation of any computing device.

Understanding the Basic Motherboard Parts: A Beginner’s Guide

Motherboards are essentially pieces of circuitry, and they are listed as a single part despite looking like a muddled combination of parts at first glance. When you’re buying, installing, or upgrading a motherboard, you’ll feel refreshed to know you only have to look for one component instead of many different ones.

But within the motherboard, there are many different parts. What are all the main motherboard parts, and more importantly, what do they do? Here we’ll explore the noteworthy components and list a little about their functions.

CPU Socket & CPU Fan/Heatsink Mounting Points

There are many parts that are crucial to the modern computer, but the CPU or central processing unit can likely take the top spot. While every component has a crucial role in a setup, it’s important to remember exactly what the CPU is – the brains of your system.

This unit processes all the commands you give to the device and must send out directions accordingly. Therefore, it is easy to see why it’s so important for it to have a good connection with the motherboard. Every standard motherboard comes with a socket where you can install the CPU. Some machines come with a CPU already soldered into place in this spot.

There’s also mounting points nearby for heatsinks and fans. Just as the side or top of a computer, laptop, or mobile device feels hot after a long period of use, the same thing happens to the parts within. Every CPU needs a way to cool off, so the mounting points for cooling components are a crucial part of the motherboard.

ATX Power Connector

Every system needs the right amount of power – and when you connect something to your motherboard, you need to make sure it’s plugged up to a power source. The computer’s power supply can be connected to the motherboard through an ATX Connector, which has become a standard choice for Intel in the past couple of decades.

Everything from a new video card to a new sound card may need to be plugged into the power connector. And while ATX (Advanced Technology xTended) is the standard, many variants have developed. Popular variants used today include microATX, FlexATX, and mini-ITX. While some are suited for computers that use unique components, others are suited for slim designs such as those found in ultraportable notebooks.

The power connector is a crucial part of the motherboard, and a standard 20-pin setup is very common. Having great specs is fine, but without power and a way to establish a connection, every component offers the same level of functionality.

RAM Slots

Think about the typical things you’ll use your computer for. Browsing, chatting, work, school, and gaming are just a few of the answers the average person may give. Sometimes our use can vary on a daily basis – or be random from day to day. Random access memory, or RAM, is suited for that type of unpredictable need. No matter what you need the system to focus on, having enough memory is crucial.

Every motherboard comes with memory slots. The number can vary, as boards can have two, four, or even more in some cases. Standard 2GB and 4GB sticks are common, with some sticks even offering 8GB or more by themselves.

RAM slots can sometimes be configured for dual-channel mode, a setup that works to prevent bottlenecking and give users the best performance from their system memory. This is helpful for making sure you get all the performance you pay for. RAM helps with boot times and general speed, so a motherboard’s memory slots are one of its most important components.

BIOS (Basic Input Output System)

We all know the difference between hardware and software, and that both communicate with one another to make a system run. But what’s the step in between, that links the two together? That’s the BIOS, a type of read-only memory with basic software preinstalled.

This component gets its name from its primary function – to manage both input commands and output results through integrating hardware with software. The BIOS contains the necessary code to operate the keyboard, display, and disk drives, as well as code to handle other crucial functions to the system’s basic functionality.

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)

This component looks like a small silver circle, which you may notice looks like a type of battery – and that’s exactly what the CMOS is. It’s also a type of memory chip which, thanks to powering itself, can keep track of many important configurations your system depends on.

For example, imagine how many problems could arise if you couldn’t maintain your computer’s power settings, memory information, disk drive configurations, and more until you powered on the system all the way? The CMOS chip can handle all these functions and does so while requiring very little power.

Even basic functions like your computer’s date and time rely on this battery-powered chip. It’s standard with every motherboard, and despite its small size, it plays a big role in how your system works and how convenient it is to use.

Graphics Card Slot

There are plenty of computers out there that use integrated graphics. The graphics port is in the same place as the other connectors (but more on that below).

For some systems, a standalone graphics card is needed to provide the necessary specs. This is especially true for demanding applications like gaming on high settings, streaming at high bitrates, and doing 3D rendering. Computer graphics card slots are usually in the style of AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) and Peripheral Component Interconnected Express (PCIe).

Some computers have more than one slot, for this, and or even a number of PCI or PCIe ports. This allows for crossfire functionality – where multiple cards can be used simultaneously and share the load between them.

Standard Connections Ports

These slots are usually found at the end of the board, and their positioning is selected so they are accessible from the back or side of the system.

Standard connection slots can include basic 3.5mm audio slots for headphones or speakers, as well as a microphone. It’s also common to find USB 2.0 and 3.0 slots here, as well as USB-C in some cases. If you have an older system, you could have PS/2 and DVI ports as well.

Some motherboards have HDMI and DisplayPort inputs standard, while others may require you to purchase a standalone video card to access these types of inputs. Every motherboard’s setup is different, but there are adapters to bridge the gap if you’re having compatibility issues.

Why Knowing Your Motherboard Parts Matters

When you go shopping for a computer, what are the main things you consider? For most buyers, it comes down to four things – looks, brand reputation, specifications, and price.

Let’s take the first two out of the equation for now and just focus on the latter pair.

How do a component’s specs match up to its price? Your motherboard may have some advantages over others in the same price range. It may also have certain shortcomings in comparison. And while it’s wiser to shop by the type of CPU and RAM amount a computer has over the quality of the CMOS, it’s good to know how each part will affect your experience as a user.

Understanding the motherboard parts helps you see what each selection will do for your experience. And once you understand that, you can determine whether a price is really worth it. For example, if you plan on expanding your system soon, make sure your motherboard has plenty of slots!

The motherboard looks complex because it is. But a solid understanding of the basic motherboard parts can help any user get more out of their system as a whole.


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