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   >  Before you Begin
   >  Upgrading PC RAM
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   >  Upgrading a PSU
   >  Upgrading a CPU
   >  Upgrading a Motherboard

 

Upgrading a PC Motherboard

When to Upgrade your Motherboard

Upgrading the motherboard is a major step and you really need to be comfortable with upgrading all the other PC components first. Having said that, it's not vastly more complex than upgrading the other components: it is just a much larger task, with more chance of errors creeping in.

The only reason you should consider upgrading a motherboard is if you cannot upgrade the other components (-i.e. there is no faster CPU, RAM or drive that will fit your existing motherboard) or your PC is so slow that you effectively need a new PC.


Choosing a Motherboard

This really depends on which (if any) components from the existing PC will be re-used: if none, then any motherboard is fair game. Normally though, a motherboard upgrade would retain the drives, the PSU and the case but would require a new CPU and RAM.

.. many companies offer motherboard bundles containing the board, CPU and RAM for a discounted price verse buying each separately ..

Note: many companies offer motherboard bundles containing the board, CPU and RAM for a discounted price verse buying each separately.

When choosing a new motherboard, your first decision is probably: Intel or AMD -and the second is which processor family within that company's product line. Which you choose depends really on which you believe fits your needs and is the best value.

Once you have decided which CPU(s) fit the bill, you can then use a search engine to look for motherboards supporting that processor. Check the specification to see which supports all the facilities you need (-e.g. will allow you to connect all your existing drives and which will also allow you the best future expansion) at the best price.


Navigating a Motherboard

Each motherboard is different but, it comprises the same basic components. You should always read the "User Guide" for the exact layout of your motherboard (-normally, a block diagram is included) but it's normally easy to pick out the main components on a board from just looking at it. In the picture below, some of the main components are labelled according to the key below:

Labelled motherboard showing the main components

  • 1: Silver Oxide battery that powers the BIOS CMOS and the internal clock
  • 2: CPU Socket - in this case, it's an AMD AM3 socket
  • 3 & 4: two DDR3 RAM slots
  • 5: 24-pin motherboard power socket
  • 6: IDE socket
  • 7: PCIe x16 socket
  • 8: PCIe x1 socket
  • 9: PCI socket
  • 10: Northbridge Chip (Memory and CPU bus)
  • 11: Southbridge Chip (I/O bus Controller)
  • 12: 4-pin motherboard power socket

Removing an Existing Motherboard

The removal of a motherboard is fairly straightforward:

  1. Before starting work, deploy anti-static controls and ensure the power is off

  2. Prepare anti-static bags or boxes to place the old components in as they are removed (-to avoid static damage)

  3. Remove the access panel(s) from the computer case: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels

  4. Unplug the power connector(s) from the PSU to the motherboard: this may be a single 24-pin plug -or a 20 pin plug and a separate 4 pin plug

  5. Unplug all data cables from the motherboard to the drives (-e.g. IDE or SATA). In theory, the power connectors to the drives can remain connected, but if space is tight, you may need to remove those as well

  6. If the motherboard will not clear the drives, you may need to follow the drive removal process

  7. Remove the RAM by following the RAM DIMM removal process

  8. Remove any expansion Cards by following the PCI/PCIe removal process

  9. Unplug the case Fan, any USB Ports and any other plugs on the motherboard

  10. Locate the screws in the motherboard (-normally five or six) and remove them

  11. Grasp the motherboard by the edges and lift it up and out of the computer case

  12. Refit the access panel(s) to the computer case


Installing a New Motherboard

The insertion of a CPU is similar to the removal process in reverse:

  1. Before doing anything, sit down and read through the instructions provided with the motherboard (-preferably several times), until you are clear on how to proceed. These are normally detailed, easy to follow and normally in the form of a booklet. If you did not receive detailed instructions with the motherboard, you will need to track these down on the manufacturer's website

  2. Just prior to starting work, deploy anti-static controls and ensure the power is off

  3. Remove the access panel(s) from the computer case: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels

  4. If there are no stand-offs fitted to the computer case, line the new motherboard up in the case and note where the screw holes are, before placing it back in it's anti-static packaging:

    Lining up a motherboard inside the case

    Screw these in the positions where there are holes on the new motherboard. Stand offs are self-tapping brass arrangements which accept a screw and keep the motherboard from shorting out on the computer cases

    Screwing in standoffs
  5. Fit the backplate for the new motherboard, by inserting it inside the case and pressing it out into the large hole in the back of the case. This is required as most motherboards have a different port layout and so, a motherboard swap normally also requires a backplate swap:

    Fitting the Backplate Part 1

    Fitting the Backplate Part 2

  6. Remove the new motherboard from the packaging and line it up over the stand-offs in the computer case. Insert the screws through the holes in the motherboard and tighten them into the stand-offs to secure it to the chassis

    Securing the new Motherboard
  7. Fit the the CPU into the motherboard using the CPU installation process

  8. Fit the memory into the motherboard by following the DIMM installation process

  9. Fit any expansion Cards by following the PCI/PCIe installation process

  10. Plug in the power connectors from the PSU to the motherboard: this may be a single 24-pin plug -or a 20 pin plug and a separate 4 pin plug plus a separate 4-pin plug (-socket shown at top left in the photo below):

    Plug in the motherboard power connectors
  11. Plug in all data cables from the motherboard to the drives. If the power connectors to the drives were disconnected, reconnect these as well

  12. Plug in the case fan(s), any USB Ports and any other plugs to the motherboard, following the instructions provided with the motherboard

  13. Double and triple check all connections to the motherboard before you close the case

  14. Refit the access panel(s) to the computer case


Post Installation Tasks

With the new motherboard connected up, it's time to power on the PC and enter the BIOS setup program. Normally, this is entered by pressing the "Delete" key (-for computers using AMI or Award BIOS anyway) when the initial startup (POST) screen displays.

With the new motherboard connected up, it's time to power on the PC and enter the BIOS setup program ..

Once into the BIOS setup program, you need to follow the motherboard instructions to override any of the default settings that are incorrect. Normally, the defaults are good enough to get the PC working, but there may be a few tweaks necessary to optimise it and it's best to get this sorted from the beginning.


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