What is a Motherboard?
A computer’s motherboard is usually the largest printed circuit board within a machine’s chassis. It distributes electricity and facilitates communication between the central processing unit (CPU), random-access memory (RAM), as well as any other components of the computer’s hardware. There are many motherboard options available, and each one is compatible with a particular model and size of the computer.
Different types of memories and processors work best with different motherboards. It is therefore difficult to find a motherboard compatible with all types of memory and CPU. Hard drives can be used with all brands and types of motherboards, and are compatible with many different types.
A computer motherboard may be found inside a computer casing, This is the connection point for most of the computer’s components and peripherals. For tower computers, one can look for the motherboard on the left or right side of the tower. The circuit board is the most important.
There were fewer components on the earliest motherboards designed for personal computers. The first IBM PC motherboard contained a CPU and a few card ports. The slots were made available for users to insert various components including memory and controllers for Floppy Drives.
Compaq was the first company to use a motherboard that was not based on a design created by IBM. This new architecture used a CPU manufactured by Intel. As Compaq’s sales started to rise, many other companies followed their lead, even though some in the industry thought it was risky.
However, Intel held a large market share for personal computer motherboards by the 1990s. Asus, Gigabyte Technology, and Micro-Star International are the most prominent companies in this sector. Asus, however, is the largest motherboard manufacturer on the planet, and Intel continues to be one of the ten top motherboard manufacturers.
Different types of Motherboards
We must first understand the various types and specifications of motherboards in order to fully grasp their functions and purpose.
1. Advanced Technology (AT) motherboard
Because of their larger dimensions (which can easily be measured in hundreds or millimeters), These motherboards will not work properly with computers that fall into the category of smaller desktops. It is more difficult to install hardware drivers if you have a larger physical footprint.
These motherboards have power connections in the form of sockets and plug that each has six prongs. Users often experience difficulties connecting to and operating power connections due to difficulty in recognizing them. These motherboards were popular in the 1980s and continued to be made well into the 2000s.
2. Standard ATX motherboard
ATX is an upgraded version of the AT motherboard Intel developed in the 1990s. Its name stands for “advanced tech extended” and its initials stand to signify “advanced technology.” It is smaller than AT and allows the components to be interchangeable. There has been significant development in the connection elements.
3. Micro ATX motherboard
These motherboards measure in millimeters and are 244mm wide. Manufacturers may have different sizes. This motherboard is smaller than the Standard ATX board in terms of ports and slots.
This motherboard is better suited to users who don’t need excessive connections or subsequent upgrades (e.g., more RAM, extra GPU, or additional Peripheral component interconnect (PCI), cards) than others.
The motherboard can be installed in any case that has enough space for 244 mm x 244mm. You can install it in larger cases that support Standard ATX and eXTEND ATX motherboards.
4. eXtended ATX motherboard
This motherboard measures 344 x 330 mm. Dimensions may vary with different manufacturers. This motherboard can support a single or twin CPU configuration, and up to eight RAM slots.
It also has more PCIe (where the e stands for Express) slots and PCI slots. These can be used to add PCI card support for many applications. This software is compatible with both servers and workstations. All eATX motherboards have enough space, which makes them perfect for desktop computers. This is due to the large area that allows for airflow and attachment of different components.
5. Flex ATX motherboard
These ATX Form Factor mainboards are not as popular as their ATX Form Factor counterparts. These ATX Form Factor mainboards are the smallest in the ATX family. They are small and lightweight, at a low price. Flex ATX was a modified version of mini ATX, which Intel developed between 1999 and 2000. It is a standard for motherboards.
6. Low-Profile EXtended (LPX) motherboard
This version has two major improvements over previous iterations. The first was that the input and output ports were moved to the rear, while the second was that a riser card was added. This allows the device to have more slots and makes it easier for components to be attached.
Some of these functions can be implemented on the AT motherboard. This board does not have an accelerated graphics port (AGP) port, so it can only be connected directly to PCI. These issues have been resolved by the new low-profile extended boards (NLX).
7. BTX motherboard
Balanced technology extended (abbreviated as BTX) is a strategy that was created to meet the needs of emerging technologies. These technologies require higher power consumption and emit more heat. In the middle 2000s, Intel stopped producing BTX boards in order to focus on low-power CPUs.
8. Pico BTX motherboard
Pico boards are named for their small size in comparison to standard motherboards. The BTX’s upper half is shared. However, there are two expansion slots. Its distinctive characteristics include the riser or half-height cards. This is to support digital applications.
9. Mini ITX motherboard
It is important that you note that the ITX motherboard is not available in regular size. The motherboard has been redesigned to be smaller than the earlier versions. It was created in 2000 and measures 17 by 17 cm.
It is used primarily in small-form-factor computers (SFF) due to its lower power consumption and faster cooling capabilities. The motherboard is highly recommended for home theater systems due to its low fan noise. It will improve the system’s overall performance.
10. Mini STX motherboard
Initially, Intel 5×5 was the name given to the motherboard now called the Mini-STX. This stands for extended mini socket technology. The motherboard was first introduced in 2015. It measures 147 millimeters x 140 millimeters. This converts into a length of 5.8 inches by a width of 5.5 inches. The 5×5 name is misleading.
Mini-STX boards are 7 millimeters wider from front to rear, which makes them somewhat rectangular. This contrasts with other small form factor boards like the Next Unit of Computing, NUC, and the mini-ITX which are rectangular.
How does a motherboard work?
The power supply transfers electricity from the motherboard to your computer when you turn it on. Data buses transport data between chipset components and travel between the northbridge and southbridge sections.
The northbridge component is responsible for data connections to the CPU and RAM. After the RAM starts delivering inputs to the CPU, the operations performed by RAM are “interpreted” by that component. The data is written to the PCIe and copied to or moved to an expansion card depending on which card you have.
The southbridge component manages the data connection to the PCI bus, the universal serial bus (USB), and the basic input/output (BIOS) systems. Signals sent to the BIOS allow your computer to start, while data sent to SATA “awakens”, solid-state drives, optical discs, and hard disk drives. Information stored on the SATA provides power to the sound card, network card, and video card.
The rest of the components communicate via an electric signal which acts as a hub. These data buses are passed through a microchip’s southbridge or northbridge elements. They then branch out to other components such as the CPU, RAM, and PCIe.
Information sent over buses will use a programming language (1 or 0). The motherboard will interpret signals sent from components to it and convert them into a language that the other component can understand. Most modern computing systems do this in a fraction of a second and there is little delay between the input signal and the output.
12 Key Components Of A Motherboard
1. Mouse and keyboard connectors
Two separate connectors are required for computer motherboards to allow users to connect their keyboard and external mouse. These connectors allow the computer to send and receive instructions. There are two types of keyboard and mouse connectors: the PS/2 (for the PS/2) and the USB (for the USB). The personal system/2 (PS/2) port, a mini-DIN plug with six pins, connects the keyboard or mouse to an IBM-compatible computer. The USB port is used by other computers to connect the keyboard or mouse.
2. Universal serial bus (USB)
The USB interface connects computers and other devices such as phones. The USB port allows users to connect peripheral devices, such as scanners, pen drives, printers, etc., to the motherboard. It also allows users to transfer data between the computer and the device. The USB port allows users to connect peripheral devices to the computer without having to restart it. There are several types of USB: USB-A, USB-B, USBmini, micro-USB, and USB-C.
Commonly, the central processing unit (CPU), is referred to as the brain of a computer. The CPU is responsible for all functions within a computer. There are many types of CPUs available, and each one requires a specific slot on the motherboard. A CPU can have one or more cores. A CPU that only has one core can perform one task at a given time. However, those with multiple cores are able to execute multiple tasks simultaneously.
4. RAM memory
The RAM slots connect random access memory (RAM), to the motherboard. RAM is used to temporarily store programs and files that can be accessed by the CPU. Increased RAM capacity allows computers to store and process more files and programs. This improves performance. The computer’s RAM content is erased after it is turned off. A computer typically has two RAM slots. Some computers can have four RAM slots on the motherboard, which allows them to expand their memory.
5. Basic input/output system (BIOS)
The BIOS is the firmware for the motherboard. It contains instructions on what to do when your computer is turned ON. It’s responsible for loading the operating system and initializing hardware components. The BIOS allows the operating system of the computer to interact with input devices like a mouse or keyboard.
Some motherboards have the legacy BIOS replaced by either the modern extensible firmware interfacing (EFI) or the unified extensible software interface (UEFI). EFI and UEFI enable the computer to start faster, offer more diagnostic and repair tools, as well as provide a more efficient interface between operating system components and the computer.
Chipsets control the interaction of the CPU and other components with the chip. The chipsets determine how much memory can be added to a motherboard, and what connectors it can have.
The northbridge chipset is first. The northbridge controls the speed at which components communicate with the CPU. It controls the processor, AGP video slot, and RAM.
The southbridge chipset is second on the list of chipsets. The southbridge chipset manages the rest of the components that are connected to the computer. This includes communication between the processor, expansion ports like USB ports, and sound card ports.
7. Cooling fans
A computer can become slow due to the heat created by electric current flowing between components. Too much heat can cause damage to computer components if it is not controlled. A computer will perform better if it is kept cool. Cooling fans increase airflow which reduces heat. Some elements, like video adapter cards, have cooling fans.
8. Adapter cards and expansion slots
Adapter Cards are embedded into the motherboard to improve a computer’s performance. These include audio and video adapters. Expandable slots allow you to install compatible adapter cards. Some examples of expansion slots are the peripheral component interconnect slot (PCI), the AGP slot (which allows the insertion of video cards), and the PCI Express serial bus (PCI-extended) slot.
9. CMOS battery
The CMOS is a small, round battery that can be found on every computer’s motherboard. It powers the complementary metal oxide semiconductor chip (CMOS). Even when the computer is turned off, the CMOS chip keeps BIOS information and computer settings. The CMOS battery allows users to skip the need to reset BIOS settings such as boot order and date.
10. Storage devices
The storage drives can store and retrieve data from media disks or permanently. You can install the storage devices in your computer either as hard drives, or removable drives that connect to it through the USB ports. Computers’ primary storage drives are either solid-state drives (SSD), or hard disk drives (HDD). SSDs are faster than HDDs and can perform more tasks. To store data, users can also use compact discs or optical drives.
11. Front panel connectors
Front panel connectors link the light-emitting device (LED) lights on a case’s front to the hard drive, power button, reset button, and internal speaker for testing. Many USB and audio devices have LED lights.
These connectors for the front panel are typically plugged into small pins located on the motherboard. The layout of the pins is different depending on the model.
12. Connector for power
The power connector supplies an electric supply to enable the computer to work as it is intended. The 20-pin power supply connector converts 110-V AC power to +/-12, +/-5, and 3.3-Volt DC power.
Functions of a Motherboard
1. Manages data flow
The motherboard’s BIOS component ensures that the operating systems can interact with input and output devices such as the keyboard and mouse to process instructions. This ensures that data sent to the computer works as intended. It also allows data transfer between devices via its USB ports. It also ensures that the processor has access to information stored in the RAM, which increases efficiency.
2. Conserves resources
By connecting all of the computer’s connections, the motherboard saves time, money, and energy. The motherboard is a platform that manufacturers can use to connect all necessary components so that the computer works properly. This saves time and energy for consumers as they don’t have to manually assemble or connect parts. Additionally, the cost of collecting individual parts can be high as they will need to transport them and incur other costs.
3. Optimizes power distribution
The motherboard distributes and provides power optimally. The motherboard provides and distributes power optimally. Computers need electricity to function. A power connector plug connects the motherboard to a power source. It then converts that power into electrical power that the computer can consume. The motherboard then distributes the electrical current optimally among the system components.
The motherboard uses integrated circuit technology that provides power to each component. The circuits also ensure that less energy is used to make the computer more energy-efficient.
4. Drives communication
The motherboard makes communication between different components. Sometimes, a computer may need several components to communicate with each other and complete a task. The motherboard’s circuit technology is used to allow communication between these components in such situations. It is possible for the motherboard to depend on certain components such as the CPU and BIOS.
5. Enhances performance
The motherboard increases the computer’s capabilities. Motherboards can often enhance the capabilities of a computer’s hardware. Motherboards can be used to enhance the output of a computer’s computers by adding additional functions and capabilities, such as sound and video capabilities. Users can also connect peripheral devices like printers to their motherboards. This allows computers to do additional tasks, such as printing documents. Users can also upgrade or expand factory-made motherboard components such as memory slots and hard drives to increase the computing power of their computers.
6. Increases reliability
A reliable motherboard will improve the reliability of your computer. High-quality motherboards provide a solid foundation for the components of the computer to work on. Good motherboards have proper cooling and integrated circuit technology. These elements allow it to manage the computer’s hardware effectively by making sure that every element works as it should and communicates with other parts. Reliable computers perform tasks efficiently, which enhances user experience.
7. Enables productivity
The motherboard simplifies the work of computer users and reduces duplication. Modern computers come pre-installed pre-installed in BIOS. EFI, BIOS, and UEFI allow computers to start without the need to change basic settings like time and date. They also load the operating systems into the memory. These motherboard components enable users to concentrate on more productive tasks.
Motherboards are so important in computing systems, even miniature models such as Raspberry Pi have one. Motherboards are responsible for the whole operation of the computer, allowing other components (such as the CPU, drivers, and ports) to communicate with them. They allow other parts (the CPU, drivers, ports, etc.) to communicate with one another. It is expensive to make and replace a powerful motherboard, but it is one of the most reliable components in a computer.