This is my guide on how to pick a motherboard for your next PC. This time , I wrote my guide in a different way. This is more ever like a FAQ type. Anyways , let get to the point , Motherboards are a vital component of the PC. Therefore picking a right one is really necessary. This guide will tell you all the things you should look for while picking a motherboard. So first of all here's what your PC's motherboard does -
What is a motherboard ? Is it necessary ? What does it do ?
You probably must have heard of what a motherboard is. The Motherboard is the spinal cord of your PC. Its just as important as a CPU. The Motherboard connects all the parts of the PC like CPU , RAM , HDD , GPU etc. The motherboard is what makes these parts work in harmony and helps in communication between these components and hence is a must have component for the PC for it to work.
Okay , I got it , so now what things should I look for while selecting one ?
There's quite some things you should look for while selecting a motherboard , they are -
1. The motherboard's CPU socket should match the CPU's socket , e.g - If "X" motherboard supports LGA 1150 socket , than "Y" CPU must have the LGA 1150 socket as well , so as to have compatibility.
2. The motherboard's max TDP support should be more or less than the CPU's TDP , e.g - If "X" motherboard's TDP is 90W , than "Y" CPU's max TDP should be equal or lesser than 90W so as to have compatibility.
3. The motherboard's BIOS should be compatible with the selected CPU , e.g If "X" motherboard needs "A" BIOS to support "Z" CPU , the motherboard must have "A" BIOS revision or higher to support the CPU. If a BIOS revision lower than "A" is installed on motherboard , User must use another compatible CPU with the stock BIOS to update the BIOS to a compatible revision , or get the "A" BIOS revision ( or higher ) installed from the motherboard manufacturer.
in order to get the desired CPU working
4. The RAM's frequencies and voltages on stock frequencies and voltages or OCed frequencies and voltages ( one of them at least ) should be equal to the motherboard's specified frequencies and voltages , e.g - If "X" motherboard's specified frequencies and voltages are 1333 , 1600 , 1866 , 2133 and 2400 MHz and voltages =1.65v , then RAM's frequencies and voltages should be 1333 or 1600 or 1866 or 2133 or 2400 MHz and voltages =1.65v for full compatibility.
5. The motherboard should have the amount of PCI/PCIe Sockets needed ( For GPU's , Sound Cards , Video Capture Cards , TV cards , External USB plugs , Wi-Fi add on cards , Ethernet add on cards , etc ) , e.g If "A" GPU needs a PCIe 3.0x16 slot , "B" Sound Card needs PCIe 2.0x1 sot , "C" USB Card needs PCI Slot , your "X" motherboard must have PCIe 3.0x16 , PCIe 2.0x1 and PCI slot to get these cards working. Also these ports must have the required slots/ports for optimum performance.
6. The Motherboard must have the required SATA Ports and the recommended speeds for your HDD's . SSD's and Optical Disc Drives , e.g - If "A" HDD needs a SATA 3.0GBPS port , "B" SSD needs a SATA 6.0GBPS port , "C" SSD needs a mSATA slot and "D" SSD needs a PCIe 2.0x4 slot and "E" ODD needs a SATA 3.0GBPS port , then "X" motherboard must have 2 SATA 3.0GBPS , SATA 6.0GBPS , mSATA and PCIe 2.0x4 slots. Also these ports must have the required slots/ports for optimum performance.
7. The Motherboard's form factor should be supported by the case for it to fit in the case , e.g If "T" Case/Chassis/Cabinet supports mATX , ATX , mITX , EATX and XL-ATX form factors , then "X" motherboard's form factor should be mATX , ATX , mITX , EATX or XL-ATX for it to fit in.
Are there any other things I should be aware of ?
Yes , there's some more stuff you should look up for , however these things have alternatives ( like adapters and much more ) -
1. The motherboard should have the required amount of fan connectors required for the fans to be installed.
2. The motherboard should have equal or more amount of USB 2.0/3.0 ports headers for the front panel of your chassis.
3. The motherboard should have integrated graphics ( necessity in some cases )
What are the vital components of the motherboard ?
The most vital component of the motherboard is the chipset. Its more like the motherboards CPU. The chipset is the component which transfers the data and other stuff from one component to the other , etc as it is connected to most if not all ports , plugs directly or indirectly ( like the SATA ports , PCI/PCIe Slots , etc ) and the CPU. Since the ports lanes are connected to the devices , indirectly the devices like the GPU and HDD are also connected to the chipset as well. Therefore if any damage occurs to the chipset the motherboard isn't going to work at all.
Other vital components are the Capacitors , VRM's , etc but they aren't as important as a chipset , yet even if one of these receives a good enough damage , don't expect the motherboard to work.
What power connectors from the PSU should be connected to the motherboard and where does this power go ?
The average motherboard has two power slots , One is the 20/24 pin ATX motherboard power connector , the other is a 4/8 pin CPU ATX power connector. The 20/24 pin power connector provides power to the chipset , headers , etc on the motherboard. The 4/8 pin power connector provides power to the CPU and internal GPU ( of the CPU ) if any. Both of these are important as they provide power to the CPU and motherboard , and hence you must connect both of them while connecting cables from the PSU. Note that there are other types of power connection revision ( say EPS ) however their info is not provided here.
What is the difference between a controller added port and a chipset port ? Does it make a difference ?
A controller added port is a port which is not directly connected to the chipset. In most cases controllers are used for adding additional USB or SATA ports , where the chipset doesn't have the required amount of ports. In this case , the data is transferred this way -
Sender > Controller > Chipset > Receiver
The native/chipsets port have data transferred this way -
Sender > Chipset > Receiver
The sender is the component sending data , while receiver is the component receiving.
Due to the controller coming in the middle , the transfer time increases by a considerable rate in benchmarks. In real life usage , however the speed reduction is quite negligible. Unless you want to squeeze every ounce of the SSD/HDD you are using , the controllers aren' going to be a bottleneck for you.
Why is there a battery on all motherboards ? What does it do and what care should I take ?
Yes.There's a battery on every motherboard. It is used to save all the settings that you make in the motherboard's BIOS , etc. Therefore it's necessary to keep the battery. However , Just like any other battery , even this battery will be over. In that case the motherboard might warn you. In case if it's over , just replace it a similar battery. Its not even a bit harmful and no its even a bit harmful , so its not necessary to remove it even while assembling your PC or upgrading it.
What is the BIOS ? What does it do ? What I should know about it and does a different one make a difference ? Any other things I should know ?
The BIOS is like the motherboard's control panel. The BIOS is a software that comes factory installed in each and every motherboard. Here in the BIOS , you can adjust the settings like the CPU's and RAM's speed , voltage , etc and other things related to the motherboard. Just like a OS , the BIOS also have different versions which also receives updates. Some high end motherboards ( like the ASUS ROG series motherboard's ) have a custom made BIOS. However in the case of some motherboard's they have slightly modified BIOSes.
Sometimes when a user is updating his/her motherboard's BIOS and due to some reason the PC shuts down , it is recommended to get the motherboard checked up from the manufacturer and get it replaced/repaired. If the BIOS is damaged in any sort of way , the PC can't even boot up. Here Dual BIOS comes into play , Gigabyte's DUAL UEFI BIOS feature capable motherboard features 2 BIOSes on a single motherboard. In this case if you get you main BIOS damaged , a backup BIOS can be used to repair the MAIN BIOS. This way you can escape the hassles of a RMA.
There's another thing you should know , that is of Clear CMOS. Sometimes faulty BIOS settings can cause a motherboard or other component to act improperly , resulting in random BSOD/Crash/Freeze etc. In such cases the Clear CMOS button or header comes into play. Press the Clear CMOS button ( if you have it on your motherboard ) for a particular amount of time and it will reset your BIOS. If there is no Clear CMOS button , there must be a header on your motherboard. In such case use a jumper to reset your BIOS settings. This way you can reset your BIOS settings to factory default which may resolve your issue.
Some motherboard's have inbuilt Wi-Fi , Bluetooth , Is it good enough ? Or should I rather opt for an add on card ?
Most high end motherboard's have inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which is just as good as your other add on cards. However remember it should not be something that will force you to shell out 100$ or even 50$ or leave some better features for inbuilt Wi-Fi/Bluetooth as you can get a good enough Wi-Fi Add on card for like 10-20$.
What is the average lifespan of the average motherboard ? How can I increase it ? Are there any accessories or other things that can help me ?
TBH , this depends. Lets first talk about what decreases motherboard's life , they are - dust ( biggest problem ) , poor airflow , expose to moisture , unstable or improper power supply , overheated CPU being used for higher periods ( not really , but…. ) , high OC's on improper settings ( increased or decreased FSB's , Multipliers , Voltages beyond limit ). The best way to avoid these is - Apply dust filters from every one place in the cabinet/case/chassis ( especially fan mounts ) , this will reduce the amount of dust in your case by a lot. For increased protections , place caps on unused RAM , PCI/PCIe slots. Any electrical tape will also do it. For airflow issues , adding more fans will be better , it will also increase airflow in the case and reduce other temps too. Unstable or Improper Power issues have no precautions. Just use a PSU tester , in case if you face any sort of issues. Overheating CPU's can be easily solved with aftermarket coolers. Check my CPU , CPU Cooler , TIM guide for more help. While OCing CPU's , make sure to be careful or FSB's , Multipliers and most importantly Voltages. Motherboard's can have a lifespan of 6+ years when maintained properly even on regular OC's. Average motherboard live a =5 years lifespan in average circumstances. Even under worst circumstances ( dust , overheating , constant unstable OC's , etc ) still live a 1-2 years lifespan. It depends on how you use it and under what circumstances you use it.
I have heard RAID decreases the HDD's/SSD's life , Is it true ? Does it make sense in real life performance and make up for the risk ? Also does it decrease the motherboard's life ?
Yes , It is true that RAID decreases the involved storage device's lives ( whether it be a SSD or a HDD ) by a huge margin. Also even if one of the drives in RAID fails , the setup goes waste and data is lost from the other drive as well. The performance gains can make up for the risks involved but only in benchmarks , not real life performance. Practically a RAID setup is completely senseless. For the cost of two SSD's , you can probably get a higher capacity version from the same series or maybe a different one which will provide higher performance than a single SSD of the one you will strip up in RAID anyways. But on the motherboard side , RAID doesn't affect the motherboard at all , only your HDD/SSD will be the victim.
I am planning to upgrade my current CPU but not motherboard , the sockets of the desired CPU are the same but the family of the current and planned CPU is different , Is it safe and 100% compatible or should I buy a new motherboard as well ?
If the Sockets are same then its most likely that you will have 100% compatibility and all you need is a BIOS update. Wait until your motherboard manufacturer releases a new BIOS for your motherboard if not released already which ensures compatibility with the family of the planned to buy CPU , and check the CPU compatibility list. If its in the list , then update to a compatible BIOS and your good to go. Keep in mind that your motherboard might need a CMOS reset.
Is the motherboard manufacturers's QVL for RAM's trustable and accurate like the CPU list ?
Well , Not really. Memory QVL's are really biased. Let me tell you how they are tested and said *Qualified to work*
1. An Higher Voltage , OCing and Frequency capable CPU ( e.g - An i7-3770K or i5-3570K is on used most Z77 chipset based and other motherboard's for QVL. ) Since they were OCing capable , they had higher frequency , voltages capability , which was further increased by OCing the CPU's to widen the list of supported frequencies. For non over clocking capable CPU's ( any non "K" CPU ) , most RAM's above 1600 were incompatible due to voltage or low CPU clocks.
2. No proper testing - Some QVL's don't mention about support on a particular frequency , Even if a RAM is claimed to support it by the RAM manufacturer , e.g - If "X" RAM is claimed to support 1600 , 1866 and 2133 , "A" Motherboard's QVL claims support on 1600 and 2133. Nothing is mentioned on QVL about 1866. However in most case RAM still does work on 1866. But you can't blame QVL for that , can you ?
Also in most cases , QVL's claim support , just with a single boot. No Memory Stress Test is done. In some rare cases , the PC boots up , but still causes issues like random BSOD's , Freezes , Crashes , etc.
What is a PCB ? Where is it and what does it do ?
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.
The PCB ( Printed Circuit Board ) is the hardened board part of the motherboard. Al the inner components on the motherboard are on top of the PCB. The average motherboard's PCB design is just like other devices using it. It is what transfers the data from sender to receiver just like your nerves. The PCB on most motherboards is delicate. It can also get damaged due to exposure to moisture in excess. Excess care should be taken to prevent any sort of exposure to liquid , moisture , heat , etc. The PCB should be kept in dry environment. Keep in mind that any sort of liquid/water cooling doesn't cause damage to the PCB or any other component , unless it leaks out. Most High End OCing Motherboards have a LN2 mode which makes the motherboard resistant to LN2 cooling. If your motherboard does have such a switch and you are using LN2 cooling , be sure to set your motherboard on the LN2 mode.
Recommended Motherboards List coming soon ( Right here , once I compare all the motherboards )