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How would one Go about Designing thier own Motherboard

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December 7, 2011 4:41:14 AM

Hello for the past few years Ive been wondering how Motherboards themselves are designed and If there are tools out there that may help in the process. Does anyone know of good books? I am Interested in designing my own motherboard and sending off to a company to get it Built.

What are the Nesscessary steps to Designing/Creating a Custom Motherboard?

Anyone know? I cant seem to find anything on the web about it.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b V Motherboard
December 7, 2011 5:04:44 AM

jasonmbrown222 said:
Hello for the past few years Ive been wondering how Motherboards themselves are designed and If there are tools out there that may help in the process. Does anyone know of good books? I am Interested in designing my own motherboard and sending off to a company to get it Built.

What are the Nesscessary steps to Designing/Creating a Custom Motherboard?

Anyone know? I cant seem to find anything on the web about it.

Specifically for designing motherboards, I don't know of any templates or anything. Good luck finding a company that will take your design to the production level. A prototype maybe.
If you're really interested in this, I suggest you take a course or two in computer science. Also there are plenty of books available to introduce the electronics or computer topic, I don't have a particular favorite. I can tell you there are about a million different ways to build circuits. Putting these circuits on a printed circuit board is the tough part, and one book isn't going to tell you how to do this.

For now I would give some thought to building your own system first, if you haven't done so. This isn't a simple undertaking you're contemplating, people who design motherboards go to school for many years. The complexity of modern circuits isn't something I can even touch on right here.
Look into some introductory IC circuits courses to see if this is really for you.
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a c 122 B Homebuilt system
a c 156 V Motherboard
December 7, 2011 7:49:56 AM

jasonmbrown222 said:

Anyone know? I cant seem to find anything on the web about it.

That is because it is technically not feasible.
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December 7, 2011 8:19:27 AM

Well ive been working with computers since I was 8, Ive built roughly 40 or so computers (well put them together since "Built" isnt exactly the correct word) Lets just say I had a breadboard the size of a wall and wanted to put together a prototype of a home made mobo, What books are out there that explain a CPU on its Connective Hardware level? I hate school, Especially since where I live 90% of the teachers arent actually teaching jack-s***, (Since the Strike where i live like 2 years back or something like that).

I have alot of free time on my hands and want to put a year or two into this project. Without wasting money on schooling where they hand you a book, make you memorize it and then send you off.

I Just find it very Difficult to find reading materials Explaining the Base Connection levels between CPU, RAM, GPU, NB, HT, etc. It seems anyone who knows anything about this stuff is either too lazy to write a book, or too busy for it or something.

If anyone has links to info on the topic Please share them.

This is something ive been contemplating for the last two years, and its started to pique my interest quite alot. Also it would be a great learning experience from start to finish.

PS: jsc If its not feasible then whats up with the homebrew Emulation devices (Stuff like the Pandora, Dingoo A320, GP2X, GP32x), Basically What im asking Is how does one learn to build something like this http://hackaday.com/2009/11/03/8-bit-device-quenches-ip... I know that hes probably worked with electronics for years. But so have I (maybe not quite as much as id like to have hoped though) and I dont have that kind of expertise.
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December 7, 2011 8:40:42 AM

Teacher is a perfect tutor. :) 
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December 7, 2011 11:53:29 AM

You would probably get a degree in electrical engineering, first. You do realize the 8080 chip is now 35 or so years old and by modern standards looks like something designed as a 9th grade science fair project, right? :D 

If you want to get a taste of what you're trying to get yourself into, here's a link to the datasheets for Intel's current crops of CPUs. http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processors/core/... Once you understand the specs for your CPU of choice, you can start looking for the specs for the myriad other support chips you would need for a modern motherboard. Then you need to learn "a little something" about general modern PC board design, then you would have to buy expensive CAD software to actually piece together your dream board. Let alone find a company that would/could build it at anything resembling an affordable price. Etc. :whistle: 
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 7, 2011 11:54:56 AM

Get Master's Degrees in Electronics Engineering and Computer Science. Shouldn't take more than eight years, which is a shorter time than it would take to reinvent the computer.
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December 7, 2011 5:28:03 PM

I'm currently an EECS student at UC Berkeley and having designed a simple PCB layout for an EEG, I would say it would be hell to try and build a motherboard from scratch, especially by yourself, having no experience in the matter. Not sure if these are good programs for such large projects but we used National Instruments Multisim for constructing the circuit and then export to Ultiboard to design the PCB layout. I don't think you'll want to use a breadboard for anything other than testing VERY small parts of the circuit as it will become overwhelming. Not to mention the types of components won't fit on a breadboard I would guess. Good luck, but I'm not sure if you know what you're getting into :) .
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September 23, 2012 5:55:00 PM

...and that's just on the front end. Most of the big players contract out their PC Board construction to one of a few players and manufacture it in volume to drop the cost. Normally runs are in the hundreds of thousands of PC boards. There are only a few manufacturers that will do custom-designed small runs (100 boards or so).

Custom multi-layer PCB Motherboard Manufacturers:

Wikipedia's List of Motherboard Manufacturers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_PC_hardware_manufa...

Sunstone (Does small runs of 100 boards)
http://www.sunstone.com/

Advanced Circuits (Does small runs)
http://www.4pcb.com/

Generic PC Board Manufacturers
http://www.everythingpcb.com/p13057.htm

There are numerous additional factors involved in doing the layout that should be taken into consideration in the Motherboard Design Process:

http://www.mbreview.com/mbr-reviews/497-motherboard-des...:


Once you have the motherboard, all of the components then need to be mounted. Currently this is done on a large scale with surface mount equipment. As of 2012, Panasonic seems to be a leader in this area:

http://www.panasonicfa.com/?id=electronics%20assembly

Finally, you need to test your motherboard to see if it works right. There are so many things that can go wrong with a motherboard build that companies have evolved and developed automated testing technology, these include:

Teradyne
http://www.teradyne.com/

Hewlett-Packard In-Circuit Test (ICT) Systems
http://www.home.agilent.com/en/pc-00002%3Aatg%3Apgr/in-...

HP originally developed ICT to ensure the quality of the electronics they built, then started marketing ICT to other electronics manufacturers. Their most famous boardtester, the 3070, has been around for 30 years now...

The in-circuit test allows you to fire up the motherboard and test every connection simultaneously, it's quick, accurate, and cost effective for troubleshooting large manufacturing runs. If i had a choice, even with a small run of motherboards, I would much rather spend my time building a test bed, and writing a test suite for my new PCB. Then later, if I wanted to do a larger run of boards, I'd be setup to troubleshoot the entire manufacturing run. You are looking at about $250k-500k, per station, that's for a used ICT station.

I would say, if you are serious about building motherboards, you really need to join a team that does this full time already. It's been my experience that Engineers love to play, and you can get some opportunities to build your dream PCB (On your own time, of course), plus learn what you really need to know about designing and building PCB in doing so.







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a b B Homebuilt system
a b V Motherboard
September 23, 2012 7:36:39 PM

Dick Cheney (I no fan!) was derided in the press for making a very accurate statement, along the lines of: our big problems are where we don't know what we don't know.

What OP wants requires development of VERY extensive knowledge, but he /she hates learning it - too boring! In addition to the points made above by many, two very serious part of mobo design and construction are elimination of crosstalk in signal lines, and constructing the shortest possible signal lines (with minimal capacitance) to minimize propagation delays and speed up performance. Those are things you can never accomplish in a breadboard system.
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January 12, 2013 7:42:34 PM

When I was a senior in highschool, for my electronics final, I built a pent-1 motherboard on a perferated breadboard. It only had 512 mb of ram, 1 exspansion slot and a custom programed bios.

If you know stuff nothing is imposible, its just a matter of having the desire to try. I curently rework boards that are anywhere from 4-20 layers, BGA's and all; becuase I tried and learned how stuff like this is done.

I suggest you all stop being so negative and help a fellow enthusist out.
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March 14, 2013 8:31:03 AM

Hey, I dont have any answers for you except to encourage you to keep at it. It may be very difficult but that does not mean one should not try.

Have you pursued this since making the post in 2011?
I would be curious.




jasonmbrown222 said:
Well ive been working with computers since I was 8, Ive built roughly 40 or so computers (well put them together since "Built" isnt exactly the correct word) Lets just say I had a breadboard the size of a wall and wanted to put together a prototype of a home made mobo, What books are out there that explain a CPU on its Connective Hardware level? I hate school, Especially since where I live 90% of the teachers arent actually teaching jack-s***, (Since the Strike where i live like 2 years back or something like that).

I have alot of free time on my hands and want to put a year or two into this project. Without wasting money on schooling where they hand you a book, make you memorize it and then send you off.

I Just find it very Difficult to find reading materials Explaining the Base Connection levels between CPU, RAM, GPU, NB, HT, etc. It seems anyone who knows anything about this stuff is either too lazy to write a book, or too busy for it or something.

If anyone has links to info on the topic Please share them.

This is something ive been contemplating for the last two years, and its started to pique my interest quite alot. Also it would be a great learning experience from start to finish.

PS: jsc If its not feasible then whats up with the homebrew Emulation devices (Stuff like the Pandora, Dingoo A320, GP2X, GP32x), Basically What im asking Is how does one learn to build something like this http://hackaday.com/2009/11/03/8-bit-device-quenches-ip... I know that hes probably worked with electronics for years. But so have I (maybe not quite as much as id like to have hoped though) and I dont have that kind of expertise.


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April 16, 2013 4:12:37 PM

buzznut said:
jasonmbrown222 said:
Hello for the past few years Ive been wondering how Motherboards themselves are designed and If there are tools out there that may help in the process. Does anyone know of good books? I am Interested in designing my own motherboard and sending off to a company to get it Built.

What are the Nesscessary steps to Designing/Creating a Custom Motherboard?

Anyone know? I cant seem to find anything on the web about it.

Specifically for designing motherboards, I don't know of any templates or anything. Good luck finding a company that will take your design to the production level. A prototype maybe.
If you're really interested in this, I suggest you take a course or two in computer science. Also there are plenty of books available to introduce the electronics or computer topic, I don't have a particular favorite. I can tell you there are about a million different ways to build circuits. Putting these circuits on a printed circuit board is the tough part, and one book isn't going to tell you how to do this.

For now I would give some thought to building your own system first, if you haven't done so. This isn't a simple undertaking you're contemplating, people who design motherboards go to school for many years. The complexity of modern circuits isn't something I can even touch on right here.
Look into some introductory IC circuits courses to see if this is really for you.


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April 17, 2013 3:23:04 PM

Do you know anything about firmware? No one will give you SDK

If you don't, then don't even temp this! It's impossible for one manband
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October 23, 2013 7:44:16 PM

I know it's 2 years after the op originally posted but no one satisfactorily answers his question. It's true there's a lot to know before you can even begin to tackle modern mobo design considerations, I'm surprised no one even suggested a starting point. The book, Code, is a good overview to begin. After that you'll need a solid grounding in mathematics, and physics for anything in the MHz/ ghz range. Mathematics you might be able to get along with a bare minimum of multivariable calculus, diffEQ or specialized course in Fourier analysis would be better. As many previously stated, there's a lot of groundwork needed to even approach clock speeds of modern data buses, both tools and knowledge, not to be discouraging but they are very complex systems.
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October 23, 2013 9:52:27 PM

Prototyping will be extremely hard on a breadboard. Modern CPUs operate at extremely fast frequencies and there will be too much interference (the wires will act as receivers/ transmitters and signals will be distorted). The only way to do this will be to go straight to designing the PCB but you will still have to worry about interference. It is still possible if you use a 2 MHz Zilog Z80 as your CPU though lol.
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November 25, 2013 8:16:00 AM

I hope my answer is helpful I have pondered upon this question a lot .. I am an electronic engineer I have played a lot with FPGA's, microcontrollers and cpu's

I do believe it is possible that one can build his own motherboard if he has lots of free time...
I did attempt to design my own motherboard years ago .. but it was too much work

i based my design on historic north bridge and south bridge architecture..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northbridge_%28computing%2...
and i used north bridge and south bridge chips from old broken motherboards which i bought from ebay ! ...

I was able to find datasheets of all the ic's which i desoldered from old motherboards

But it was too much work for me the wiring schematics can torture you if you are working solo..
seriously each chip has has more than 100 connectors ....and try designing a layout on orcade !


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December 18, 2013 4:34:22 PM

Velase said:
When I was a senior in highschool, for my electronics final, I built a pent-1 motherboard on a perferated breadboard. It only had 512 mb of ram, 1 exspansion slot and a custom programed bios.

If you know stuff nothing is imposible, its just a matter of having the desire to try. I curently rework boards that are anywhere from 4-20 layers, BGA's and all; becuase I tried and learned how stuff like this is done.

I suggest you all stop being so negative and help a fellow enthusist out.



I couldn't agree more. If you want to learn, learn by trying. Don't be afraid of the end result not working, try again, and again, until you learn more and more and until it eventually works. If it goes tits up, you've learned what DOESN'T work when designing complex circuits.
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December 26, 2013 8:04:20 AM

there probably arent books that tell you how to design a motherboard, but there are plenty out there that will guide you along in high speed digital design and give your knowledge about routing high speed, impedance controlled boards. having access to design collateral will go along way to help you know how to stitch individual components together.... most every name brand company will provide those to you if you can make a case for getting an account set up with them. the rocket science really begins when you lay your board out. there are a ton of design rules for high speed signals.

design tools = Mentor Graphics or Cadence for scematic capture and layout are the big names, but there are probably others.

the steps are easy.... block diagram design, select components, collect design collateral, schematic capture, layout the board/work with pcb vendor for board stackup, order components and fabs, schedule/build boards, work with BIOS/boot loader vendor for image (very expensive), program boot image into parts, power on/smoke test, ..... the Hard part comes when your boards dont power up, smoke or wont fetch boot..... then you need the lab tools to get you by.

fyi- prototyping small quantaties of high speed, impedance controlled pcbs + components is very expensive. i design them for a living, and it is not uncommon for a medium complexity motherboard to cost several hundred to over a thousand dollars when ordering them in tens of quantities. i can only imagine that gets much worse when looking to build 1 or 2 .
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January 15, 2014 1:12:51 PM

jasonmbrown222 said:
Hello for the past few years Ive been wondering how Motherboards themselves are designed and If there are tools out there that may help in the process. Does anyone know of good books? I am Interested in designing my own motherboard and sending off to a company to get it Built.

What are the Nesscessary steps to Designing/Creating a Custom Motherboard?

Anyone know? I cant seem to find anything on the web about it.


Take a look here: http://www.mbreview.com/mbr-reviews/497-motherboard-des...
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January 18, 2014 10:14:27 PM

You may want to look at doing a virtual prototype. There are a number of software tools available for you to design your own motherboard, some are free (look on Sourceforge for example) and others are costly commercial products. High-end tools like Cadence and Mentor Graphics can run into the hundreds of thousands to buy. Tools like Fritzing (http://fritzing.org/home/) allow you to experiment quickly and cheaply. Labcenter (http://www.labcenter.com/index.cfm) makes middle of the road tools for <$5K. Also, there are many many PCB manufacturing places that give away their tools so you can use their services to fabricate the prototype. A very good starting point for a free PCB tool is ExpressPCB (http://www.expresspcb.com/) and Eagle (http://www.cadsoftusa.com/download-eagle/freeware/). Also, you must take a look at Design Spark PCB (its very and very powerful and growing) http://www.designspark.com/eng/page/designspark-pcb-hom.... If you want to try doing an FPGA based design you have many options also. Small FPGA boards can cost you 10's to low 100's of dollars (look at Digilent - www.digilentinc.com for example). The tools for the lower end FPGAs can be freely downloaded from the vendor websites (Altera or Xilinx). Hope this gives you some place to start. I am in your boat and designing my own motherboard and its challenging to find good references. This is info I've collected over the years that I'm happy to share.
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February 7, 2014 8:55:10 AM

Stuart Kerr said:
Velase said:
When I was a senior in highschool, for my electronics final, I built a pent-1 motherboard on a perferated breadboard. It only had 512 mb of ram, 1 exspansion slot and a custom programed bios.

If you know stuff nothing is imposible, its just a matter of having the desire to try. I curently rework boards that are anywhere from 4-20 layers, BGA's and all; becuase I tried and learned how stuff like this is done.

I suggest you all stop being so negative and help a fellow enthusist out.



I couldn't agree more. If you want to learn, learn by trying. Don't be afraid of the end result not working, try again, and again, until you learn more and more and until it eventually works. If it goes tits up, you've learned what DOESN'T work when designing complex circuits.


I've got to agree with these guys here. People will tell you something is impossible because they're afraid to do it themselves or they've failed in the past or whatever. Everyone is too quick to judge someone's ambition and they try to crush it as their own ambitions have been crushed through some misfortune. I've got several people currently telling me I can't make video games by myself. They say it costs too much money, requires more manpower than I can pull together, etc. 7 months later I developed my first free game. It didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted it but it was quite an experience. Now I'm starting a second title and this time I'm not alone on the project and we're using newer technology to develop it.
The point is anything is possible. It may take a lot of time, maybe even a lot of money. But only you can see your ideas come to life. Don't let other people tell you "You can't".
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May 26, 2014 5:13:18 AM

There,s a book I used and also a classroom textbook on my microprocessor on my senior year Microcomputer Hardware design by D.A Protopapas. This book tells about the function of a microcomputer the building blocks and show electrical interface from CPU to memory and I/O with some design examples and real life components. After learning and understanding the interface with each you are already on the motherboard design. Then next is programming in assembly language but wait before anything else the second hell thing is the CMOS BIOS or the Basic Input/output system the so called low level operating system which is not covered on this book. You can check the book Sytems BIOS for IBM PC/ XT/AT computers and compatibles this is a complete guide to ROM Based system software by Phoenix technical reference series. I assumed that you are electrical engineering and computer science or a computer engineer looking for references on how to design. But like the others told you it's a hell of building such thing like this a solo design. Though even steve Wozniak design and build the first apple computer as his solo design. Which was difficult in those days for doing such design as Wozniak does, compare today there where lots of work flow tools to speed up your design. Good luck to you



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June 28, 2014 2:56:36 PM

jasonmbrown222 said:
Well ive been working with computers since I was 8, Ive built roughly 40 or so computers (well put them together since "Built" isnt exactly the correct word) Lets just say I had a breadboard the size of a wall and wanted to put together a prototype of a home made mobo, What books are out there that explain a CPU on its Connective Hardware level? I hate school, Especially since where I live 90% of the teachers arent actually teaching jack-s***, (Since the Strike where i live like 2 years back or something like that).

I have alot of free time on my hands and want to put a year or two into this project. Without wasting money on schooling where they hand you a book, make you memorize it and then send you off.

I Just find it very Difficult to find reading materials Explaining the Base Connection levels between CPU, RAM, GPU, NB, HT, etc. It seems anyone who knows anything about this stuff is either too lazy to write a book, or too busy for it or something.

If anyone has links to info on the topic Please share them.

This is something ive been contemplating for the last two years, and its started to pique my interest quite alot. Also it would be a great learning experience from start to finish.

PS: jsc If its not feasible then whats up with the homebrew Emulation devices (Stuff like the Pandora, Dingoo A320, GP2X, GP32x), Basically What im asking Is how does one learn to build something like this http://hackaday.com/2009/11/03/8-bit-device-quenches-ip... I know that hes probably worked with electronics for years. But so have I (maybe not quite as much as id like to have hoped though) and I dont have that kind of expertise.





Hi there, i cant go too much into detail, for obvious reasons , but IF your still looking to work on making a motherboard, firstly prototype then manufacturing it, i would be very interested in talking to you
jw4241@googlemail.com
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July 1, 2014 12:21:52 AM

Well, what i can tell you is that back in 1978 ish my dad was building an 8080 / 8088 while he was working for Teletech (The first time).
and pretty much the garage motherboard ship has sailed. And Stealing tech in now illegal. So get ready to pay alot of royalties. And its true that Pegatron owns most of the motherboard makers ( Asus,Asrock,Gigabyte ect.) So,I share your pain in that the only real choices are what color scheme you want for your motherboard. And that only matters if you have a window in the side of your case and you still have it on your desktop.

PS, just asked my dad. and off the top of his head it's about $50K for a vanilla designed motherboard. Nothing "Made" or Tested. pretty much an AutoCad File.
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