What is a motherboard?

All general-purpose computers and other expandable systems have the main circuit board which is known as a motherboard. All kinds of communication between the crucial electronic components are carried out through the motherboard only. It provides connectors for all peripherals and central processing units or CPUs. It is the foundation of a computer system designed specifically for types of processors and memory.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

Every electronic device uses a Printed Circuit Board(PCB) for performing functions. Every device works on a circuit board. Some use single-layered boards for simple operations whereas others use multi-layered boards for complex operations. Computers use multi-layered boards that go up to 60 layers where each layer is of high density and high speed. Printed Circuit Boards(PCBs) use components like semiconductors, connectors, capacitors, diodes, and resistors to build the circuit. A PCB board has two functions. It is used to attach the electric components using soldering. Every component has a designated spot on the PCB. Another advantage of using a PCB board is that the electrical connections between the components are inbuilt. The connection sound is made using connectors that are laid out in a particular pattern that connects each component. PCB board uses copper-plated holes called vias. The vias are used to connect conductive layers. This is a controlled manner connection that is a cost-effective way for the production of devices.

PCBs can be classified into different types based on the number of layers. A single copper layer PCB is called a single-sided PCB. If PCB has two copper layers and one substrate layer, then it is a double-sided PCB. If an outer and inner copper layer is present with alternating layers of the substrate, then the PCB is a multilayer PCB. The use of surface mount technology has increased the use of multi-layered PCBs in electronic devices. The disadvantage associated with using multi-layered PCB is that it is impossible to practically repair or modify the circuit. In computers, PCB boards are attached to the CPU of the computer.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The main processor or the central processor of a computer is the brain of the computer system. All computer programs and instructions are executed in the CPU. It consists of all processors, motherboards, and main memory units. CPU or main processor comprises the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) and control unit. An instruction cycle contains a series of fetch, decode, and execution steps.


CC BY-SA 4.0 | Image credits- https://upload.wikimedia.org | Marcin Wieslaw

The motherboard is used by the system to establish communication between the component and the memory of a computer system. It is made up of a collection of subsystems that are integrated together to perform operations. Since the computer consists of various processes, a communication medium is designed accordingly to fit the needs of each processor. The drivers that are used in the computer are mostly universal and will work with all motherboards.

A motherboard is a PCB that is attached to every component and each component is known as a daughterboard. It is also known as a mainboard that covers every embedded system in a computer. The invention of motherboards played an important part in reducing the size of the computer. Before that invention, a cage-like structure made with multiple printed boards was used.

A desktop computer mainly consists of the microprocessor and main memory. Video and graphical extensions are the external components that might be connected to the computer. All of these components will be connected to the motherboard.

Chipset is an important part of the motherboard that controls the microprocessor. It creates an interface that acts between the central processing unit and the buses of external components. The data that is transferred between the components of a computer is known as a bus. It consists of USB ports to make connections. The capabilities and the features of the motherboard are determined by the chipset that is embedded inside it.

 The main features of a modern motherboard are:

  • CPU socket
  • Memory socket
  • Expansion card socket
  • Integrated circuit
  • Non-volatile memory chip
  • Driver connectors
  • clock pulse generator
  • Heat sink
  • USB port or USB socket
  • IDE Connector

CPU slots

CPU slot or CPU socket is the connection made between the microprocessor and the motherboard. Different types of sockets are designed for different processors. A motherboard can accommodate multiple central processors and each can be of a different type.

Memory slot

The memory slot is also known as the Random Access Memory slot. A single motherboard can contain multiple memory slots depending on the type of memory used. SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) and DDR(Double Data Rate) are used for desktop systems whereas SODIMM(Synchronous Dual Inline Memory Module) is used for laptop systems. This classification is made on the basis of speed requirement and operation requirement.

Expansion card slot

It is a slot for inserting required expansion cards into the motherboard. Each expansion slot is made to accommodate a particular type of process card. AGP and VESA slots can accommodate video cards. ISA and PCI can accommodate network cards. Peripheral Component Interconnect express (PCI express)  bus is inserted in a system using the motherboard expansion slot. PCIe 4.0 is accommodated in all-new designs of Intel and ASUS motherboard.

Integrated circuit (IC)

A silicon packing of various circuits that perform a particular task is an Integrated Circuit. It is also known as a microelectronic circuit, microchip, or chip. The whole circuit is mounted on a single silicon chip. It is smaller and efficient compared to conventional circuits. It has active devices such as transistors and diodes, and passive devices such as capacitors and resistors.

Non-volatile memory chip

It is to connect the non-volatile memory that stores information even after the power is switched off.

USB ports

Motherboards consist of inbuilt USB ports for adding new components to their system. Different varieties of ports from type A to Type C or USB C are available on the latest motherboard.

Types of motherboards

A wide variety of motherboards are available in today's market. Each motherboard type is manufactured for a particular function. For instance, there are motherboards manufactured especially for gaming purposes. Gaming motherboards require high storage and a heavier heatsink due to prolonged use. Therefore, the motherboard will be designed according to the features that are required. The major manufacturers of motherboards are Intel, ASUS, Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI. Intel motherboards are mainly used in desktop and laptop computer systems. ASUS manufactures the top gaming motherboards available in the market. Different forms of factors available in the market are AT, ATX, mini-ITX, BTX, and LPX boards.

ATX motherboard

Advanced technology extended – ATX motherboard is an intel-developed motherboard. They were used to replace Baby-AT boards in 1996. It has advanced form factors compared to other available motherboards. ATX motherboard can monitor CPU temperature and can detect overheating. It has the BIOS program that manages the advanced control facilities.

It consists of an input-output panel, socket 7 types, and USB portals. Latest-model consists of Molex power supply connectors. It has better installation and ventilation.

Gaming motherboards

Gaming is an e-sport. A good gaming system consists of a gaming motherboard that helps to maintain the high-speed functionality of the computer for the longer run. Intel and ASUS create a range of motherboards with attractive technologies like PCIe 4.0. They offer high-speed RAM support and USB ports. It facilitates the prolonged use of the system with the help of an efficient heat sink and fans.

The top designer in manufacturing motherboards is Intel. Intel motherboards are made with high-performance graphic cards. Intel motherboards are available in every budget and can accommodate multiple DDR4 memory sticks. Intel motherboard offers a Z370 chipset. The consumer can choose any type of motherboard form factor ranging from ATX to micro-ATX.

The world’s most high-end gaming motherboard is from the X570 motherboard range. They have socket AM4 and supports intel. Z490-A, Z590-A, Z590-E, and Z590-PLUS are some other top ranges that can support multiple drives and offers extensible heatsink.

Some top running gaming motherboards are

  • ASUS TUF Gaming Z590 with Wi-Fi (supports intel computer processor)
  • MSI Gaming Z87 MPOWER MAX (supports intel computer processor)
  • ASUS TUF Gaming H570-PRO (supports intel computer processor)
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97X Gaming G1(supports intel computer processor)
  • ASUS ROG Maximus VI (supports intel computer processor)
  • AMD B450-F TOMAHAWK MAX (supports intel and ryzen computer processor)
  • AMD B550-F ATX gaming motherboard (supports intel and ryzen computer processor)

Context and Applications

Bachelors in Computer Science.

Masters in Computer Science.

Practice Problems

1) Which of the following is not a computer processor?

  1. Intel
  2. RYZEN
  3. ASUS
  4. All of these

Answer: c

Explanation: Intel core and AMD RYZEN are the two top computer processors available.

2) What is the use of a heatsink in a motherboard?

  1. To absorb heat from the computer to prevent overheating
  2. To reduce the production of heat
  3. To slow down the process
  4. To stop the system when it overheats

Answer: a

Explanation: The heatsink is made of tooth-like metal structures to absorb the heat produced by the computer to prevent overheating.

3) What is the function of a chipset in a motherboard?

  1. To prevent overheating
  2. Control memory
  3. Control CPU
  4. None of these

Answer: c

Explanation: The chipset is used to control the CPU. It can control multiple microprocessors at a time.

4) Which of the following describes the physical features of a motherboard?

  1. processor
  2. clock trigger
  3. chipset
  4. form factor

Answer: d

Explanation: The form factor defines the dimensions and all physical specifications of the motherboard.

5) Which of the following memory socket is used in desktop systems?

  1. DDR
  2. SDRAM
  4. both a and b

Answer: d

Explanation: Desktop computers use DDR and SDRAM memory types.

Common Mistakes

Choosing the right motherboard for a computer system requires heavy research to get the best option from the market. Consumers can make mistakes by choosing a motherboard that doesn’t fit their needs. Most motherboards support the basic functions and invest in the specialized ones that should be done when the application is frequent. Otherwise, getting a gaming motherboard is not a necessity to play games on a computer.

Designing motherboards require high skill and professional qualifications. Mistakes can be made while laying the conductor network and soldering. This can lead to short circuits and loss of resources. Hence, the quality check of motherboards is a necessary factor for the manufacturers.

  • Gaming PC
  • CPU
  • Intel processors
  • RYZEN processors

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