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The motherboard of a computer

We would not be wrong to maintain out loud that the computer’s motherboard is the main component of these devices, be they portable or desktop, since it connects all the hardware that is needed to carry out our daily tasks, that is, without motherboard would not have a place to connect the processor, RAM, disks or ports where we plug the printer, mouse or monitor.

In this same context, the capacity of the motherboard will also dictate how powerful the processor that we can install in it will be, or the type, amount and speed of RAM that we can use, that is, the mainboard on which the PC was built will be the one that will ultimately determine how far we will go with it.

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In this post we will know all the secrets of motherboards and their different types, which will allow us, for example, to know which is the right type of computer for what we plan to do just by looking at the motherboard model.

What is motherboard

A long time ago, motherboards were classified according to the type of bus architecture they had internally, which was really a problem, since we had to select and buy the components of the same, that is, the expansion boards as modems. and others according to the aforementioned type of bus, which meant a very big problem, since they were not compatible with each other, even more so if we had a computer with an EISA-type motherboard, for example.

Although with the passage of time motherboards have been simplified and standardized, the truth is that we still have to have even a minimum knowledge of this component to know, for example, how far a PC can be expanded without the motherboard being a stumbling block. This is because not all motherboards support the latest processor that came on the market, banks to install large amounts of memory or are compatible with USB 3.0, for example.

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At this point, the budget we have is essential. If we want a motherboard “with everything” or we simply want one that allows us to perform the tasks we usually do, but this point is already the subject of another article.

Returning to the importance of the motherboard in PC, the motherboard or mainboard, as it is also known, can be interpreted as the “backbone” of the computer, since it is the one that links all hardware devices.

Motherboard ports

So that all components of the PC, both internal, such as hard drives, and external, such as keyboard and mouse, are a unit and work simultaneously with the internal components of the motherboard, such as processor and memory, from which we will talk about later, the mainboard offers several types of connectors.

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The most used connector types in modern motherboards are SATA connectors for hard drives, the slot for the video card, the PCI slots that are used for the installation of the different expansion cards, auxiliary ports and other hardware that we need. We also have USB ports, VGA or HDMI ports to connect the monitor, printer ports, Ethernet, sound and other hardware, always depending on the motherboard model.

Motherboard size

With the advancement of technology, the size of computer motherboards was decreasing considerably. From those huge XT mainboards to the really small Mobile-ITX, motherboards today will fit in just about any cabinet.

He calls the size of motherboards “Form Factor”, and we should not be fooled by their dimensions, taking them as a reference of their capacity, since their size is independent of their power. This means that we can find from small but very powerful motherboards, with capacity for a lot of RAM and support for large processors, to large mainboards with little power.

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Basically, the aforementioned “Form Factor” only determines where we will be able to locate said motherboard. In the case of having a large cabinet, we can choose a Form Factor ATX or microATX, on the other hand, if we want to build a computer in a small cabinet, we can choose a Form Factor ITX.

Below these lines we will find a complete list with all the corresponding dimensions, that is, with the Form Factor, of the most modern motherboards on the market.

FORM FACTOR MOTHERBOARD MEASURE
WTX (356 × 425)
AT (350 × 305)
EATX (Extended) (305 × 330)
Ultra ATX (367 × 244)
BTX (325 × 267)
SSI CEB (305×267)
LPX (330 × 229)
ATX (305 × 244)
Baby-AT (330 × 216)
microBTX (264 × 267)
microATX (244 × 244)
Mini ATX (284 × 208)
NLX (254 × 228)
DTX (203 × 244)
FlexATX (229 × 191)
Mini-DTX (203 × 170)
EBX (203 × 146)
Mini-ITX (170 × 170)
EPIC (Express) (165 × 115)
Mini-STX (140 × 147)
ESM (149 × 71)
Nano-ITX (120 × 120)
COM Express (125 × 95)
ESMexpress (125 × 95)
ETX (114 × 95)
XTX (114 × 95)
NUC (102 × 102)
Pico-ITX (100 × 72)
PC / 104 (-Plus) (96 × 90)
ENMini (95 × 55)
SMARC (82 × 80)
Qseven (70 × 70)
mobile-ITX (60 × 60)
CoreExpress (58 × 65)

Motherboard with onboard components

Onboard-type motherboards are basically a type of motherboard where we can find various types of devices integrated to it, such as audio card, video card, network card, Wi-Fi card and others.

The main advantage offered by onboard motherboards is comfort, as for example in the case that we are building a PC, since we will not have to buy anything extra, all we need is a PC cabinet where to locate the necessary, the source power, connect everything and work.

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However, this same advantage can become a problem later, in the case of wanting to expand the capacity of the computer, since these types of onboard motherboards do not offer many expansion capabilities. In other words, if we need more video capacity and more audio capacity, we will have to opt, in most cases, for a single expansion, or think of other alternatives such as external devices.

On the other hand, if we choose a motherboard that does not offer this feature, we will always be able to make a better selection of hardware, since it is the user who will choose it according to their needs. It should be noted that generally, the latter type of motherboards is more expensive.

Motherboard parts

A motherboard is composed of various internal devices, which all working together, provide us with the functions of the computer that we usually enjoy daily.

Basically, all the components that we will mention below are soldered directly to the motherboard, that is, they are an indivisible part of it, and therefore cannot be eliminated, since without them the computer may not even turn on.

CPU

Also known as a microprocessor or processor, the CPU could be said to be the brain of the computer, as it is the absolute responsible for managing all aspects of what happens with the computer.

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From the time of the 80286 to the current i7, the processor is responsible for obtaining, decoding and executing the instructions of the program, as well as carrying out all the mathematical and logical calculations that are necessary to carry out a task.

As a general rule, we can easily identify the type and manufacturer of a processor by looking at the nomenclatures printed on the chip itself. In the case that the processor is not on the motherboard, we can always know what types of CPU it supports by identifying its socket.

These sockets are standard, but vary according to the type of CPU installed in them. In this sense, there are sockets from 1 to 8, LGA 775 or Socket 939, for Intel processors or AMD processors.

RAM

When we talk about RAM, by Read Access Memory, or random access memory in Spanish, we refer to computer chips that are capable of temporarily storing dynamic data, which avoids extra work for the processor by not having to search for programs and the data that these generate directly on the hard disk, which would actually make the whole system too slow.

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In a modern motherboard, we can find several memory banks or sockets, but we must be careful at this point because not all memories work in the same way, we can even have electrical problems. Each type of motherboard supports a single type of memory, which can be DDR2 or DDR3.

BIOS

Regardless of the type, architecture or value of the motherboard, all have the so-called BIOS (Basic Input Output System). This hardware is basically a small control software stored on a ROM memory chip that stores hardware configurations and information regarding the date and time.

To maintain the BIOS settings , a nickel-cadmium or lithium battery is used, which we will talk about later. In this way, even with the computer disconnected, it is possible to keep the system clock active, as well as the hardware configuration.

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CMOS

Motherboards include a small independent memory block made up of a RAM memory, known as a CMOS battery, with the purpose of keeping certain parameters of the computer stored, which prevents the user from having to reconfigure the PC each time it is turned on. which would become a real nuisance.

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This CMOS RAM is used to store basic information about the configuration of the PC, such as types of floppy disks and hard drives, information about the CPU, size and location of the RAM memory, date and time, port information. serial, parallel, USB and more, Plug and Play information and power saving settings, among many other parameters.

Expansion buses or slots

Expansion buses or slots are basically a form of data input and output from the CPU to peripherals and expansion boards. These expansion slots are located on the motherboard itself in the form of slot-shaped connectors. There we must connect all the expansion boards that we are adding to the computer. These slots or buses are responsible for carrying signals such as data, memory addresses, power current and control signals from component to component.

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Currently, the most widespread type of expansion slot among PCs and other hardware platforms around the world is called PCI . It should be noted that the expansion buses or slots may vary according to the type of motherboard architecture we have, however the aforementioned PCI is the current standard, and unless we have a computer dedicated to a specific function, we will not have problems at the time of enlarge our computer by this topic.

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Expansion buses or slots are the best way to extend the capacity of the PC, since they allow us to install various boards such as audio, video, network and others.

Chipset

Basically, the so-called Chipset is a group of chips that manage the flow of data to and from the key components of the computer. Among the components of the PC to which the Chipset coordinates the data are the CPU, the RAM memory, the secondary cache and any other device located on the expansion buses or slots.

This set of chips also controls the flow of data to and from hard drives and other devices connected to the SATA or IDE channels, according to the type of disk support that the motherboard has.

The term “Bridge” is used, in Spanish “Bridge”, mainly because this component is used to connect two components together.

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Today’s computers have two chipsets, which are responsible for various tasks:

The first one is called “NorthBridge”, also known as “memory controller”, which is in charge of controlling data transfers between the processor and RAM, for this purpose it is physically close to the processor.

The second chipset, called “SouthBridge”, also known as “Input and Output Controller”, is in charge of managing the data flow between the slowest devices in the chain.

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Storage unit connectors

Motherboards include everything we need so that we can connect our storage drives directly and seamlessly. Depending on the type of motherboard in question, we can find connectors of the IDE, ATA or SATA type , however in the most modern motherboards we only have SATA disk connectors, since it is the most modern data interface.

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In any case, in these connectors we will be able to connect hard drives and optical drives such as DVD and CD readers.

USB port connectors

Currently, a modern motherboard also has a series of USB ports whose purpose is to allow the connection of all kinds of devices to them, including printers, pen drives, scanners and others. It also has connectors welded to the motherboard that allow us to plug in brackets and connectors to expand the capacity of the computer in this regard.

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Most modern motherboards offer support for USB 3.0, however most of those that we can find in the market have USB 2.0 capability. In these cases, we can always buy a USB 3.0 expansion card and install it in an expansion slot, which will provide us with this function.

Video connectors

The monitor is the way that users can see the results of the tasks that the computer performs. Most of the newer motherboards offer some kind of possibility to connect a monitor to it, which allows us to start using it immediately. This connector is usually VGS, but as the norm is gradually disappearing, there are many mothers that offer connectivity through HDMI video.

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Printer connectors

While parallel printer connectors are rapidly disappearing in favor of USB, there are still some modern motherboards that offer them, primarily due to the fact that there are still many printers equipped with a parallel port in operation.

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Components connected to the motherboard

We can connect various devices to a motherboard thanks to the large number of options they offer, such as expansion buses or slots or USB ports. These are immovable components of the motherboards, since they are soldered to it, however some of them can be replaced by more powerful or faster components, because they are installed on a socket, which allows their removal and replacement without problems or complications.

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The components of a PC that can be replaced by being in a socket are the CPU, RAM memory, the CMOS clock battery, and hard drives and storage units such as DVDs and CDs.

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We can also replace with better components everything that is connected to the expansion slots or buses, such as the video card, the audio card, the network card, memory readers and any other hardware that is located in these. grooves.

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