A motherboard is the central printed circuit board of a computer. It is also known as the system board, baseboard, planar board, or the mainboard, while a lot of techies even call it “mobo” (slang). In Apple computers, it is called a logic board.

Uses of a Motherboard

A motherboard provides all the necessary electrical connections through which all the systems in the unit communicate. It also houses the Central Processing Unit, or CPU, and other computer subsystems, like peripheral interfaces and the real time clock.

Components of a Motherboard

A Motherboard contains the main memory, the microprocessor, and edge connectors that facilitate its connection to other external components. The external components are listed below.

External Components of a Motherboard

  • storage
  • video display controllers
  • sound controllers, and
  • peripheral tools (e.g. DVD-ROM, CD-ROM and USB Flash drive).

How a Motherboard Works

A motherboard’s functionality is directly proportional to a computer’s functionality. The heart of a motherboard is a chipset that contains the Northbridge and Southbridge chips. The Northbridge chip also known as the MCH, or Memory Control Hub, contains the RAM (Random Access Memory) and the AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) video card. The Southbridge chip, on the other hand, contains the PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) bus, Real Time Clock, and the USB port. Both chips define the extent of a motherboard’s capabilities.

Form Factor

The form factor refers to the shape and layout of the motherboard and this determines the placement of its components and the design of its case. Today, almost all commercial motherboards designs are for IBM-compatible computers. This is because these types of computers have captured 90% of the global computer market.

Laptop motherboards are compressed, customized, and very integrated. This is the reason why laptop computer repairs and software upgrading cost a lot.

Motherboard Maintenance

Air-cool the motherboards properly. Failure to do so will cause the motherboard to degrade in performance. Before the 1990s, passive cooling by one mounted fan on the power supply was enough for desktop CPUs. Since then, CPU fans have to be on heat sinks because of increased power consumption by computers.

Today, additional fans are mounted and many motherboards have temperature sensors for themselves and the CPU. Fan connectors from the motherboard to the BIOS regulate the fan speeds.