The Motherboard

When you open up a computer, there's a lot of stuff inside. At the bottom, there is a hard sheet, often green but sometimes brown or other colors--which acts as a base, a foundation for many components to be attached to. This is the Motherboard.

The main parts on a motherboard include:

  • The CPU
  • RAM
  • PCI and PCIe cards
  • the clock battery
  • cable ports (e.g., USB, VGA, DVI, audio, etc.)
  • connectors (e.g., power, sound, HDD/DVD, etc.)

Motherboards can be made specially by computer makers; if you buy an Apple or Dell computer, for example, the motherboard will be a special one made for that manufacturer. However, there are a large number of them which are made for the DIY (Do It Yourself) crowd. These DIY motherboards are made to fit standards"standards" are agreed-upon designs which everyone follows. For example, a motherboard of a certain type will always be the same size, with the ports always in the same place, and holes for attachment by screws in the same pattern. so that you can depend on them fitting with other parts.

When you make your own computer, you usually choose the motherboard and CPU first, and then choose the other parts based on that original decision.

For DIY motherboards, there are three common types: ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX.

Mini ITX are the least popular, and are often used for low-power computers. More popular is the ATX form. ATX is for larger computer cases, where there is a lot of room for adding extra parts. Micro-ATX is for smaller cases, when you do not need extra hard drives or added video cards.

Some larger cases are made so they can take different types of motherboards; combination ATX and Micro-ATX cases are commonly found.

Motherboards are built to take only certain CPUs. You will learn more about CPU socket types in the next section.