Motherboard or Main board

A motherboard can last decades or can be destroyed by the turn of a screw...
Ah, my favorite subject. Main boards are the heart of the computer. Where as the CPU is the engine.

The term motherboard  (main board) came about with the advent of the IBM PC, the memory, processor, and controlling chips were on one board, while all input and out put was done by a board (called "Daughter boards" now called "add on cards") that was inserted into a slot. An ASUS P5k motherboard (installed in my tower case) note the 775 socket, the SATA interface connectors, and the large heat sink that has the AI logo on it.

You had one board that had the keyboard, one serial, one parallel, floppy drive port, and video, it was monochrome (single color, mainly GREEN it was called a daughter board. You could also have a color video board you inserted, a CGA (Color Graphics Adapter) and have 16 or 256 colors (depending on if you wanted a Volkswagen or a Corvette).

Today most Main boards  have all the components embedded on the board, video, sound, keyboard, mouse, serial, parallel, network adapter, floppy drive (obsolete), hard drive/CD/DVD ROM controller, and USB. Some manufactures are so short sighted that they do not give you any slots to upgrade with. What you buy is what you get, no upgrading them, the unfortunate thing is they are not any cheaper than one with expansion slots.

Why is the motherboard called the heart of the computer?

Because everything connects to the main board, all the connections go into the main board by way of small wires that are embedded on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) that are called traces. Each trace eventually gets to the processor through different means. Like a railroad track that has switch over or switch back tracks the motherboard has "chip sets" of ICs (Integrated Circuits) that route the data from one place to another until it gets to the processor for manipulation.

Take a key press on your keyboard, the key is pressed a circuit closes, a signal is generated that is sent to the keyboard controller, then the controller says ah-hah a "p" was pressed, it then sends that information to the processor, the processor takes the code and says ah-hah, a "p" was pressed, the word processor is open so the code goes to the word processor program. The word processor program say, yes, a "p" was pressed and the cursor is at this place on the document, it then sends a message to the processor to do two things:

  1. It tells the processor to store the code for the "p" in memory and the location.
  2. It tells the processor to display the "p" on the video and at what location.

Then it releases the processor to go to other tasks until the keyboard or pointer (mouse) does something else for the word processor program.

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If you are considering on upgrading or building your own system consider what you want the computer to do. My main system case is over ten years old, it has seen five mother boards and processors from the 386 to the Core 2 Quad.

Now the question is: Is a motherboard upgrade cheaper than a new computer? Answers will vary but if you only upgrade the main board, processor, and memory yes it will be cheaper.

When you make your list for the upgrade list all the components in one column, the function in another, and the cost in another. Then go to the web and research. Check different manufactures for the embedded functions, mouse, keyboard, network, video (if you are not worried about high resolution) and sound. If you are going to reuse your existing case check the dimensions of the new motherboard. Make sure that it will fit.

Then check the motherboard for upgrades:

CPU: What processor fits the board? Are you just upgrading the Main board and keeping the old cpu you have now? Can you upgrade to a faster cpu later? Can you set the clock speed on it? Also check the type of "slot" or "Zif socket" for your desired processor, your old processor may not work on the new board.

Does it have slots? How many? What type? PCI and APG are on the way out, the newer cards are PCI-Express, they have a different pin out and will not fit older boards. It may be cheaper in the short run to get a board that is out of production that has all the features you need but remember it is a dead end because the technology is moving on.

Check the type of ram that the board uses. Is it DDR or DIMM? Does your application need more to work smother? Ram upgrades are one of the cheapest upgrades you can do to get the most "bang for your buck".

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You keyboard isn't thirsty, and it doesn't need calcium. Milk and other liquids will ruin a keyaboard!


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