Motherboard. The name itself invokes importance. Something that cannot be done without. Well, it’s true. A motherboard is the largest component of your CPU case and connects all the other components, helping them work and communicate. If you opened the case and laid it horizontally, the large, flat, green plate you see is the motherboard. It contains the microprocessor, the RAM, expansion slots, chipset and battery, and will have a small fan fixed upon it. (Your microprocessor will be under this fan). Not all motherboards have the same things in the same places. However, there are certain positioning outlines called ‘form factors’ which all motherboards tend to use.
The most integral part of the motherboard is the CPU or the microprocessor. The CPU is placed into a socket on the motherboard, and not all CPU’s can fit into all sockets. Therefore, different processors are compatible with different motherboards.
For that reason, once you buy a motherboard, you can’t upgrade the CPU alone. The other component you want to look out for is the chipset. The chipset is integrated into the motherboard and it helps various components of the motherboard communicate. Different CPU’s are compatible with different chipsets, therefore it is essential to ensure that your CPU not only fits the socket, but is also compatible with the chipset.
A non-compatible motherboard-CPU combo is easy to avoid, since the CPU won’t fit the motherboard at all. However, the wrong kind of chipset would be detected only once you begin operating the PC, and it responds terribly slowly or erroneously. Nevertheless, just getting the latest microprocessor or motherboard isn’t enough. We mentioned before that the chipset helps connect various components to the CPU – but how exactly does it do this? The chipset is divided into two parts – the north bridge and the south bridge – for ease of administration. Both parts connect to various components through what are called as ‘buses’. A bus is a circuit and therefore will be difficult for you to identify, but it’s what helps data move from one component to another. Different types of buses connect different components on a motherboard to the north or south bridge depending on the form factor of the motherboard. The north and south bridges are also connect by a bus. The bus speed is given in hertz (60-800) and determines your final CPU speed. A slow bus will slow down even the best of motherboards and processors.
Now for the RAM – probably the most talked about component. For your processor to execute commands fast, it needs very quick access to its own memory. Random Access Memory provides access to whatever memory the CPU needs quickly and consistently. RAM cards are thin rectangular strips that fit into slots specifically made for them. Again, every memory does not fit every slot. Also, every motherboard has a RAM limit – this means memory beyond a certain capacity isn’t supported. The maximum capacity of a RAM is 1 GB. Consider what you will be using the PC for, in order to know how much RAM you will require. The more software and games you want to run, the higher the RAM capacity required.
The motherboard has two slots for the RAM – you can use one or both, depending on how much memory you require. The RAM can be upgraded from time to time, i.e. its capacity can be increased. However, you will still have to stick to RAM compatible with the motherboard.
For a motherboard to work it is essential that all these components be compatible. Non-compatibility gives you very low speeds and your machine will soon stop acting like one. The latest motherboards, however, come with all these components previously installed and are already compatible. All you need to do is screw the motherboard on to the cabinet to get going.