A motherboard is a vital component in a computer, serving as its central circuit board. It provides connectivity and power distribution to other hardware components. The motherboard houses the CPU, RAM slots, expansion slots, and other essential connectors. It acts as a hub for data transfer and facilitates communication between different parts of the computer system. In this article, we will learn about Motherboard in a Computer, its Parts, Types, Components, Factors, Uses, and Northbridge vs Southbridge.
What is a Motherboard in a Computer?
One of the most important parts of the computer system is the motherboard. And also, the motherboard holds together the most crucial components of a computer which includes the central processing unit(CPU), memory, and connectors for input and output devices.
The motherboard base consists of non-conductive material, like rigid plastic. There is a print of a thin layer of copper or aluminum foil onto this sheet. However, the aluminum traces are very narrow and form the circuits between the various components. Along with the circuits, the motherboard contains a number of sockets and slots to connect the other components. The motherboard allows communication between RAM, ROM, hard drive and other hardware components of computer.
Parts of the Motherboard
Depending on the make and model of the computer, the motherboard varies. When the user takes out the motherboard from the compute, can see different parts inside them.
Fig:2 Parts of Motherboard
A user should know on how the computer works. But not necessarily he should know the about every single parts of the motherboard. However, its good to know about few parts and how the motherboard connects the various parts of the system together.
The Parts and their Functions
The motherboard in a computer comprises several essential components:
1. CPU Socket
This slot allows for the installation of the central processing unit (CPU), facilitating communication with other motherboard components. There is a combination of CPU directly onto the socket. Due to high speed the CPUs generate a lot of heat. Right next to the CPU socket, there are heat sinks and mounting points for fans.
2. Power Connectors
Power connectors on the motherboard facilitate power supply from the power supply unit (PSU) to its components. The overall power supplied to the system is 110 ac power. About 20 pins maintain the power supply to the computer system.
3. RAM Slots
These slots accommodate the random access memory (RAM) modules, providing temporary storage for quick data access by the CPU.
In the form of DRAM chips, we see the slots for the system’s main memory.
The chipset, consisting of integrated circuits, manages data flow between the CPU, memory, and peripheral devices, overseeing motherboard’s operations. Two big Chip can be seen in it. They are North Bridge and South Bridge. The combination of Northbridge and Southbridge is well knowns as chipset.
4.1 North Bridge
Among the CPU, main memory and other components, a chip acts as an interface. This is in turn referred to as the Northbridge on many types of motherboard. This chip also contains a huge heat sink.
4.2 South Bridge
The second chip controls the input and output functions. However, this is not directly connected to the CPU but to the Northbridge. This input/output controller is also known as Southbridge. The southbridge handles those connections which provides the physical interface between the input and output devices and the motherboard.
The motherboard includes various connectors, such as USB ports, audio jacks, Ethernet ports, and video output ports, enabling peripheral device connections.
In order to store the files, there are one or more hard drive slots. The Integrated Drive Electronics(IDE) and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment(SATA) are the most common types of connections.
The motherboard firmware, known as BIOS or UEFI, provides initial startup instructions and hardware initialization. In the computer system, a read-only memory(ROM) chip has the firmware or the startup instructions called as BIOS.
7. Expansion Slots
These slots enable the addition of expansion cards like graphics cards, sound cards, or network cards, enhancing the motherboard’s capabilities. There are two different types of slots which includes Accelerated Graphics Port(AGP) and Pheripheral Component Interconnect Express(PCIe). The user can connect additional slots through Pheripheral Component Interconnect Express(PCIe).
The Industry Standard Architecture is used for expansion bus and to connect input devices and modems. The Industry Standard Architecture is used for expansion bus and to connect input devices and modems.
9. CMOS Battery
In order to store the BIOS settings on motherboard, there is use of the CMOS batteries. The CMOS battery is having the ability to save the data and time in it.
Functions of Motherboard
As we all know, the motherboard is the primary component in the computer system. It is used to connect all the parts of the computer system in order to perform several tasks and functions. It is like the spine of the system as it is connecting to a single circuit board to perform their functions.
However, the user must be very careful in using the system and motherboard, as it’s a very costly device and at the time of damage, the user has to spend lot of money to get the new motherboard.
Component List in Motherboard
Fig:3 Northbridge and Southbridge
- Heat sink
- Parallel port
- Back pane connectors
- IC (integrated circuit)
- PCI slot
- Memory slot
- USB headers
- Super I/O
- Serial port connector
- Serial ATA connections
- System panel connectors
Difference Between North Bridge and South Bridge in Motherboard
We came across the northbridge and southbridge as an component in the motherboard. However, there are few differences among them which are as follows and the image for the reference-
|Attached towards the north side of the motherboard.||Attached towards the south of PCI bus of the motherboard.|
|Connected directly to the CPU.||Connected through northbridge to the CPU.|
|Manages the communication between the CPU and the other parts of the motherboard.||Manages the input and output functions.|
|Communicates faster than southbridge.||Communicates slower than northbridge.|
|Large in size||Small in size|
Different Types of Motherboard
The motherboards make their presence in desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. But the functionalities and the components are all same. However, the size of the components, their way of accommodating on the board may vary because of the space availability. When it comes to desktop, most of the components will be fixed inside the sockets provided on the board and that’s easy to replace them separately. But in case of laptops/smartphones, some of the components are soldered on the board, and it is difficult to replace or upgrade it.
Fig: 4 Types of Motherboard
There are various types of motherboards available to accommodate different needs and form factors. Below are some of the most common types of motherboards available in the market:
- ATX Motherboard
- Micro-ATX (mATX)
- Mini ITX Motherboard
- E-ATX (Extended ATX)
- ITX (Information Technology eXtended)
- BTX (Balanced Technology eXtended)
ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended. They are the most commonly used type, offering a standard size and a wide range of expansion slots and connectors suitable for standard desktop computers.
Micro-ATX motherboards are smaller than ATX but still offer a decent number of expansion slots and connectors. They are often used in compact desktop systems or budget-oriented builds.
Mini-ITX motherboards are the smallest form factor available. They are compact and typically used in small form factor (SFF) or ultra-compact PCs where space is a constraint. Despite their size, they still offer a limited number of expansion slots and connectors.
E-ATX (Extended ATX)
E-ATX motherboards are larger than ATX and provide additional expansion slots and connectors. They are commonly used in high-end gaming or workstation systems that require multiple GPUs or other expansion cards.
ITX (Information Technology eXtended)
ITX motherboards are designed for embedded systems or specialized applications where size and power consumption are critical. They come in different variants like Nano-ITX, Pico-ITX, and others.
BTX (Balanced Technology eXtended)
BTX motherboards were an alternative to ATX with a different layout aimed at improving thermal performance. However, BTX motherboards are not widely used today and have been largely phased out.
Benefits of a Motherboard
Motherboards offer several benefits that enhance the performance and functionality of computer systems. Here are some key advantages:
Motherboards serve as the central hub that connects and integrates all major components of a computer system, enabling seamless communication and data transfer between the CPU, RAM, storage devices, expansion cards, and peripherals.
Motherboards are designed to be compatible with specific CPUs, RAM modules, and expansion cards, ensuring proper fit and functionality. This compatibility maximizes system performance and stability.
Expansion and Upgradability
Motherboards feature expansion slots and connectors that allow for the installation of additional hardware components. This enables users to easily upgrade or expand their system by adding graphics cards, sound cards, network adapters, or other expansion cards.
With various form factors, features, and connectivity options, motherboards enable users to customize their computer systems according to their specific requirements and preferences. This customization ranges from choosing a compact Mini-ITX motherboard for a small form factor PC to a high-end ATX motherboard for gaming or professional workstations.
Many motherboards include features that optimize system performance, such as advanced power delivery systems, overclocking capabilities, and efficient cooling solutions. These features allow users to push their hardware to achieve higher performance levels when desired.
Motherboards incorporate firmware, such as BIOS or UEFI, which provides low-level control and configuration options for the system. Users can adjust settings related to boot order, hardware configurations, and system performance, offering flexibility and customization.
Reliability and Stability
Motherboards are built with high-quality components and undergo stringent testing to ensure reliability and stability. A well-designed motherboard provides a solid foundation for a stable and long-lasting computer system.
Important Aspects for Selections of Motherboard
When selecting a motherboard for a computer, several factors should be taken into account:
1. Form Factor
The form factor determines the physical size and shape of the motherboard, ensuring compatibility with the computer case. Common form factors include ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX.
2. Socket Type
The socket type of the motherboard should match the CPU being used. Different CPUs require specific socket types, such as Intel LGA or AMD AM4.
3. Expansion Slots
The number and type of expansion slots on the motherboard are crucial for connecting additional hardware components like graphics cards, sound cards, and network cards. Common expansion slot types include PCIe.
4. RAM Support
The motherboard should support the desired type and capacity of RAM modules. Consider the supported RAM speed and the number of available RAM slots.
5. Connectors and Ports
Check the availability and type of connectors and ports on the motherboard, including USB ports, audio jacks, Ethernet ports, and video output options like HDMI or DisplayPort.
6. Storage Interfaces
Consider the supported storage interfaces such as SATA or M.2 slots for connecting hard drives and solid-state drives.
7. Power Delivery
Ensure the motherboard has the necessary power connectors for the CPU and other components.
8. Features and Expansion
Look for additional features like onboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, overclocking capabilities, and the availability of onboard headers for additional USB or fan connectors.
9. Brand and Quality
Choose a reputable motherboard manufacturer known for producing high-quality and reliable products.
By considering these factors, you can select a suitable motherboard that meets your specific requirements and is compatible with your chosen components.
The motherboard is another type of circuit board installed in the computer system to connect all the components of the system. We can differentiate the formations of the motherboard based on their budgets, needs, requirements and speed. The motherboard is the central hub, all the computer devices connected with it.
The form factors will play a key role as the computer accepts many shapes because of digital application needs through which computer needs to be inbuilt in the machines. Going forward, the nature and size of the motherboard will undergo changes.
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