If this is your first time working on a motherboardー either you just want to tinker around or plan to build or upgrade your PC, you might feel overwhelmed and think that this piece of board is something that only an expert can understand.
While it might be jarring at first, modern motherboards compared to the ones in the past, are way easier to work on as most manufacturers today provide motherboard components and their functions PDF on their websites or come prepackaged in the box.
We will be borrowing the Asus Prime X470-Pro motherboard and its rear ports for the diagram demonstration as it has good contrast to better highlight the components. These motherboard capabilities are also quite complete for modern standards.
Motherboard components diagram
|1. CPU socket||2. Chipset||
3. DIMM/RAM slots
|4. PCIe x16 slot||5. PCI x1 slot||6. M.2 connector|
|7. SATA ports||8. Front panel connectors||
9. USB 2. header
|10. USB 3.1 Gen1 header||11. USB 3.1 Gen2 header||
12. ATX power connector
|13. CPU power connector||14. BIOS chips||
15. CMOS battery
|16. Fan headers||17. Front panel header||
18. VRM heatsink
|19. COM/Serial header||20. TPM header||21. RGB header|
In the illustration above, we’ve provided a number to highlight which part is which to help better understand the name of the components. Once you know what you’re looking at, it will be a walk in the park when you start assembling your PC.
Do note that each motherboard might be a bit different in its component placement however generally the highlighted components in the illustration above should be present in all motherboards.
If it still feels a bit too complicated then in a nutshell, the components that you need to look at when you build a PC are:
A CPU socket is a socket that you use to put your CPU or processor. Some processor manufacturers like Intel have a different socket type each time they release a new generation of their processor whilst AMD tend to stick with the same socket until they release a new entire generation.
You can check the compatibility of the sockets by searching your processor on Google and look if the socket matches the processor. Do note though, even though AMD tends to use the same socket for multiple generations, sometimes you also need to check whether that motherboard has the BIOS that supports them or if it needs to be updated.
Just as described in its name, this component is a place where you attach your RAM sticks. Some motherboards have 4 slots and some have 2.
When installing a RAM kit which usually comes with 2 sticks in a 4-slot motherboard, we highly recommend that you either install them in slot 2 & 4 or 1 & 3 configuration as it will activate its dual-channel feature.
PCIe x16 Slot
This PCIe slot is where you put your GPU card. Most motherboards have a silver plate surrounding them to help differentiate them from the other PCIe slots.
PCIe x1 Slots
These PCIe slots serve as a place where you can slot in your WiFi card, or USB port extensions if you have any. It is entirely optional.
Most of the time, this component is used to install your M.2 SSD. It can be a normal SATA M.2 or NVMe SSDs.
This port is used for you to connect your storage to the motherboard. You can install either the normal SATA Hard Drive or SATA SSD to this port.
Front Panel Header
A front panel header is probably the most frustrating component to install due to how small it is. This header is responsible for communicating between your PC case and your motherboard. Without properly installing this, even if you click to power on your PC, it will not boot up.
Above is a simple illustration of how to configure the front panel connectors.
USB 2. Header and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 2 Header
This header is used if your case has external USB 2 and/or 3 ports.
ATX Power Connector and CPU Power Connector
These 2 connectors are responsible for delivering power from your PSU directly to the motherboard.
In most motherboards, there may be multiple fan headers scattered across the boards. The one in this highlight is most commonly used to power up your CPU fan cooler or fan radiator.
The fan header that is meant for the CPU is usually labeled with “CPU_FAN” and “CPU_OPT” if the cooler has multiple fans that need to be powered individually.
Other fan headers can usually be found in the lower section of the motherboard’s components labeled “SYS_FAN”
22. PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse port 23. USB 3.0/3.1 Gen1 ports
24. DisplayPort 25. HDMI port
26. USB Type-C 27. USB 3.1 Gen2
28. Ethernet port 29. Analog/digital audio ports
While it’s not present in this motherboard, there is also one more port that is still a bit common to be found in several recent motherboards, which is the VGA port.
All three video ports (HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA) are only used when your system doesn’t have a discrete GPU or if your processor has an iGPU and wants to use that GPU over the discrete.
The PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse port has also been rarely used nowadays since most peripherals have converted to USBs.
Understanding motherboard components and their functions might be a bit jarring at first. However, with enough practice and this “motherboard components explained” type of guide, we hope that it can help you understand better and perhaps spark an interest to further dive into the topic.
And while each motherboard might have different component placements, just focus on the essential parts first.