Motherboards

OK, so you know it's important in the "grand scheme of things", and you're confident every computer's got to have one, but do you actually know which sort of motherboard your desktop PC contains? Chances are, you'd have to go and look it up.

You're not alone. When weighing up the components of a PC they intend to buy, most people first check the processor and clock speed, then the size of the hard drive, and will probably also have a peek at which graphics card is lurking inside. This is a perfectly legitimate way of sizing up a PC, but the motherboard is crucial, too. Often, however, when it comes to evaluating a system, the motherboard rarely gets a look in.

Those who are upgrading their existing systems, or building new ones may also look at the components they need to improve or optimise system performance, but will often forget the impact the motherboard can have on the whole package. For instance, your motherboard needs to be able to handle the type of expansion you require, such PCI slots, FireWire ports or Serial ATA (SATA) ports.

Never fear - PC World has put together this comprehensive buying guide on motherboards, to tell you what this mystery component is and how it functions. This guide is also designed to equip you with the criteria you need to choose the right motherboard for your PC setup.


What is a motherboard?


Also sometimes referred to as the system board or main board, the motherboard is the physical board that houses the computer's basic circuitry and components, and is perhaps the most important feature of your system.

If you consider the processor as the brain of your machine, the motherboard is the central nervous system, responsible for relaying information between all the internal components. It's the bit that all the other bits plug into. In other words, the motherboard is the electronic glue that pulls together all the parts that make up the PC and presents you with a working machine. While the motherboard itself is unlikely to make your machine operate any more quickly (this will be determined by the speed of your CPU), it is essential to have a stable, reliable unit on which to build the rest of the system.

The motherboard plays home not only to your processor and memory, but also all of your expansion cards, such as your graphics controller, your hard drive and CD-ROM connectors, plus external ports. It houses the BIOS (the basic input/output system), an integral part of the PC that controls the simplest configuration of your machine, and performs the POST (power on self-test) health check when you switch on your machine. It also manages the data flow between the computer's operating system and attached peripheral devices.


Differences between motherboards

All motherboards are not born equal, and you can encounter myriad differences. The most important is the type of processor it supports. In addition, there will be memory module slots; expansion slots (such as PCI, PCIe and AGP) so you can add extras like sound and graphics cards; support for the hard and CD-ROM drives; and, finally, connectors for keyboard, mouse and peripherals. It's also becoming quite common for certain models of board to have some built-in basic sound or graphic capabilities, and even integrated networking capabilities. Some motherboards even have 2 network ports built in!



Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?