Motherboard – What is a motherboard -What are the components of a motherboard

What is a Motherboard?

Definition – Motherboard is a printed circuit board containing the principal components of a computer or other device, with connectors for other circuit boards to be slotted into. A motherboard is a printed circuit board (PCB), this board is referred to as mother of all the components attached to it.

What is Form factor?

Motherboards are produced in a variety of sizes and shapes called computer form factor. It includes the dimensions, power supply type, location of mounting holes, number of ports on the back panel, etc. For full article about form factor click here.

How a motherboard works?

The main job of a motherboard is to hold the microprocessor chip and connecting everything else to it. The microprocessor is attached to the motherboard with the help of chipset, which has two parts, a northbridge and a southbridge.

Northbridge – It is one of the two chips in the chipset and is connected directly to the CPU via the front-side bus (FSB) and is thus responsible for tasks that require the highest performance.

Southbridge – It is one of the two chips in the chipset and is slower than the northbridge, and information from the CPU goes through the northbridge before reaching the southbridge. Other busses connect the southbridge to the PCI bus, the USB ports and the IDE or SATA hard disk connections.

When computer is turned on, power is sent from the power supply unit to the motherboard. Data goes through the northbridge and southbridge part of the chipset with the help of data buses.

The northbridge part bridges data to the CPU, PCIe, and RAM.

The southbridge part bridges data to the BIOS, USB, SATA, and PCI. BIOS allow the computer to boot up. Data from the SATA is used to power up video, network, and sound cards.

All the parts of the mother board works together, data is transmitted to different components of motherboard through data buses.

Components attached to a motherboard


Basic Input/Output System is a non volatile firmware used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process. The BIOS firmware comes pre-installed on a personal computer’s system board, and it is the first software to run when powered on.

Input/Output Ports

The I/O ports is built to connect the monitor, speakers, a microphone, an Ethernet networking cable and multiple USB devices. Click here to learn about input/output ports.

Storage Device Connectors

A computer needs hard disk drives, optical drives, solid state drives and floppy drives to store the data. So it is connected to the motherboard o fulfill the needs of storage components on the computer.

Power Supply unit

Motherboard needs electric power to run so it is connected to a power supply unit which is an electrical device that supplies electric power to an electrical load.

CPU Socket

CPU socket helps to install the processor into the Motherboard. Processor sockets use a pin grid array (PGA) where pins on the underside of the processor connect to holes in the processor socket. Principal components of a CPU include the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) that performs arithmetic and logic operations, processor registers that supply operands to the ALU and store the results of ALU operations. Click here to learn about CPU.

RAM (Memory) Slots

A motherboard may have more than one slots, and it is positioned near the CPU socket. if the processors have a large amount of RAM, it can operate the computer more smoothly and surely it helps to increase the performance of the computer. Click here to learn about RAM.

SATA connector

SATA is the abbreviation of “Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.” Important to realize, it is the latest connectors with 7-pin interface. It is used to connect the SATA hard disks or optical drives. It is faster and better than the IDE Connector.

IDE connector

Responsible for connecting the IDE cord used for hard disks, CD drives, and DVD drives. IDE is the short form of “Integrated Drive Electronics”.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) Port

There are usually a couple of these ports located on each motherboard used for connecting pen drives and external hard drives. Click here to learn about Bus in computer.

Sound Card Connectors

For connecting audio devices including speakers or headphone this sound card connectors are used.

Display Connector

It helps to connect the monitor to the motherboard.

Heat sink

Given the high thermal design power of high-speed computer CPUs and components, modern motherboards nearly always include heat sinks and mounting points for fans to dissipate excess heat.

CPU Clock

The CPU clock synchronizes the operation of all parts of the PC and provides the basic timing signal for the CPU. Using a quartz crystal, the CPU clock breathes life into the microprocessor by feeding it a constant flow of pulses. For example, a 200 MHz CPU receives 200 million pulses per second from the clock. A 2 GHz CPU gets two billion pulses per second. Similarly, in any communications device a clock may be used to synchronize the data pulses between sender and receiver.
A “real-time clock,” also called the “system clock,” keeps track of the time of day and makes this data available to the software. A “time-sharing clock” interrupts the CPU at regular intervals and allows the operating system to divide its time between active users and/or applications.

A typical desktop computer has its microprocessor, main memory, and other essential components connected to the motherboard. Other components such as external storage, controllers for video display and sound, and peripheral devices may be attached to the motherboard as plug-in cards or via cables; in modern microcomputers it is increasingly common to integrate some of these peripherals into the motherboard itself.

With the advancement in technology and decrease in cost of production of integrated circuits it is now possible to add many peripherals on the motherboard.

  1. Disk controllers for a floppy disk drive, up to 2 PATA( Parallel ATA) drives, and up to 6 SATA( Serial ATA) drives.
  2. Integrated graphics controller, sound card.
  3. Fast Ethernet network controller
  4. Up to 12 USB ports
  5. IrDA controller for infrared data communication (e.g. with an IrDA-enabled cellular phone or printer)
  6. Temperature, voltage, and fan-speed sensors.

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