Motherboard Components: Their Functions

The motherboard is undoubtedly one of the most important, if not the most important, parts of a computer.

Sure, the RAM, video card and CPU are indicators of how a computer will perform but it is the motherboard that houses all and makes sure they perform at capacity. 

Anything and everything that is directly or indirectly connected, attached or even installed in a computer will be connected to the motherboard.

Think of the motherboard as the central nervous system of the body. It relays important information to all components to ensure that they have the right data and perform properly. 

Knowing what the function of each component is also a good way to determine how your computer works and what will be compatible with your computer. 

When you look at a motherboard, or often referred to as system board or main board, the different motherboard components seem to be too complicated or confusing. However, finding your way around this jungle of components is easier than you think.

Back Panel Connectors

One of the most recognizable motherboard components is the back panel where it houses all the different connectors or ports.

This is where all the ports and connectors are situated where external drives such as USB ports, display ports, Ethernet ports and all others are connected to your computer.

Motherboard Components Their Functions

CPU Socket

This is where the CPU is inserted. If the motherboard is the central nervous system of the computer, the CPU is the brain. When you look at a motherboard, the CPU socket is often protected with plastic. During installation this plastic is removed to install the CPU.

When choosing a motherboard, it is important that your CPU socket type is compatible with that of the motherboard. If it is not compatible then you will not be able to use both together.

PCI Slots

The Peripheral Component Interconnect or PCI is a slot for older expansion cards like a sound card, connector card and a network card. Older versions of a motherboard will still have the PCI slots.

​However, in the newer motherboards you will no longer see this as it has been replaced with PCI-Express x1 slots.

PCI-Express x1 slots

Just like the older PCI slots, the PCI-Express x1 slots works pretty much the same. However, these are slots for the newer expansion cards. You can insert sound cards or network cards such as Bluetooth, wifi, Ethernet to these slots.

You can also insert connector cards to the PCI-Express x1 slots like FireWire or USB. There are also certain low-end graphic cards that go into this slot.

PCI Express x16 Slot

Although the PCI Express x16 slot works much like the PCI Express or the PCI slots, it is more for discrete graphic cards and high bandwidth devices.

This is where high-end solid state drives are placed, if you plan to include that in your computer.

Front Panel USB 2.0 Connector

Another motherboard component that may be familiar is the front panel USB connector. As the name suggests, this is where USB 2.0 ports are connected. It can be located at the front or top of a computer case.

Front Panel Connectors

This is where the USB 2.0 connectors are located. This is also where the power button, reset button, front audio ports and LED lights are connected as well.

CMOS Battery

This component essentially supplies power so it can store BIOS settings. It also keeps the real time clock running.

SATA Connectors

You may have heard of SATA connectors but have absolutely no idea of what they are or what they do. SATA connectors basically connect modern drives into the computer. These can be hard disk drives, optical drives for data transfer or solid state drives.

Understanding the different components of a motherboard may not be high on your list of priorities but this will eventually play an important role in how you can troubleshoot your PC.

It can also help you a great deal if you are planning to build your own computer.

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