Installing the Motherboard in your Homebuilt Computer
Installing the motherboard in your homebuilt computer usually is pretty easy (though sometimes knuckle-busting). Basically, you just line up the board with the mounting holes and rear-panel openings, and then screw it in. (If you purchased a barebones computer kit the motherboard may already be installed; in which case you can skip this page if you like.)
Read the Manual!
Before actually installing the motherboard, be sure to thoroughly read the motherboard manual (that's that paper thing that came in the box) to familiarize yourself with the board's layout and connections, to make absolutely sure that it is compatible with the processor and RAM that you will be using, to make sure that the jumper settings, if any, are correct, and to check for any other warnings or instructions.
In most cases, you won't actually have to do anything to the motherboard. Most modern motherboards have a "jumper-free" option that can be selected (usually by setting a jumper, amusingly enough) that will allow you to control the motherboard settings from the keyboard during CMOS setup. When setting a jumper is required to enable the jumper-free settings, that jumper is usually pre-set that way from the factory.
Determine Which Mounting Holes You will be Using
In theory, the mounting hole locations are standardized within a given form factor; but in practice, it's a rare thing to find a case and motherboard whose mounting holes exactly correspond. More often, you will have to look at the mounting holes in the motherboard to determine which mounting holes on the case you will be using.
It's good practice to use all of the motherboard's mounting holes, but you probably won't use all of the case's mounting holes. Chances are that the case will have "extra" holes to accomodate different boards.
Installing the Standoffs
Once you have determined which mounting holes you will be using, you will need to insert standoffs in the corresponding holes in the computer case. Chances are that some of them will already be installed, and you will have to install the rest.
There are several types of standoffs, with the ones on the right being the most common. The purpose of standoffs is to separate the back of the motherboard from the metal case. You install the standoffs in the mounting holes in the case that correspond to the holes in your motherboard.
If you don't install the standoffs, then you will most likely damage your motherboard when you try to install it.
The standoffs are screwed or inserted into the chassis, and the mobo in turn is attached to the standoffs through the mounting holes in the motherboard. This creates a small space that prevents the back of the motherboard from shorting out against the metal case.
Again, don't be surprised if your motherboard has "extra" holes for which there are no corresponding holes in the case. This is normal. Very few cases and motherboards will match exactly. As long as you use all the mounting holes that do match, you'll be fine. (And there's no charge for the extra holes.)
Standoffs must NEVER be inserted into any of the "extra" holes, however. Standoffs installed in holes on the case that don't have corresponding holes in the motherboard can cause the motherboard to short out.
Finally, don't over-tighten the standoffs. Hand-tight plus a smidgen is enough. Most cases are made of thin metal that can strip if you over-tighten the standoffs.
Install the Motherboard
Usually, the easiest way to install a motherboard is to lay the motherboard over the standoffs slightly forward of the rear panel connectors, then slide it back into the rear panel connectors until the mounting holes line up. Make sure that you're not snagging any wires, then screw the board down.
Don't over tighten-the screws! You will crack the motherboard if you do, and then it will be useless! The screws should be snug, not excessively tight. Use a standard screwdriver, not an electric one. This is delicate stuff we're doing here.
Attach the Power Connectors
Finally, connect the ATX power connector from the power supply to the motherboard. Do this now. If you forget about it and later fire up your computer while the ATX connector is not connected to anything, then you will fry your computer's power supply.
On Pentium 4 and most other high-powered computers, you will also have to connect the P4 connector to the motherboard. You may also have to connect power to some high-end video cards and certain other components later on in the assembly process.
If you're not sure where the connections are, read your motherboard's manual.
At this point, take a look at the motherboard and case and once again review your assembly sequence plan to see what should be installed next. In our case, the next step was Installing the Processor.
- Assembling your New Computer