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Choosing a Motherboard

"You can't choose your mother, but you can choose your motherboard."

-- Some moron who thought he was funny

 

Motherboard from an original I B M  P C moother board

Back in the olden days of computing, the motherboard (like the original IBM PC motherboard shown here) was home to the processor, the chipset, the CMOS chip, and very little else. All of the other components were mounted onto the motherboard and were often called "daughter boards" or "daughter cards."

Even when this site was first written, very few motherboards had integrated video; and integrated audio was just starting to catch on.

At the time of this revision, most desktop motherboards have integrated video either on the board or on the processor; and almost all motherboards have integrated audio and network adapters built right into them. Collectively, these are called integrated peripherals because they do the jobs that used to be done by add-on cards back in olden times.

Most motherboards also have expansion slots into which you can install expansion cards if integrated components don't meet your needs or if they fail.

For people running standard desktop applications and light photo and video editing, the integrated peripherals on a decent motherboard will probably do just fine. That can save you a lot of money if you're building a computer to do things like word processing, checking email, and surfing the Interwebs.

Gamers, scientists, architects, graphic artists, people who edit videos on a regular basis, and other users whose applications require more video processing power, however, will need higher-end video cards than are commonly found integrated onto motherboards. Likewise, musicians or music editors who use recording studio software may need to install specialized sound cards that perform better than the integrated peripherals.

If you know from the start that you'll be using expansion video and audio cards in your homebuilt computer, you may want to consider buying a server motherboard and a server processor like one of the quad-core Intel Xeon series that don't have onboard graphics. Server motherboards and processors tend to be very rugged and powerful and can handle extreme use, but usually just have bare-bones audio and VGA video if they have them at all. If you're going to be installing expansion audio and video anyway, it's worth considering buying a motherboard and processor designed for servers. Just make sure the mobo has the right expansion slots for the cards you intend to use.

There are a wide variety of motherboards available today. When selecting a new mobo for your homebuilt computer, many things have to be taken into consideration, including:

PC Part Picker is a good resource for getting opinions about computer parts, including motherboards, before you spend any money.


Getting Started

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