Understanding Motherboards

Table of contents:

  • 1.Understanding motherboards: What motherboards do
  • 2.North and south bridge
  • 3.Dimm slots for RAM
  • 4.PCI and PCIe Slots for graphics cards and sound cards
  • 5.Understanding motherboards: The CPU socket

Watch this video to help with understanding motherboards:


1.Understanding motherboards: What Does a Motherboard do.

A motherboard is what brings all the components of your computer together. To help you understand motherboards, think of it as a place where everything is housed from the CPU to the hard drive, the RAM and the graphics and sound cards. The motherboard brings all these components together and allows them to work together as a whole unit to achieve what comes out on your monitor.

The motherboard is a board on which various slots and chipsets sit and is mounted within your gaming pc case. If you open up one you will see a side view of it. It can look a little confusing and understanding motherboards can be a little confusing at first. Hopefully the video at the top has given you a  good guided tour of the motherboard. Read on to understand the individual sectors of the motherboard and what they do.


2.North and South bridge

The north and south bridge are chipsets that are solded to the motherboard. As you might have guessed from their names they act as bridges.

They act as a bridge between the various components of your computer. Both the north and south bridge are allocated different components to manage and  link up, and in turn they link up together to pass on information.

Here is is a great diagram of how they work:

The chipsets are generally made by the same company’s who make CPU’s such as Intel and AMD. Therefore even though motherboards can be made by a lot of different companies such as ASUS and Gigabyte they always have to adhere to using the chipsets of either Intel or AMD. This is because CPU’s are designed to be compatible with a certain type of chipset.

Unlike CPU’s the north and south bridge are not upgradable, as they are only compatible with the socket type and are part of the motherboard itself.

for even more detail check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipset

3.Dimm slots for RAM

                                                DIMM (Dual in-line memory module)

These are the slots were the RAM memory slots into the motherboard. Read understanding RAM for more detail on the Ram itself.

DIMM Ram slots are very specific on a motherboard are designed to only house a certain type of RAM.

Presently all new motherboards support DDR3 RAM, which is the fastest type available. However it is well known that DDR4 RAM will come into the mix within a few years.

The amount of Ram you can run on you motherboard is dependent on how many slots there made available. For instance motherboards with the 1155 socket slot will house up to  32GB DDR3 RAM were as the 2011 socket motherboard will house 64GB DDR3 RAM.

For the purposes of understanding motherboards it is easy to just remember that DIMM slots house the RAM, and to always make sure which RAM the DIMM slots support.

4.PCI and PCIe Slots for graphic and sound cards

PCI and PCIe slots are designed for expansion cards to be added to your set-up. Cards such as graphics, sound and network cards.

These days however the PCI slot is very much a thing of the past and has been taken over by the various forms of PCIe slots. The e stands for express and enables for faster data transfer from the card.

Graphics cards generally run off the PCIe x16 slot where as a sound card works off the PCIe x1 slot. These slots are detailed in the image above. A lot of the top motherboards nowadays offer more than one PCIe x16 slot to allow for two graphics cards to be used in.

Due the nature of of cards especially graphics cards which are almost like a small motherboard themselves, the slots have to be big enough to house them, therefore these slots are the biggest ones on the motherboard.

5.Understanding motherboards: The CPU    socket

The CPU socket is one of the most important and talked about parts of the motherboard. This is where your processor or CPU is housed.

The socket is specific and can only house CPU’s of the same socket type.

Due to the processor’s importance in the speed and capability of a computer, choosing a motherboard with a high end socket is essential when building a gaming computer. At the present sockets such as Intels socket LGA 1155 and 2011 are at the forefront and are used for the most powerful commercial CPU’s available.





Picture acknowledgement

By Smial at de.wikipedia [FAL, GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2

By User:Matrix87 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By smial (Own work) [FAL or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Appaloosa (Own work (taken by me)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons



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