Learning Resources

Install Replace and Maintain a Motherboard

Installing The Motherboard
If you're replacing an existing motherboard, you'll already have a set of stand-offs (small plastic or metal devices that space the board from the case, to avoid shorting anything out, and also to hold it securely). Don't be tempted to scrimp on stand-offs. There are three rows of three mounting holes on most motherboards, and you should fit stand-offs under all nine points on the case beneath, providing sufficient support to avoid undue flexing of the circuit board when installing your RAM, CPU, PCI cards, and so on. Sometimes the row nearest the back-panel sockets has a fourth mounting hole to provide extra support, but if your previous motherboard had four holes here, don't assume the new one will too — check carefully and remove any extraneous stand-offs before placing the new motherboard into position, since they may cause a short underneath the circuit board that will prevent boot-up.

Once you've had a good read through the various options in your motherboard manual, you may also want to change an occasional jumper setting before powering up, by pulling off the existing jumper and replacing it in a different position. My Asus P4P800 Deluxe motherboard featured jumpers for clearing the RTC (Real Time Clock) RAM — which also clears the battery-backed CMOS memory of such things as passwords — another to enable/disable SM (System Management) buss support for the PCI slots, and two to enable keyboard or USB device wake-up from sleep mode, none of which required changing.

Before placing the new motherboard in your PC's case, push out the old I/O shield plate that surrounded the old motherboard's various back-panel sockets, and press in the new one. Now may also be a suitable time to plug the various IDE and floppy drive cables into the motherboard, while it's easily accessible, although as long as you do this before starting to install expansion cards into their slots you shouldn't have any problems connecting these cables even after the motherboard is screwed down. Taking the latter approach may also make it easier to keep your cables tidy and 'dressed' out of the way, to ensure maximum cooling airflow and future access to the PCI slots.

Now comes the juggling: adjusting the position of the motherboard on top of the stand-offs so that all its mounting holes align with them, while also aligning the motherboard's back-panel sockets so that they line up with the apertures in the I/O shield plate. Once you've got it approximately correct you'll be able to insert the mounting screws. It's good engineering practice to insert all the mounting screws loosely before tightening any of them. This practice makes particular sense with PC motherboards and cases, since the tolerances may be such that you have to wiggle the motherboard a bit to get them all to fit. Once everything is in place, tighten down all the screws in a random fashion, taking care not to over-tighten them, since you can quite easily strip a stand-off's thread and have to start over again. A useful tip is to insert a PCI card in the end slot and tighten down its backplate screw before finally tightening the motherboard screws. This should ensure that the motherboard is mounted squarely and should make installing your other PCI cards easier.


Replace a motherboard

It is similar  to installing a motherboard.

Maintain a motherboard

Here are important things to do and look out for to extend the life of your motherboard:

1. Sweep off dust that builds on the motherboard. Dust build up inside the computer's casing despite it's covering because the power fan or other accessory fans sucks in dirt from outside together with the air used to cool off the insides of the casing. When dust picks up moisture, the sensitive parts may short-circuit and get damaged in the process. Use only a soft paintbrush to clean the motherboard taking care not to brush too hard on small parts. Do this in a well-ventilated area where you can easily dispose of the dust.

2. Look for swellling, busted or leaking capacitors. When you notice that some of the resistors appear to be expanded or swelling, this is a cause for alarm. It is a sign of impending failure of the motherboard. Busted or leaking capacitors will stop your desktop computer from working. This should be replaced with resistors of the same ratings as soon as possible.

3. Detach the removable cards (sound card, video card, LAN card, etc.) and clean off the copper connectors with an eraser. Just make sure you have discharge static electricity from your body before doing so. You can do this by placing your hands on a grounded metallic object. Replace the removable parts carefully, avoiding the use of unnecessary force. You should hear these parts click in place.

4. Check if your CMOS battery is still working. When the stored electrical energy of the CMOS battery (that detachable coin-looking silver thing in the motherboard) is already used up, the date displayed in your desktop computer will be wrong. A failed battery will also prevent your computer from executing some commands which need correct date input such as when logging in to an internet site.

5. Check if the fans, especially the fan of your video card, is still working. A non-working video card fan will damage the video card. Ventilation prevents heat build-up in your desktop computer as well the detachable parts. A cool environment will keep your motherboard and its parts working in top condition.

Regular monthly maintenance of your desktop computer will prevent costly repairs or upgrades.