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Guide to Hardware: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, Fifth Edition 3

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A+ Guide to Hardware: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, Fifth Edition 3-

Chapter 3

All About Motherboards

At a Glance

Instructor’s Manual Table of Contents

  • Overview

  • Objectives

  • Teaching Tips

  • Quick Quizzes

  • Additional Projects

  • Additional Resources

  • Key Terms

Lecture Notes


In this chapter the student will learn about motherboards. First, motherboard features are covered. Then, the chapter describes how to match up a motherboard with other components in the system. Because the firmware controls the beginning of the boot process, that aspect of the system startup is covered in detail. Finally, the student will learn how to support a motherboard. This includes installing, replacing, configuring, and maintaining it.

Chapter Objectives

After reading this chapter and completing the exercises, the student will learn:

  • About the different types and features of motherboards

  • How firmware on the motherboard controls what happens when you first turn on a PC before the OS is loaded

  • How to install, configure, and maintain a motherboard

Teaching Tips

Motherboard Types and Features

  1. Introduce and describe the motherboard, noting it is the most complicated component in a computer.

  1. Note that when a student puts together a computer from parts, generally the student starts with deciding on which processor and motherboard to use.

  1. Use Figure 3-1 to illustrate the details of a motherboard.

  1. Point out the components students would need to pay attention to when shopping for a motherboard.

Motherboard Form Factors

  1. Remind students that a motherboard form factor determines the size of the board and its features that make it compatible with power supplies, cases, processors, and expansion cards.

  1. Review the most popular motherboard form factors.

  1. Use Figure 3-2 to illustrate a microATX motherboard.

  1. Use Figure 3-3 to illustrate a BTX motherboard.


More information on form factors may be found at:

Processor Sockets

  1. Introduce and describe the motherboard processor socket.

  1. Note that the socket and the chipset determine which processor a board can support.

  1. Use Table 3-1 to illustrate the sockets currently used by Intel processors for desktop computers.

    1. Point out that server processors use different sockets than those listed in the table.

  1. Review the history of Intel processors.

    1. Use Figure 3-4 to illustrate the LGA775 socket.

    2. Use Figure 3-5 to illustrate an LGA1366 socket.

    3. Describe the advantage of the PGA, SBGA, and LGA sockets, noting that they are all square or nearly square.

  1. Use Table 3-2 to illustrate AMD sockets for desktop systems.

    1. Use Figure 3-6 to illustrate the AMD+ socket.

  1. Explain why it is important to match a processor to a motherboard.

  1. Discuss where information regarding motherboard and processor compatibility may be found.


More information on processors can be found at the Intel and AMD websites: and

The Chipset

  1. Introduce and describe the chipset, noting major manufacturers.

  1. Describe some of the more popular chipsets available.

  1. Use Figure 3-7 to illustrate and explain how the Accelerated Hub Architecture works.

    1. Emphasize and explain the use of the architecture’s hubs North Bridge and South Bridge.

  1. Use Figure 3-8 to illustrate the Intel X58 chipset, emphasizing the need to keep the chipset cool.

  1. Use Figure 3-9 to illustrate the newer architecture designed with the memory controller contained within the processor housing.

    1. Introduce the two technologies to install multiple video cards in the same system.

  1. Describe significant chipsets available from AMD.

    1. Note that AMD purchased ATI Technologies in 2006.

  1. Discuss how the NVIDIA nForce 700 series chipsets now works with AMD and Intel processors.

  1. Use Figure 3-10 to explain that when looking at motherboards for a gaming system needing two video cards, the student should look for the SLI and nForce logos.

  1. Explain why Intel currently dominates the chipset market.

  1. Discuss the use of heat sinks to reduce heat generated by chipsets.

    1. Note that students should never have to replace or install a heat sink, as they are considered part of the motherboard.

Buses and Expansion Slots

  1. Compare the computer bus network to a highway transportation system.

  1. Review the four types of signals carried by a bus: electrical power, control signals, memory addresses, and data.

  1. Point out that buses have evolved around issues of data path and speed.

  1. Define the terms synchronous and asynchronous.

  1. Explain why devices asynchronous with the CPU need to issue wait state commands.

  1. Review the specifications for various buses in Table 3-3.

  1. Introduce the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) buses, noting they have been improved several times.

  1. Highlight the features of the various PCI buses: conventional PC (Figure 3-11 to Figure 3-12), PCI-X (Figure 3-13), and PCI Express (Figure 3-14 to Figure 3-15).

  1. Emphasize the major design differences between PCI Express and the older PCI buses.

  1. Use Figure 3-17 to illustrate and describe riser slots and cards.

  1. Introduce and describe the evolution of the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) standards.

    1. Use Table 3-4 to summarize AGP standards.

    2. Use Figure 3-18 to illustrate the six types of AGP slots.

    3. Use Figure 3-19 to illustrate a motherboard using an AGP 3.3 V slot.

  1. Use Figure 3-20 to illustrate and explain the audio/modem riser (AMR) slot and a communication and networking riser (CNR) slot.

On-Board Ports and Connectors

  1. Describe and explain on-board ports.

    1. Use Figures 3-21, 3-22, and 3-23 to illustrate on-board ports on three motherboards.

  1. Describe and I/O shield and explain when it is used.

    1. Use Figure 3-24 to illustrate an I/O shield.

  1. Use Figure 3-25 to illustrate connector modules that provide additional ports off the rear of the case.

  1. Discuss motherboard internal connectors.

    1. Use Figure 3-26 to illustrate internal connectors on a motherboard for drives and ports on the front of the case.

Quick Quiz 1

  1. A motherboard form ____________________ determines the size of the board and features that make it compatible with power supplies, cases, processors, and expansion cards.

Answer: factor

  1. True or False: The slower end of the Accelerated Hub Architecture is called the North Bridge.

Answer: False

  1. NVIDIA’s method of connecting multiple video cards in the same system is called a(n) ____________________.

Answer: SLI (Scalable Link Interface)

  1. A component on the board is called a(n) ____________________ component or an on-board component.

Answer: embedded

  1. The circuits that make up a bus carry four types of cargo: electrical power, control signals, memory addresses, and ____________________.

Answer: data

  1. True or False: A bus that does not run synchronously with the system clock is called an expansion bus.

Answer: True

Hardware Configuration

  1. Point out that settings on the motherboard are used to enable or disable a connector or port, set the frequency of the CPU, system bus, or other buses, control security features, and control what happens when the PC first boots.

  1. List the three features used to configure the motherboard: DIP switches, jumpers, and CMOS setup.

  1. Explain why CMOS setup is the most convenient method.

  1. Using Figure 3-27, describe the dual inline package (DIP) switch.

    1. Indicate that pointed instruments other than graphite pencils can be used to change the DIP switch setting.

  1. Using Figure 3-28, describe the role of jumpers.

    1. Use Figure 3-29 to illustrate various jumper settings.

    2. Emphasize that jumpers can be set to clear BIOS setup (supervisor password) and the user password.

  1. Emphasize that most configuration information is stored in CMOS RAM, also called the real-time clock/nonvolatile RAM (RTC/NVRAM) chip.

    1. Point out that the motherboard manual should contain a list of all BIOS settings.

    2. Use Table 3-5 to illustrate common BIOS settings.

  1. Explain how CMOS RAM holds configuration data, even while the main power to the computer is off.

    1. Use Figure 3-30 to illustrate a coin-cell battery.


For more information coin cell batteries, please see the following link:

How to Select a Motherboard

  1. Present the three approaches to selecting a motherboard. A board may be selected to meet current needs, allow for maximal expansion, or fall somewhere between meeting current and future needs.

  1. Review the extensive list of questions to ask when selecting a motherboard.

  1. Use Table 3-6 to illustrate motherboard manufacturers.

  1. Define the term on-board component.

    1. Provide examples of on-board components, such as embedded video controllers.

    2. Explain why motherboards with too many components often do not easily accept add-on devices.

Quick Quiz 2

  1. A technician can configure the motherboard in three different ways: DIP switches, ____________________, and CMOS RAM.

Answer: jumpers

  1. True or False: When changing a DIP switch setting, use a graphite pencil to push the switch.

Answer: False

  1. On newer computers, a technician usually changes the data stored in CMOS by accessing the setup program stored in ROM ____________________.

Answer: BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)

  1. True or False: The startup password stored in CMOS RAM is the same as the OS user password.

Answer. False

  1. True or False: An indication that the battery is getting weak is that the system date and time are incorrect after power has been disconnected to the PC.

Answer: True

How Startup BIOS Controls the Boot Process

  1. Introduce the BIOS by pointing out that when a PC is first turned on, the startup BIOS on the motherboard is in control, until the operating system is loaded and takes over.

Booting a Computer

  1. Define and explain the terms booting, hard boot, and soft boot.

  1. Explain how Windows Vista and Windows XP perform a soft boot.

    1. Use Figures 3-31 and 3-32 to illustrate the menu and dialog box for each OS.

Choosing Between a Hard Boot and a Soft Boot

  1. Describe the differences between a hard boot and a soft boot.

  1. Use Figure 3-33 to describe three power switches on a computer and explain how they work.

The Startup BIOS Controls the Beginning of the Boot

  1. Describe the startup BIOS.

  1. Explain characteristics of a successful boot.

  1. Explain how errors in the boot process may be represented.

  1. Discuss the functions performed during the boot.

    1. Use Figure 3-34 to illustrate boot Step 1 where the BIOS startup program surveys hardware resources and needs and assigns system resources to satisfy those needs.

    2. Use Table 3-7 to illustrate system resources used by software and hardware.

Step 1: Post and Assignment of System Resources

  1. Describe the 17 key steps in the power on system test (POST) and the assignment of resources process.

Step 2: Startup Bios Finds and Loads the OS

  1. Describe how the operating system is loaded.

  1. Use Figure 3-35 to illustrate information required on the hard drive to load an OS.

    1. Describe each item and the role it place in ensuring a successful boot.

  1. Use Figure 3-36 to illustrate the steps the BIOS follows to find this first OS program.

Maintaining, Installing, and Configuring a Motherboard

  1. Emphasize that PC technicians need to know how to maintain a motherboard.

  1. Point out that because the motherboard is a field replaceable unit, a technician needs to know how to replace a motherboard when it goes bad and configure the board using BIOS setup.

Maintaining a Motherboard

  1. Describe the chores a technician needs to know to maintain a motherboard.

  1. Point out that motherboards come bundled with a CD containing drivers for onboard components and documentation in PDF files.

  1. Describe when to use the manufacturer’s CD drivers.

  1. Describe the types of utilities that may also be provided on the motherboard CD.

    1. Use Figure 3-37 to illustrate a main menu for one motherboard driver CD.

  1. Explain how to retrieve updated motherboard drivers not on the original CD.

    1. Use Figure 3-38 to illustrate the download page for one Intel motherboard where a technician can download BIOS and drivers.

    2. Use Figure 3-39 to illustrate where the brand and model imprint may be located on a motherboard.

  1. Describe the type of firmware stored on a motherboard chip called the ROM BIOS chip or firmware chip.

  1. Describe situations that may require a technician to update the BIOS.

  1. Explain that the ROM BIOS chips can be upgraded or refreshed by a technique called flashing.

  1. Describe the methods of installing the BIOS updates (express BIOS update, update from a bootable floppy disk, update from a bootable USB drive or bootable CD, recovery from a failed update).

  1. Discuss how to identify a motherboard and determine the BIOS version in order to find the correct update.

  1. Emphasize that a technician should update the BIOS only if there is a problem with the motherboard or there is a new BIOS feature required.

  1. Refer to Table 3-8 for a list of BIOS manufacturers and their URLs.


Note that if the BIOS manufacturer does not provide an upgrade try referencing the website.

  1. Use Figures 3-40 and 3-41 to illustrate how motherboard BIOS jumpers can be used to perform three different actions at boot time (normal booting, password clearing and BIOS recovery).

  1. Emphasize that the CMOS battery on the motherboard is considered a field replaceable unit and a PC technician should know how to replace it.

    1. Describe the steps to replace the CMOS battery.

Installing or Replacing a Motherboard

  1. Use Figure 3-42 to illustrate the package that comes with a motherboard.

  1. Review the seventeen general steps for replacing a motherboard.

  1. Review the six steps for installing the motherboard in the case.

    1. Use Figures 3-43 to 3-58 to illustrate the process.

Configuring the Motherboard Using BIOS Setup

  1. Describe situations where the BIOS may need to be changed.

  1. Use Table 3-9 to illustrate how to access common BIOS setup programs.

    1. Note that motherboard documentation should provide specific instructions.

  1. Use Figure 3-59 to illustrate a BIOS setup main menu.

  1. Explain how to configure automatic power-saving features for a system.

    1. Use Figure 3-60 to illustrate a sample power menu.

  1. Explain how to change the boot sequence.

  1. Use Figures 3-61 and 3-62 to illustrate two examples of a boot menu in a BIOS setup.

  1. Explain how access to a computer can be controlled using a startup password, sometimes called a user password or power-on password.

    1. Describe how these passwords can be disabled if forgotten.

  1. Use Figure 3-63 to describe the options available when exiting the BIOS setup menus.

  1. Use Figures 3-64 and 3-65 to illustrate that many brand-name computer manufacturers, such as IBM, Dell, and Gateway, use their own custom-designed setup screens.

  1. Explain how to recover settings saved in CMOS RAM should the settings be lost.

    1. Emphasize the importance of keeping a written record of all the changes made to CMOS RAM.

Quick Quiz 3

  1. True or False: The first step in preparing the motherboard to go in the case is to set the jumpers or DIP switches.

Answer: True

  1. The ____________________ or I/O shield is a metal plate that comes with the computer case and fits over the ports to create a well-fitting enclosure for them.

Answer: faceplate

  1. ____________________, also called spacers, are round plastic or metal pegs that separate the motherboard from the case, so that components on the back of the motherboard do not touch the case.

Answer: Standoffs

  1. The ____________________ configuration is stored in BIOS setup.

Answer: motherboard

  1. True or False: The BIOS power-on password is the same password used a Windows OS at startup.

Answer: False

Class Discussion Topics

  1. Why do asynchronous components issue wait state commands to the CPU?

  1. What are the major design differences between PCI Express and the older PCI buses?

  1. Why is the CMOS setup program preferred over DIP switches and jumpers for configuring motherboard components?

Additional Projects

  1. Perform additional research on the PCI Express bus. Identify the number and names of the layers making up the PCI Express protocol. Provide a brief description of the functions handled at each layer. Report your results in 2 to 3 paragraphs.

  1. Research the flash memory underlying ROM BIOS chips. Identify basic features and describe any limitations. Provide a written response of 2 to 3 paragraphs.

Additional Resources

  1. How Motherboards Work:

  1. The PCI bus:

  1. Information about CMOS:

  1. Replacing a Motherboard:

  1. Troubleshooting a Motherboard:

Key Terms

  • Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP): Ports developed specifically for video cards.

  • active partition: The partician used for booting.

  • audio/modem riser (AMR): A specification for a small slot on a motherboard to accommodate an audio or modem riser card. A controller on the motherboard contains some of the logic for the audio or modem functionality.

  • boot loader: Responsible for loading the OS.

  • boot record: A 512-byte sector is physically the second sector on the hard drive right behind the MBR. This OS boot record contains a small program that points to a larger OS program file that is responsible for starting the OS load.

  • booting: Refers to the computer bringing itself up to a working state without the user having to do anything but press the on button.

  • BootMgr: The OS boot record program for Windows Vista.

  • CMOS battery: A lithium coin-cell battery enables CMOS RAM to hold configuration data, even while the main power to the computer is off.

  • cold boot: See hard boot.

  • communication and networking riser (CNR): A specification for a small expansion slot on a motherboard that accommodates a small audio, modem, or network riser card.

  • CrossFire: ATI ‘s technology for installing two video cards on a motherboard.

  • dual inline package (DIP) switch: A switch on a circuit board or other device that can be set on or off to hold configuration or setup information.

  • front panel header: The corner of the motherboard for lights and switches.

  • hard boot: A hard boot, or cold boot, involves turning on the power with the on/off switch.

  • I/O shield: The plate installed in the computer case to provide holes for I/O ports.

  • jumper: Two wires that stick up side by side on the motherboard and are used to hold configuration information. The jumper is considered closed if a cover is over the wires, and open if the cover is missing.

  • land grid array (LGA): Sockets that use lands rather than pins.

  • Master Boot Record (MBR): A record at the beginning of the drive that contains the partition table, which contains a map to partitions on the drive.

  • North Bridge: The faster hub in the Accelerated Hub Architecture.

  • Ntldr: The OS boot record program for Windows XP.

  • On-board ports: Ports that are directly on the motherboard, such as a built-in keyboard port or on-board serial port.

  • partician table: The second item in the MBR, which contains a map to the partitions on the hard drive. This table tells BIOS how many partitions the drive has, where each partition begins and ends, and which partition is used for booting (called the active partition). A partition is sometimes called a volume. The first volume on the hard drive used to boot the OS is called drive C.

  • PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect): Buses have been improved several times. There are currently three major categories and within each category, several variations of PCI. The PCI buses are used for many types of cards, including video cards.

  • PCI Express (PCIe): PCI Express uses a serial bus, which is faster than a parallel bus because it transmits data in packets similar to how an Ethernet network, USB, and FireWire transmit data. A PCIe expansion slot can provide one or more of these serial lanes.

  • pin grid array (PGA): Sockets aligned with pins aligned in uniform rows around the socket. Used in earlier Pentiums.

  • power-on password: A password that a computer uses to control access during the boot process.

  • program file: A program file contains a list of instructions stored in a file.

  • riser card: A card that plugs into a motherboard and allows for expansion cards to be mounted parallel to the motherboard. Expansion cards are plugged into slots on the riser card.

  • sector: See track.

  • SLI (Scalable Link Interface): NVIDIA’s technology for installing two video cards on a motherboard.

  • soft boot: A soft boot, or warm boot, involves using the operating system to reboot.

  • South Bridge: The slower hub in the Accelerated Hub Architecture.

  • Spacers: Another term for standoffs.

  • staggered pin grid array (SPGA): Having the pins staggered over the socket to squeeze more pins into a small space.

  • standoffs: Round plastic or metal pegs that separate the motherboard from the case, so that components on the back of the motherboard do not touch the case.

  • startup password: Another term for power-on password.

  • track: Concentric circles on a hard drive. Each track is divided into segments called sectors, and each sector can hold 512 bytes of data. On the outermost track, one sector (512 bytes) is designated the “beginning” of the hard drive. This sector, called the Master Boot Record (MBR), contains two items. The first item is the master boot program, which is needed to locate the beginning of the OS on the drive.

  • user password: A password enabling you to logon to the operating system.

  • wait state: A clock tick in which nothing happens. Used to ensure that the microprocessor is not getting ahead of slower components. A 0-wait state is preferable to a 1-wait state. Too many wait states can slow down a system.

  • warm boot: See soft boot.

  • zero insertion force (ZIF) sockets: Square or nearly square sockets so that even force is applied when inserting the processor in the socket, all current processor sockets have a lever on the side of the socket.

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