One of the most basic requirements of any home computer system is the motherboard, and whilst you may have heard of this part of the computer, you might be unsure as to what exactly it is. If you're thinking of building your own computer, or upgrading your existing computer, you might be considering which motherboard to purchase. But what decisions will you need to make, and how will your choice of motherboard affect the other components you choose?
If you look inside a computer, you'll notice that there is one main circuit board which covers most of one side of the computer. You'll probably notice a number of other small circuits and components which are plugged in to this main circuit board too. The main circuit board inside a computer is the motherboard, and it is this circuit board which most other components communicate to each other through.
The motherboard is where the processor of the computer is connected, and this can make a good deal of difference when it comes to selecting either a processor or a motherboard for a new computer or upgrade. Not all motherboards and processors will go together. There are a number of different fittings attached to each, and just like puzzle pieces, only some processors will fit certain motherboards.
More usually you will choose your processor first, and then once you have made this choice, you'll identify a motherboard which will be able to accommodate the type of processor you have. There are other features of motherboards which you will need to consider too – such as number of available slots, and size.
Because all other circuit boards, such as memory, graphics cards, sound cards, modems and ports all connect to the motherboard, it is essential that you think carefully about which components, and how many components, you are likely to need. It's always best to overestimate, since often after a few months or a year or two you'll want to upgrade again as technology continues to improve and prices continue to come down.
Some of the cheaper motherboards have onboard sound, and some even have onboard graphics. This means that the motherboard will include both sound and graphics cards. This can help with cost, but it may also mean that there is not room for adding a separate sound card or graphics card, and the quality of the video and audio generated by a motherboard is almost certainly going to be considerably less than having a dedicated card.
The other aspect to consider is size, since motherboards come in a number of different sizes, although generally there are two popular ones. These include the larger size, which allows for plenty of additional cards and memory to be added, or the smaller size which has less room for adding extra components, but will mean that the eventual size of your computer is not too big, and will fit into even cramped conditions.
So while motherboards are the essential base for the rest of your computer, often they are amongst the last things to decide upon, as so much else needs to be considered first, and then fitted together once you have made your separate choices.