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Monday, August 20, 2001
On Hardware

Key elements on motherboard
Jasjot Singh Narula

WHEN a buyer moves out in the market to purchase a personal computer, his thrust is on the processor speed, higher RAM and maximum storage capacity. The buyer often lets the vendor choose the motherboard, who more often than not, gives to the client what suits his own business interest.

Motherboard is a multi-layered Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that holds all key components like BIOS, CMOS, Processor, RAM, Interface controllers and ports that are plugged onto the motherboard. It acts as a direct channel for various components to interact and communicate with each other.


The first motherboard came into existence with the introduction of desktop PCs by IBM in 1981 that revolutionised the computer industry. In 1982, IBM launched Extended Technology (XT) motherboards and Advanced Technology (AT) motherboards in 1984. These days the ATX (Advanced Technology Extended-style) motherboards, created by Intel in 1995, are in vogue predictably due to their performance.

The following are the various components that fit on a systemís motherboard:

Doís while purchasing a motherboard

  • Deal only with a reliable manufacturer.

  • It must have the same form factor as required by your PC cabinet (i.e. AT or ATX).

  • Read the manual that comes with your motherboard. It should fully cover the motherboard's settings and specifications.

  • Check the power supply requirements for AMD processors. Some motherboards have unique requirements.

  • Avoid tweaking voltages and timings to get more speed (overclocking).

Form factor: The size and shape of the actual motherboard is called form factor. There are different varieties of motherboard available in the market like AT, baby AT, ATX etc. These days, the ATX motherboard is in great demand because of some extra features on it. The onboard ports and connectors give a boost to the performance of the PC.

Processors slot: The market leader in microprocessors, Intel is using FC-PGA copper mine, which operates over a 66 MHz, 100 MHz and 133 MHz system bus. The latest motherboard has zero insertion force (ZIF) socket for both Celeron and Pentium chips called socket-370.

BIOS (Basic Input Output Set-up): This is a small chip on the motherboard that loads the hardware settings required to load various devices like keyboard, monitor or disk drives. Most of the motherboard manufacturers use Award BIOS and AMIBIOS.

CMOS: User may find a shining silver battery on a corner of a motherboard, which powers the CMOS memory and BIOS. CMOS memory usage is to store date, time and system set up parameters.

SIMM/DIMM slots: SIMM means Single Inline Memory Module, while DIMM stands for Dual Inline Memory Module. These slots are for RAM that is Random Access Memory. Usually most of the motherboard has two slots and are up gradable to 512 MB. Users always look out of higher memory for better performance of the PC.

Chipset: There are different models available in the market with the name of chipset like Intel 810, 810e VIA chipset, SiS chipset etc. These chipset are designed to reduce the cost and improve the multimedia capability. These include integrated AGP graphics controller that is optimised to produce smooth performance of 2D and 3D video. It includes an integrated Audio controller that lets the processor work more effectively and decode sound generated by the integrated audio system.

Primary/Secondary ports or IDE drive connector: CD ROM and hard disk drives are connected through this to the IDE connectors. Hard disk is preferably installed on the Primary IDE connector and CD ROM is on secondary IDE drive connector

Floppy drive connector: This port is used for connecting floppy drive to motherboard, to facilitate data exchange.

PCI slots: These are upgradable version of the ISA slots and are known as Peripheral Component Interface with 32-bit of data transfer rate. The devices, which are installed on these slots, are graphic cards, sound cards, internal modem and SCSI cards.

COM/ Serial ports/Parallel port: Communication or serial ports are used for connecting communicating devices like modem and mouse and parallel port is used for external input/output devices like printers and scanners.

USB connectors: Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectors are the latest in the market with the outstanding data transfer speed. The USB devices are Keyboards, mouse, scanners or digital camera.

System Bus: The components inside the computer talk to each other in various different ways. Most of the internal system components, including the processor, cache, memory, expansion cards and storage devices, talk to each other over one or more "buses". A bus, in computer terms, is simply a channel over which information flows between two or more devices (technically, a bus with only two devices on it is considered by some a "port" instead of a bus). These days the latest motherboards are equipped with 133 MHz bus speed.