Motherboard Buying Tips

Written By: Keith Park

Whether you are refurbishing your existing computer or building a new PC, the motherboard is the first place you need to start. A motherboard can contain integrated components such as video, sound, network, FireWire, and USB 2.0 so with all these components built right in, you may not need to spend the extra money getting these added on later.

The motherboard dictates what CPU and RAM types you can use, so these three components must be looked at together.

Pay close attention to the chipset that is installed on the motherboard. The chipset on your motherboard plays a big part in determining what your upgrade options are. Chipset refers to the logic chips that control the interaction between the processor and memory, expansion slots, and various ports. The chipset is what determines how fast and what types of CPU and RAM can be used. If you favor either Intel or AMD you will need a chipset that supports your preferred brand. The chipset also controls what features can be included on the motherboard such as integrated sound or video. Since many different motherboard manufacturers use the same chip sets to build their boards, understanding what each chip set includes can help you pinpoint the differences between otherwise very similar motherboards.

Stay with a mid-range CPU. This will ensure that you aren’t paying a premium for something that is going to become old news very quickly once newer technology is available.

When it comes to RAM you can never have too much. Buy the fastest RAM that the motherboard can support and as much as you can afford. The newer, faster RAM will tend to be more readily available in the future should you decide you need more.

Be aware that there are some downsides to integrated components on the motherboard. Devices such as built in video will use some system memory to perform its functions. This decreases the video performance as well as the overall PC performance. You may want to consider buying a separate video card, sound card, etc. anything that may require extra memory. The device will have its own memory, increasing performance.

Other things to look for on the motherboard include IDE or SATA support, expansion slot types and connections for mouse and keyboard.

IDE or SATA support will be a factor when looking at a hard drive for your PC. If you currently have a hard drive that connects via IDE and you buy a motherboard that only has SATA connections, you will run into problems.

The type of expansion slots on the board will determine what add-on cards can be installed in the PC. Some examples of slots are PCI, PCI Express and AGP. You will need to buy a card designed for the expansion slots on your motherboard.

When it comes to the keyboard and mouse connections it may not seem like an issue. But some newer motherboards do not have PS/2 connections for a keyboard or mouse so if you plan on using your old ones that are PS/2 or are looking to buy new, then you will need to be aware of what connections are available to you. Look for a USB mouse and keyboard and you should be safe.

The motherboard is the only computer component besides the case that limits your expansion capabilities. It is best to buy a little more than you need so you have options should you decide to upgrade later on. Check out reviews on the motherboards you are interested in and do lots of research, the motherboard may just be the most important part of your upgrading or purchase process so you want to get it right.

Copyright 2005 by Keith Park all rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this article if it is published unchanged with all links and Resource box information kept intact.

About the Author

Keith Park has been in the IT industry for the last 7 years and is the author of the website TechCorner PC Resource Zone. Go there for more articles and resources.

Additional resources @ http://mgrcentral.com/computers/default.aspx?studentid=1575219

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