Build own PC -Installing The Motherboard

About Motherboards
If processors are the brain of your PC, the motherboard can be considered the nervous system.  The motherboard or main board connects all of your PC's components together.  Because of this, it is the core of your system and the first thing you should consider when building a new PC.

Things to Know
One of the first considerations when selecting a new motherboard is the Front Side Bus speed or FSB.  This is the speed at which the CPU is able to communicate with the components on the motherboard.  The FSB is measured in MHz or even GHz (1,000 MHz); the fastest FSB available as of this writing is 800 MHz.  Older motherboards like the one we first used were usually available in 100 MHz, 133 MHz, etc. Then came the higher ones such as 233 MHz, all the way up to 533 MHz and then to our current 800 MHz peak now. Obviously you want to obtain the highest FSB you can when purchasing your new motherboard.
Another consideration is to look for a motherboard that offers some flexibility to you for both current and future products.  For example, look for a board that offers the latest IDE bus speeds like ATA/133.  This will let you get the fastest performance from any UDMA hard drives you may have now, or plan on installing later, while providing backward compatibility with your existing drives. Most drives that you will buy today come with ATA/133 already and DMA of some sort.
Many motherboards also offer an array of built-in features such as an onboard sound card, onboard network card and sometimes even an onboard video card.  This may be convenient if you want to save some money, but in general, we prefer motherboards without built-in video cards - they’re usually sub-standard to regular video cards.  Built-in sound and network cards however, can be a nice convenience and save some money.  
A few other things to think about when selecting a motherboard are the number and types of ports available and the power supply requirements.  Not every motherboard comes with every type of port so make sure the one you select has at least one (preferably two) of each type. 
One newer port consideration is the Universal Serial Bus (USB).  USB is an external bus (an interconnect) standard that supports data transfer rates of 12 Mbps.  A single USB port can be used to connect up to 127 peripheral devices, such as mice, modems and keyboards.  Introduced in 1996, USB has completely replaced serial and parallel ports.  It also supports plug-and-play installations and hot swapping plug-and-play, which is the ability to add and remove devices to a computer while the computer is running and have the operating system automatically recognize the change.  USB 2.0, which supports data transfer rates of 480 Mbps, was recently introduced as of this writing for Microsoft* Windows* XP. USB 2.0 is the standard that most external devices adhere to today, so it’s a worthwhile investment to say the least.
With the use of all types of drives, namely CD-R and DVD-R drives, power consumption has increased in computers. 250-watt power supplies are no longer adequate for most computers and it provides little room for upgrading later. A good sized power supply for today’s computers would be anywhere between 350-watt to 500-watt, depending on the number of devices installed.
Speaking of power, the ATX power supply can be a bit tricky at first. The ATX standard is a 20-pin (2 rows of 10 pins) connector that plugs into the motherboard. These wires are usually rather thick and bundled together, making it easy to figure out what it is. The second is ATX-E, the 24-pin (2 rows of 12 pins) standard, that is generally found in Pentium 4 motherboards and respective power supplies. Most power supplies today will play it safe and give you a 20-pin connector and then also have a separate 4-pin connector that you can plug in adjacent to the 20-pin, if needed. If not, you simply leave it hanging somewhere safe. Worse comes to worse, you can buy a 24-to 20-pin converter and vice versa.
If the different types of motherboards and processors are confusing to you, you're not alone!  The good news is, it is fairly straightforward: Processor's (which plug directly into the motherboard) require a specific type of motherboard to work properly.  Once you know which processor you want to use, you can locate and choose a motherboard that will work with your processor - that's it!
Having said that, try to get a "jumper-less" motherboard if possible.  They are much simpler to setup and are available from top manufacturers including Asus and Abit.  Check the Parts List on this CD for more info on choosing a board.  We also recommend checking reviews in major PC magazines for an idea of what’s available and which board is right for you.

Software Configuration
Software configuration for motherboards usually just involves adjusting the BIOS to recognize the new processor.  In "Jumper-less" motherboards, a BIOS will usually be equipped with a "Soft Menu" type BIOS which will be able to auto-detect the processor the first time you boot your PC.  Just make sure you double-check that it detected the processor correctly.  If your motherboard is not self-configuring, after you set your jumpers and/or DIP-switches you will need to adjust the BIOS settings to accommodate the CPU.  In addition to configuring the CPU, you will want to make sure the motherboard recognizes all of your hard drives and expansion cards.  Most modern motherboards can auto-detect all types of hard drives and offer plug-and-play functionality to auto-configure your expansion cards.  Most boards also have an "Optimum" or "Default" setting somewhere in the BIOS. This is usually the safest and best configuration and unless you run into problems, you should leave this setting alone.  You will need to consult your motherboard's manual for more information on setting up the BIOS.

If your motherboard mounts differently
All cases/mounting surfaces are often a little different.  If your case does not provide brass stand-offs, but rather uses nylon/plastic standoffs or spacers, you will need to follow some different steps: For every hole on the motherboard that lines up with an eyelet hole on the case (a hole that is very long so that you can slide things in it), install a plastic standoff on the motherboard.  If you look closely at these plastic stand-offs, one end is designed to poke through the motherboard and expand to keep it in place.  The little disk on the other end of the standoff will be used later to slide into the eyelet holes on the case's mounting surface.  Typically a small piece of paper with a diagram will come with your case showing you exactly how to attach the standoffs.

Some cases come with mounting panels.  Install the motherboard-mounting panel if your case uses one.  This usually involves inserting a rail on the bottom end of the plate into a tab or guide on the case.  Then, like a hinge, raise the top until the plate is vertical with the board inside the case.  Locking in a spring-loaded handle, or simply screwing it in then closes this removable plate.  On other cases, the plate may slide in a different way and then get screwed into place.  These plates are then easily removed later if you ever need to remove the motherboard

Check your work!
Always double-check your work - check to be certain that the bottom surface of the motherboard is not touching any part of the case or mounting plate.  Make sure the slots and connectors line up with the holes on the back of the case and definitely be sure that the board is fastened securely.  If you press down on the board at any point, it should not bend down.

Don’t skimp on installing standoffs or screws to save time!  Usually, by the time you’re finished installing all the components, some motherboard screws will no longer be accessible so you must do it now.  Leaving out standoffs may result in the motherboard shorting or grounding against the chassis - this can mean having to buy a new motherboard!

Important Tips
Make sure you set your jumpers and DIP-switches properly or you may damage both the board and your CPU.  If you encounter problems with your board recognizing your processor or any of your expansion cards, check the manufacturer of your motherboard's website for possible BIOS updates that will correct the problem. 

Lastly, if you are purchasing a new motherboard and a new CPU, consider buying a “boxed” set.  This means that the CPU is already installed on the motherboard and ready to go right out of the box.  You can often find slightly better prices when purchasing the components this way! Just make sure the motherboard and processor will work together, which generally the vendors make sure of, but you never know.

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