The motherboard is the single most important piece of hardware in your computer, and one that every other component plugs into. Changing this board isn’t impossible, but it does requires careful consideration and work to ensure a successful transition. The wrong board or careless handling could result in problems later, so this is not something that beginners should attempt on their own.
Reasons for Changing the Motherboard
Updating your motherboard typically happens for one of two reasons: your current board is old and not powerful enough for your computing needs, or it has suffered a failure, rendering it useless. Sometimes this failure happens suddenly, and is only detectable when you try to boot and nothing happens or you get the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, or BSOD. Failure can also happen slowly, evidenced by your board refusing to see or access components you know are functional, such as the sound card. Physical damage, such as short circuits or bulging parts, can also require a new motherboard. Any unusual burning smell or scorch marks on the board indicate an overheating issue, which can cause a fire hazard if the board is not changed.
Choosing the Right Board
Not all motherboards are created equal, and you can’t simply pick one off the shelf and pop it into your tower. Board size, screw placement and component layout can differ from one manufacturer to another, and you need the right one for your computer. The connection socket for the CPU also differs depending on whether you intend to use an Intel or AMD processor, so have some sort of an idea of what processor you want before finding a motherboard. The manufacturer of your computer may offer a list of compatible motherboards on its website to help narrow your choices and search. Keep future expansion in mind for adding more RAM or newer components later. Shop for a board that suits your particular computing needs, and don’t fall for the “more is better” argument — if you don’t need the fastest, most powerful computer in the world, don’t pay more for a super high-end motherboard.
Prepare to Switch
Once you’ve selected your new motherboard, prepare for the board exchange. Back up all the data on your hard drive and gather all copies of your various programs for reinstallation. Any software that requires activation may see the new motherboard as a new computer, so deactivate these programs before swapping out the motherboards. You can reactivate them using your old activation number later. Gather screwdrivers and small containers to hold the various screws you’ll remove while exchanging the boards. Use an antistatic wrist strap to keep yourself grounded as you work, as one small static spark could render a computer component dead.
Allow yourself plenty of time to swap out the motherboards, as rushing could cause a mistake. Lay your computer on its side and remove the cover. Take a picture of the current setup so you have an idea of how it’s supposed to look at the end, and use little pieces of masking tape to identify the various wires if you think you may forget what they’re for. Disconnect the wires from the hard drives and unscrew the PCI adapters to remove the video cards. Handle all cards and components by their edges to prevent damage to the sensitive electronics. Disconnect the power supply wiring and the thick data cables from the old motherboard. Remove the screws holding the motherboard in the case, disconnect the wires connecting the board to the LED lights on the front of the case, and then slowly lift the old motherboard out. Install the new board by replacing the parts in the opposite order in which you’ve removed and disconnected them