How to Choose a Motherboard: 7 Factors to Consider

This article explains how to choose a motherboard, including finding the right motherboard for your computer case and central processing unit (CPU), as well as other things to consider.

When purchasing a new motherboard as a replacement or as the backbone of a new PC you're building, there are some key factors to keep in mind.

Here are seven key elements to consider when choosing a motherboard:

  1. cost
  2. CPU
  3. CPU socket
  4. Dimensions and housing
  5. expansion port
  6. built-in port
  7. RAM memory)

Motherboard prices vary by model and manufacturer, ranging from as low as $50 or less to as high as $1,500. However, the more money you spend on a motherboard, the more features you get. Here's a general overview of basic, average, and high-end motherboard prices.

price range category What you can expect
>$150 basic Chipset : H510 and H610 (Intel), A520 (AMD) Socket : LGA1200 and LGA1700 (Intel), AM4 (AMD) Form factor : mATX or Mini ITX
>$250 Mid-range Chipset : B560 and B660 (Intel), B550 (AMD) Socket : LGA1200 and LGA1700 (Intel), AM4 (AMD) Form factor : mATX, ATX, Mini ITX
$250 and up high-end Chipset : Z590 and Z660 (Intel), X570 (AMD) Socket : LGA1200 and LGA1700 (Intel) Form factor : ATX, Mini-ITX, E-ATX

The CPU is the key PC element that interprets and executes hardware and software commands. If you are replacing or upgrading your motherboard, you can choose one that will fit your existing CPU. But if you're buying a new CPU or building a PC, you'll also need a processor.

A mid-range CPU will be powerful enough to perform multitasking and operate smoothly to ensure maximum productivity from your business PC. If you are a gamer, you will want a CPU with higher clock speeds and extensive RAM support. If you are a content creator, you will need a CPU with enough RAM to support 4K video.

Check your CPU specifications carefully to determine whether they are suitable for your intended use.

The CPU socket is a key factor when deciding which motherboard to buy. The motherboard's CPU socket type determines which CPUs the motherboard can use.

If you have a computer and need to replace or upgrade the motherboard due to component failure, choose a computer with a socket that will fit your existing CPU. Alternatively, you can buy a new CPU.

If you are purchasing a new replacement CPU or building a new PC, determine which socket will fit after you decide on the CPU you want. For example, the Intel i7 Core i7-9700F processor requires a motherboard that supports the LGA 1151 socket, and the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X requires a motherboard that supports the AM4 socket.

To find out what socket you need, check your CPU's documentation or look on the CPU manufacturer's website. If you're shopping online, you can usually find this slot somewhere in the CPU listing.

Like the CPU socket, the form factor of the motherboard is also one of the most critical selection factors.

If you already own a computer and need to replace the motherboard for an upgrade or due to component failure, choose a motherboard with slots that fit your existing CPU and fit your current case, unless you want to purchase a new CPU and case.

If you're building a new computer, choose a motherboard that can accommodate the CPU you want and fit into the case you choose. When choosing a case, aesthetics are important, but a more important consideration is the size of the case and the type of motherboard it supports.

The following are the main motherboard form factor types that will be used when building a custom PC:

  • ATX : This is the form factor used by most desktop computers. It is 12 inches long and 9.625 inches wide, providing space for expansion cards and peripherals.
  • Micro-ATX : Same width as ATX, but two inches shorter. This means it will fit into smaller cases, but there won't be enough space for expansion slots.
  • Mini-ITX : These motherboards are only 6.75 inches wide and 6.75 inches long, so they fit into small cases but don't leave much space for expansion slots. You might get an expansion slot, or you might not get one at all.

Decide what kind of case you want and check whether it is an ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX case. You can look for a motherboard that matches the CPU socket you want to use.

The form factor of your motherboard does not affect the type of CPU you need to use. You can use the same CPU with an ATX, Micro-ATX, or Mini-ITX motherboard if the motherboard has the correct sockets.

After the CPU socket and form factor, the next most important factor is how many expansion ports (usually PCIe ports) the motherboard has and how many you think you'll need.

The two most common expansion ports are the PCIe x16 slot (which accommodates graphics cards) and the PCIe x1 slot (which is used for other expansion cards, such as adding additional USB ports). If you want to install two graphics cards, make sure the motherboard has two expansion ports that can accommodate the graphics cards.

Most motherboards support PCIe 3.0, but some support the newer PCIe 4.0 and 5.0, which provide more bandwidth. If you have any PCIe cards or want to future-proof your choice, look for a motherboard that supports PCIe 5.0.

The ports built into the motherboard are also worth a look. The motherboard will include a combination of USB-A, USB-C, audio ports, HDMI, and DisplayPort, and even traditional ports like VGA, PS/2, parallel port, and serial port. Motherboards can also include Ethernet ports and other connectivity features, such as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Consider which ports you are most likely to need and choose a motherboard that suits your requirements so you don't have to add expansion cards or USB hubs right away.

It's also important to check how many RAM slots your motherboard has and how much total RAM it supports to meet your memory needs. If all your computer needs is streaming, surfing the web, and playing basic games, this factor won't matter. Still, if you do any video or photo editing or play resource-intensive games, choosing to install more RAM is still crucial.

If you're building a new computer, you'll need to buy a motherboard. When upgrading or repairing your current computer, you may need to replace the motherboard. If you are purchasing a new motherboard as a replacement or to build a computer, make sure you have the knowledge and instructions on how to proceed.

After purchasing a motherboard, you must install it in your current computer or a computer you are building. Before you begin, make sure you have your motherboard and computer manuals. If you're not an expert, consult an experienced technician for help or outsource the task.

Make sure all peripherals are removed and disconnected, and the computer is turned off and unplugged. You will open the desktop case, disconnect all internal hardware, and place components in a safe, static-free location. Make sure all power cords are unplugged. Remove any screws holding the motherboard in place, and then carefully remove the motherboard tray.

How you proceed depends on whether you are reusing the old CPU and other hardware or installing new components. Please carefully follow the replacement instructions for your motherboard.

Before purchasing a motherboard, consider these additional tips.

  • If your peripherals require specific connectors (such as USB 3.0, eSATA, Thunderbolt, HDMI, or PCI Express), make sure your motherboard can support these connections.
  • The components supported by motherboards vary widely. Your motherboard may only support one CPU type and specific memory type.
  • Laptop motherboards are less easy to upgrade as they may contain built-in components such as graphics cards.
  • Make sure any motherboard you consider has adequate cooling mechanisms, especially if you plan on overclocking.
  • When connecting devices to your motherboard, you may also need to install device drivers so that they work properly with your operating system.
  • Consider other motherboard features and whether they might be helpful to you. For example, the motherboard may include onboard wireless, audio, or RAID controllers.
  • If you want to overclock your CPU, make sure your motherboard can handle the CPU multiplier and voltage.

The motherboard is the computer hardware component that connects various internal computer components, including the CPU, memory modules, hard drives, expansion cards, and ports. Computer components are connected to the computer either directly or through appropriate cables.

Both Macs and Windows PCs have motherboards, but the Mac motherboard is often called the "logic board." When you hear the word "motherboard," it's probably a Windows PC component.

The motherboard is like the backbone of your Windows PC, connecting its components together. It is one of the most critical components of a computer because the rest of the components are assembled around it. The CPU plugs into a special socket on the motherboard; expansion cards like graphics cards also plug into the motherboard, as do hard drives and everything else.

  • If you're building a PC, you have to make sure that all the parts your PC needs will fit into the case, so know the exact dimensions of your motherboard and other components before making your decision. As long as it fits properly, your motherboard will work in any situation.

  • Most standalone sound cards perform better than those integrated into the motherboard. Some of the best sound cards include Creative Sound Blaster Z and EVGA NU sound cards.