The mainboard or motherboard is the main part of your computer These vary in price depending on quality and features from circa £20 to £300.
A typical computer has its microprocessor, main memory,sound, graphics controller and other essential components intregrated into the motherboard.
An important component of a motherboard is the microprocessor’s supporting chipset, which provides the supporting interfaces between the CPU and the various components. This chipset determines, to an extent, the features and capabilities of the motherboard.
Modern motherboards include, at a minimum:
- sockets in which one or more microprocessors may be installed
- slots into which the system’s main memory is to be installed (typically in the form of DIMM modules containing DRAM chips). The number of sockets varies from 2 to 6 on a typical mainboard. Server mainboards tend to have 6 to 8 sockets. The specification and size of the socket will determine which type of memory can be used. See Memory page for the different types available.
- a chipset which forms an interface between the processors, main memory, and peripheral buses
- non-volatile memory chips (usually Flash ROM in modern motherboards) containing the system’s firmware or BIOS. see rom on memory types page.
- a clock generator which produces the system clock signal to synchronize the various components
- slots for expansion cards (these interface to the system via the buses supported by the chipset). Common types of sockets are isa(not used now), pci, agp(older graphics slot) and pci-x (v1 and 2).
- power connectors, which receive electrical power from the computer power supply and distribute it to the CPU, chipset, main memory, and expansion cards.
Mainboards also have a set of connectors for interfacing to keyboards, printers and monitors etc.
There used to be various connections for different devices such as printers etc. These included scsi, parallel and serial. the majority of peripherals now use a universal serial bus connector or usb. There are different versions of usb connector which offer different speeds( currently up to version 2). All usb connectors are backwards compatible.
Typical manufacturers of mainboards are Acer, Albatron, AOpen, Flextronics, ASUS, ASRock, Advansus, BFG Technologies, Biostar, DFI, Elitegroup Computer Systems (also PCChips), EMAXX, EPoX, eVGA, Foxconn, Gigabyte Technology, Gumstix, Intel, Jetway, Leadtek, Mercury, MSI (Micro-Star International), Palit, PCP, PNY Technologies, Powercolor, Quanmax, RedFox, Sapphire Technology, Shuttle Inc, Soyo Group Inc, Supermicro, Tyan, ABIT, VIA Technologies and XFX. Most mainboards will use a chipset from one of the following manufacturers: Intel, AMD, Nvidia,VIA Technologies, Silicon Integrated Systems