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How to Change Your Motherboard - Out with the Old, In with the New

written by: •edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 5/25/2011

Changing the motherboard in your PC actually is not that big a deal, but you do have to be careful not to damage anything in the process. This article covers how to remove your old motherboard and install a new one. It also applies to anyone building a new PC.

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    Change Your Motherboard

    Installing a new motherboard in your computer is actually not as daunting a task as it seems. Most of the cables that you have to plug into the motherboard only fit one way, so in most cases it’s physically impossible to attach them incorrectly. This article will cover the basics of how to remove your old motherboard and put in a new one.

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    How to Remove an Old Motherboard

    PC Case Interior The first thing you should do is unplug the power cable and wait a few seconds before you touch anything. This will give the power supply time to discharge and just makes for a safer experience. As a general rule, you should never plug or unplug anything inside a PC while the power is still plugged in.

    The next step is to unplug all the cables to the motherboard. It doesn’t matter which order, since you’re going to disconnect everything. Be sure you get the cables going from the power supply, the drive cables (IDE or SATA), the case fan cables, and the cables which connect to the front panel of the PC. Be careful to pull gently upward and not bend anything while removing these cables. If you have any cards in the PCI, AGP, or PCI Express slots, you can go ahead and pull them out, too.

    At this point, some people may want to remove the RAM and CPU from the motherboard. I recommend that you do not do this until you are ready to put them into your new motherboard. The reason for this is that you don’t want to just set down the RAM or CPU on a table where the pins might get bent or moved around. RAM is a little tougher than the CPU as far as handling is concerned, but you still want to minimize how much they get moved around or touched by anything. Besides that, they are easier to take off with the motherboard removed from the case.

    The last thing you need to do is physically remove the motherboard from the case. It should be held down by screws placed near the four corners of the board, and a couple more in the middle. Carefully take them out and be sure not to scratch or bump anything with your screwdriver while doing so. Once the screws are removed, you should be able to lift up the mother board and remove it from the case. If you have trouble getting it out, you may need to remove the power supply or other internal components that may get in the way.

    Once the motherboard is removed, you’ll see some anchor type screws mounted to the wall of the case, and these will also need to be removed unless the new motherboard is the exact same kind as the old one.

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    How to Install a New Motherboard

    If you are upgrading your computer with a new motherboard, I recommend you go ahead and insert the RAM and CPU. It’s easier to do this before installing into the case. Just be careful when pressing down the RAM into the slots, because you don’t want to accidentally break the motherboard. Also be careful to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on installing the CPU and heatsink correctly.

    Your new motherboard should have several holes in it that are used for screws to mount the board to the inside of the computer case. What I’ve always done is set the motherboard inside of the case and lined up the holes I needed, then use a Sharpie or some other marker to put a mark on each hole. Once you have them all marked, you will need to take out the motherboard and install the anchor screws first.

    ASUS Motherboard Now you can put the motherboard back in place and tighten it down. It’s so much easier to use a marker than take the motherboard in and out of the case until you figure out which holes you need to use. Just be careful not to over tighten.

    It does not matter what order you connect the drive and power cables, so long as you don’t have the power supply plugged into any electrical source. The very last thing you should do is connect the electricity, otherwise you’re asking for trouble. When running the cables, try to keep them clear of any cooling fans or in any pathways that might obstruct airflow. Be careful not to bend any of the cables too much, either.

    Next, you’ll want to connect the front panel of the case to your motherboard. At a minimum, this will involve connectors for the power button and hard drive lights, and sometimes you also have to connect USB and audio ports. It all depends on the type of case you have and the features involved, and there are too many thousands of combinations to go into any great detail here. Your motherboard manufacturer should tell you where to plug things in, and the board itself is usually labeled, although the print is very tiny. In the past, I’ve had to use trial and error to get the power and drive light cables connected correctly.

    In the old days, it was a lot more work to hook up a motherboard because you sometimes had to make some tweaks just to get the speed settings correct. Nowadays, most modern motherboards let you do all this via the BIOS, which makes the process a whole lot easier.

    When you turn on your computer for the first time, it should go into a BIOS menu where you set the date and time, then you should check over the drives, make sure the boot sequence is correct, and so on. If your motherboard’s BIOS has any built-in memory and hard drive testers, I suggest you run them to make sure your components are working properly. Doing so will save you a lot of trouble down the line.