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Tips for choosing the right motherboard for your custom-built computer

Are you planning to build a custom computer? If so, the motherboard is one of the most important components you'll need to consider. It's the backbone of your computer system, connecting all the other components together. In this article, we'll provide tips for selecting the right motherboard for your custom-built computer.

Tips for choosing the right motherboard for your custom-built computer

Choosing the right motherboard can mean the difference between a stable, high-performance system and one prone to crashes and other issues. And depending on what you plan to use it for, the features may and will change.

CPU: The first thing to consider when choosing a motherboard is your CPU (Central Processing Unit). Your motherboard must be compatible with the CPU you plan to use. If you plan to use an Intel CPU, you'll need to choose a motherboard with an LGA socket compatible with your CPU. If you plan to use an AMD CPU, you'll need to choose a motherboard with an AM4 socket compatible with your CPU.

There are times when you might need a BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) update to run a newer CPU. Always check the motherboard manufacturer's website for a list of CPUs that are supported and what version of BIOS it may require.

Now, Intel CPU motherboards do not come with brackets to mount a CPU cooler, but AMD CPU motherboards do. If you decide to go with an AMD CPU, remember that some CPU coolers come with their own backplate, and some use the default AM4 backplate that comes with your AMD motherboard.

If your CPU cooler comes with its own backplate, remember to put the AM4 backplate that comes with your motherboard in a safe location, just in case you need to replace your CPU cooler and the new one requires the original AM4 backplate. Finding a replacement backplate can be time-consuming and a little expensive (around $20 w/ shipping). I have had to order plenty of replacement backplates, as the originals got lost.

Chipset: The chipset is another important factor to consider when choosing a motherboard. The chipset determines what features and capabilities your motherboard will offer. The chipset also affects the performance of your system, as it manages the data flow between the CPU, memory, and peripherals.

Size: Motherboards come in different sizes, ranging from mini-ITX to ATX. The size of the motherboard you choose will determine the size of your computer case. Make sure you choose a motherboard that's compatible with the size of your case.

Tips for choosing the perfect case for your computer

Memory: Memory has always been one of the most vital components next to the CPU. Remember that the memory slots have a maximum amount of memory each can use. You multiply that by the number of memory slots, and you get your maximum usable memory.

You always want to have memory modules that have matching specifications, so it is recommended that you purchase your memory modules in twin or quad packs. That way, you will be assured that all of the memory modules will match.

PCIe Expansion Slots: Expansion slots are another important factor to consider when choosing a motherboard. These slots allow you to add additional components to your system, such as graphics card(s), sound card, or WiFi adapter. Make sure the motherboard you choose has enough PCIe expansion slots (x16, x4, x1) for your needs.

How to add an expansion card to your desktop computer

Storage: The type of storage you use with your motherboard will have a direct impact on the performance. Solid State Drives (SSD) are faster, but Hard Disk Drives (HDD) have larger capacity. There are two type of connections for SSDs (M.2 & SATA) but only one (SATA) for HDDs.

The fastest and most common type of drive is an M.2, with SATA drives coming in second. The typical gaming system has an M.2 drive for the operating system and programs files and an HDD for data storage. Once you decide on what drive(s) (M.2 and/or SATA) and quantity you want to use, you can make sure your motherboard has all of the correct (M.2 / SATA) connections.

I/O Ports: The I/O ports on your motherboard determine what devices you can connect to your system. Make sure the motherboard you choose has enough USB ports, audio ports, and other ports you'll need for your peripherals. It's also important to check if the motherboard has a built-in WiFi or Bluetooth adapter.

Also check the on-board headers for the matching connections for your case. You will want to make sure you have headers for the USB (3.2, 3.1, 2.0) ports, case fans, and lighting features your case may have. It sucks if your case has a USB 3.2 port on the front but your motherboard doesn't have a USB 3.2 header to connect it to.

Power: The majority of ATX-type power supplies have all of the necessary connectors (Modular ATX (24-pin), ATX 12V 8-pin (4x4), Molex, etc.) for almost any motherboard. But to be on the safe side, always check the specifications and connectors for any motherboard you are looking at purchasing.

How to estimate the power required for your custom-built computer

Brand and Warranty: Finally, consider the brand and warranty of the motherboard you choose. Choose a reputable brand that offers good customer support and a solid warranty. This will give you peace of mind knowing that you'll be able to get help if you encounter any issues with your motherboard.

In conclusion, choosing the right motherboard is essential for building a stable, high-performance, custom-built computer. When selecting a motherboard, consider your CPU, chipset, size, memory, PCIe expansion slots, storage, I/O ports, power, and brand reputation. With these tips in mind, you can choose the best motherboard for your custom-built computer, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable computing experience.

Tips for choosing the perfect case for your computer

Are you building a new computer or upgrading an existing one? The computer case is one of the most essential components you'll need to consider. In this article, we'll go over some tips to help you in choosing the perfect case for your computer.

Tips for choosing the perfect case for your computer

When it comes to finding the perfect computer case, you have to remember that not only does it protect your components, but it also affects your computer's cooling and noise levels. With so many options on the market, choosing the right computer case can be overwhelming.

Size matters: The first thing you will need to consider is the motherboard that you are going to use. The most common sizes are ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Make sure you choose a case that fits your motherboard size.
A home theater computer case
Beyond that, you'll also need to consider the size of your graphics card(s), power supply, CPU cooler (air or liquid), and drives you plan to install.

Airflow and cooling: Proper airflow is crucial for keeping your components cool and extending their lifespan. Look for a case that has plenty of ventilation and supports multiple fans. You may also want to consider a case with liquid cooling support if you plan on overclocking your CPU (Central Processing Unit) and/or GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Remember, a larger case will give you more room for expansion, but it will also take up more space on or below your desk.

A gaming computer case

If you plan on using a liquid cooler for your CPU and/or GPU, you will need to take into consideration the size of the radiator(s) and cooling fans. The mounting depth for a cooling radiator with fans attached can vary, so definitely make sure you have plenty of clearance in the case where you plan on mounting the cooling system. Remember that a case with more fans will generally be louder than one with fewer fans, so you'll need to find a balance between cooling and noise levels.

Noise levels: Speaking of noise levels, consider the noise output of your case. If you're building a home theater PC or a workstation that needs to be quiet, look for a case with sound-dampening materials and low noise output. On the other hand, if you're building a gaming PC that will be under your desk, noise may not be as much of a concern.

Cable management: A clean and organized interior not only looks better but also helps with airflow and cooling. It also comes in handy when it comes to maintenance. Look for a case with plenty of cable management options, such as routing holes and tie-down points. Some cases even have built-in cable channels to help keep everything tidy.

Build quality: Next, consider the build quality of the case. You want a sturdy, well-made case with no sharp edges or flimsy panels. A good case will also have easy-to-remove panels to access your components easily.

Some 'no name' generic cases have a tendency to have metal edges that are not deburred, leaving them extremely sharp, which will lead to cuts on your hands as you assemble your computer. Since a good quality case can last for years, spending a little more on a quality case is just good sense.

Serviceability: With living in a dry environment like Phoenix, we have an extreme amount of dust and need to clean our systems on a regular basis. Having a computer case that can be easily cleaned of dust is essential.
An open-design computer case
Remember that most computer cases also come with dust filters that need to be cleaned, so having side and top panels that can be easily removed is handy.

In addition to these tips, you'll also want to consider the overall style and design of the case. Do you want a sleek and minimalist look or something with more RGB lighting and flashy designs? Ultimately, the right case for you will depend on your personal preferences and needs.

For more information on building your own computer, check out the following articles.

How to build a computer

How to find compatible computer parts online

Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Are you planning to build your own computer? It can be an exciting project, as you get to choose the components that match your needs and preferences. However, building a computer from scratch can also come with its own set of challenges and errors. In this article, we will discuss the common problems to avoid when building your own computer.

Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Having built and serviced many custom-built computers, there are certain things I watch out for. The tips outlined in this article are meant to assist you in building your own computer. For the basic steps to building a custom computer, check out How to build a computer.

Choosing components: One of the most common mistakes people make when building their own computer is selecting the wrong components. You must choose components that are compatible with one another. For example, if you choose a motherboard that only supports DDR4 RAM, you won't be able to use DDR5 RAM, no matter how much you want to.

How to find compatible computer parts online

Enough space for components: When building a computer, it's essential to make sure that you have enough space for all the components. If you're building a Small Form Factor computer, make sure that all the components you choose can fit inside the case. It's also essential to make sure that there is enough space for adequate cooling and airflow. Remember, you cannot install a full-size ATX motherboard into a microATX case.

Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

Motherboard IO shield: If your motherboard comes with a separate IO shield, remember you have to install it before the motherboard. Also, be careful when installing the motherboard so you do not bend any of the prongs on the IO shield.

Photo of a motherboard IO shield showing the grounding prongs

These prongs are meant to ground the various ports but often get bent out of shape. Install the IO shield in the case and then test fit the motherboard into the case. If you place the motherboard at an angle in the case, you can get the ports on the back underneath any IO shield prongs that need to be on top of them.

Cable Management: Cable management is often overlooked, but it's essential to keep your computer tidy and organized. Proper cable management can help with airflow, reduce dust buildup, and make it easier to troubleshoot any problems. Make sure that all cables are neatly tucked away and secured to avoid any damage or interference with other components.

Photo of plastic coated wire tie and plastic zip tie side by side

When performing cable management, use only velcro or plastic zip ties. Never use plastic-coated wire twist ties since they contain wire, which, if used too close to any exposed circuit board or bare metal, could cause a short.

Power Supply Requirements: The power supply is one of the most critical components of a computer, and it's essential to make sure you get the right one. A power supply that isn't powerful enough can cause your computer to crash, and one that is too powerful can waste energy and increase your electricity bill. Make sure that your power supply can handle the wattage required by your components.

Also, use a modular power supply if possible. With a modular power supply, you only have to attach the cables required for the components inside your case. For example, if you use only M.2 SSDs (Solid State Drive) for storage, you would not need to attach any SATA cables to the power supply, thus saving space inside the case.

How to estimate the power required for your custom-built computer

Cooling: The components inside your computer generate a lot of heat, and it's essential to keep them cool. If your computer overheats, it can cause damage to the components, shorten their lifespan, and even cause them to fail. Make sure you have enough cooling, either through fans or liquid cooling, to keep your computer running at optimal temperatures.

When it comes to the airflow direction, I usually will have air coming in through the front/bottom of the case and going out through the top/back of the case.
Photo of a case fan with directional arrows highlighted
Case fans typically are marked with the direction of both the fan blades and airflow.

In conclusion, building your own computer can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's essential to avoid these common problems. Take your time, do your research, and make sure that you choose the right components that are compatible with one another. Always double-check that everything is installed correctly and that you have enough cooling and space for all the components. With the right approach, you can build a computer that meets your needs and performs well for years to come.

Optimize your network connection for your Windows computer

Are you having problems with the network connection for your Windows computer? Does your Internet connection seem slow? If so, here are some tips on how to optimize the network connection in your Windows computer.

Optimize your network connection for your Windows computer

In today's world, being connected to the Internet is essential for both personal and professional purposes. However, sometimes, the network connection for your Windows computer can be slow or unstable, which can be frustrating and affect your productivity. In this article, we'll explore some tips to optimize the network connection in your Windows computer.

Reset your network adapter

Overtime, the settings for your network adapter can get corrupted. Resetting the network protocols back to factory default will often restore the speed and stability of your network connection. This works for both wired and wireless adapters.

Now, if you have any unique network settings, like a static IP address or preferred DNS servers, you will need to make note of them. Resetting your network adapter(s) will clear all custom settings and return them to out-of-the-box status.

How to reset your network adapter in Windows 11

How to reset your network adapter in Windows 10

Update the drivers for your network adapters

Outdated or corrupted network drivers can cause network connection problems. You will need to download the latest drivers for your network adapter to update your software. And depending on if your computer is custom-built or pre-built, the manufacturer's website will vary.

If your system is pre-built, you must go to the manufacturer's website and search for drivers for your computer model. If your system is custom-built, you must go to the motherboard manufacturer's website and search for your motherboard model.

You can also update your network drivers from the Device Manager. But remember that these drivers will be generic drivers and not the latest version. To do this, right-click on the Start Windows logo menu, left-click on Device Manager, left-click on the Network adapters category on expand it, right-click on your network adapter, and select Update driver from the context menu that appears.

Disable bandwidth-hogging applications

If you have applications running in the background that use a lot of bandwidth, your network connection may be slow or unstable. To check which applications are using the most bandwidth, open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc (all together simultaneously), select the Performance tab, and left-click on Open Resource Monitor. Under the Network tab, you can see which applications are using the most bandwidth. If you find an application that's using a lot of bandwidth and you don't need it, consider disabling it or uninstalling it.

Check your WiFi signal strength

If you connect to your network via a wireless connection, check the WiFi signal strength throughout your home. You might find out that the signal is weak in the areas where you use the network the most. This is where having a smartphone comes in handy.

By installing a WiFi analyzer on your smartphone, you can walk around your home and map the signal strength thought the different rooms. If you find the signal to be weak in a particular area, you can consider moving your WiFi router to another location or getting a WiFi range extender.

Also, if your router or modem is located near other electronics or appliances, they may be causing interference. Consider moving it to a different location or away from other electronics.

Use a wired connection

If possible, use a wired connection instead of WiFi. A wired connection is generally faster and more stable than WiFi, especially if you're transferring large files or streaming video. To connect your computer to your router or modem using a wired connection, plug an Ethernet cable into the Ethernet port on your computer and the Ethernet port on your router or modem.

Optimize your router or modem

Your router or modem may also need some optimization to improve your network connection. Some tips to optimize your router or modem include:

  • Updating the firmware: Check the manufacturer's website for firmware updates for your router or modem. Updating the firmware can improve performance and fix security vulnerabilities.
  • Changing the channel: If you're experiencing interference from neighboring WiFi networks, changing the channel on your router can help. You can do this in the router's settings.

By following these tips, you can optimize the network connection in your Windows computer and enjoy faster, more stable Internet. Remember to always keep your computer and network equipment up-to-date and secure to avoid network problems.

What to do when your desktop computer does not start

Is your desktop computer not starting up? Are no lights or fans coming on when you try to start your desktop computer? If so, here is what to do when your desktop computer does not start.

What to do when your desktop computer does not start

Dealing with a desktop computer that won't start can be a frustrating experience, especially if you rely on it for work, entertainment, or both. However, before you panic and assume the worst, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the issue.

Disconnect external devices

If your desktop computer is not starting up, it could be due to an external device connected to it having failed. Disconnect all external devices, including USB drives, external hard drives, and printers. Try booting up your desktop computer again and see if it works.

Check the power connection

Next, you will want to ensure your computer is properly plugged in and all cables are securely connected. This may sound obvious, but it's a common mistake that can easily be overlooked. Check that the power cable is plugged into the computer's power supply and an electrical outlet. Additionally, ensure that your monitor, keyboard, and mouse are all connected properly.

Check the PSU (Power Supply Unit)

If your computer still won't start, the next step is to check for any signs of life. Do you hear any sounds when you press the power button? Can you see any lights on the computer or monitor? If the answer is no to both of these questions, there may be an issue with your power supply.

Now, there are different types of desktop computers: Mid/Full-size Tower, Small Form Factor (SFF), All-In-One, Mini, etc. And with the different kinds of desktop computers come different types of power supplies. Some are external, and some are internal.

External power supplies

Mini, All-In-One, and some SFF computers are actually built on a laptop platform and use external power supplies. Remember that the output from any power supply, internal or external, will gradually diminish to a point where your computer will not start.

And even if you do not turn on and use your Mini, All-In-One, or SFF computer, the power supply is often connected to an AC jack, powered up, and energized. If your external power supply is over three years old, it is probably time to replace it.

Internal power supplies

All Mid/Full-size Tower and most SFF computers use internal power supplies and use the ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) specification for connectors. Mid/Full-size Tower power supplies are the most common and are readily available at your local computer parts store.

Almost all SFF computers that use internal power supplies are specifically made (dimensions, connectors, etc.) for that system. You would have to use the part number on the existing power supply to order another one online.

Note: The following procedures require opening the case of your computer. If you do not feel comfortable taking your desktop computer apart, don't hesitate to contact a local computer repair technician.

Most desktop computer cases are relatively easy to open. Just a screw or two secures the side panel to the case. If you need help determining how to open the case, you may need to find a user manual online. A quick Google search for the make and model of your desktop computer plus user manual should get you a manual. For example: Dell XPS 8950 user manual.

Now, all Mid and Full-size Towers and some SFF computers use power supplies with 20+4 motherboard connectors. You can perform a simple test to check the health of those types of desktop power supplies.

How to tell if your desktop computer power supply has failed

Check for debugging LEDs

If the power supply tests out well, the next step is to check for debugging LEDs. To find out if your motherboard has debugging LEDs, you must find a manual for it. A quick Google search for the make and model of your desktop computer or motherboard plus manual should get you a manual. For example: Dell XPS 8950 manual.

The debugging LEDs correspond to the POST (Pre-Operative Self Test) that happens every time you start your computer. The standard four (4) debugging LEDs are CPU (Central Processing Unit), DRAM (Dynamic Random-Access Memory), GPU (Graphics Processor Unit), and Boot drive.

If your motherboard has debugging LEDs, disconnect the power cord from the power supply and then hold down the power button for 30 seconds. Then reconnect the power cord and watch the debugging LEDs for any life. If your computer shuts down when a particular LED lights up, that is the component that must be looked at.

Reseat the components

If your desktop computer is still not starting, then try to reseat the components: GPU, memory, CPU, expansion cards, M.2 drives, etc. Make sure you disconnect the power cord from your desktop computer and hold down the power button for thirty (30) seconds to discharge any residual electrical current before attempting to reseat any of the components.

In conclusion, if your desktop computer doesn't start, several potential causes should be considered. Following the troubleshooting steps outlined above, you should be able to identify and fix the issue in most cases. However, if you still have problems after trying these steps, it may be time to consult a professional computer repair service.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

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Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

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