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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.

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

Whether you are building a new computer or replacing/upgrading your existing one, one of the most important considerations is the Power Supply Unit (PSU). The PSU is responsible for delivering power to all the components in your system, including the motherboard, CPU, graphics card(s), and other peripherals. Choosing the correct PSU is crucial to ensure stable and reliable performance and prevent damage to your components.

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

Two (2) components in your computer will consume most of the power: the motherboard and the graphics card(s). The motherboard uses a relatively small amount of energy but supplies power to the CPU, memory, PCIe slots, and USB ports.

To determine the appropriate wattage for your PSU, you must first consider the power requirements of your components. Here are some guidelines to help you estimate how many watts your PSU should be:

  • CPU: The power consumption of your CPU depends on its model and clock speed. Generally, high-end CPUs require more power than budget models. You can find the power requirements of your CPU on the manufacturer's website.
  • Graphics card(s): If you plan on using a dedicated graphics card(s), these will be one of the most power-hungry components in your system. High-end graphics cards can consume up to 450 watts under load, so check the manufacturer's specifications before choosing a PSU.
  • Motherboard: Your motherboard's power consumption is relatively low compared to other components, but it still requires some power. Make sure to choose a PSU that can provide enough power for all the motherboard components, including the CPU and memory.
  • Storage: Hard drives and SSDs consume very little power, so you don't need to worry about them when choosing a PSU.
  • Other components: If you plan to use other components, such as a sound card, network adapter, or USB devices, make sure to factor in their power requirements when estimating your PSU wattage.

Now, some online power supply calculators can estimate the power requirements given the specifications of the components. You can use these websites to calculate a rough estimate of the amount of power your computer will require. Here are a few online power supply calculators.

Newegg - Power Supply Calculator

PC builds - Power Supply Calculator

OuterVision - Power Supply Calculator

Once you have a rough estimate of the power requirements for your components, add some extra headroom to ensure stable and reliable performance. A good rule of thumb is to choose a PSU that can provide at least 20% more power than your estimated requirements.

In conclusion, choosing the suitable PSU is crucial to ensure stable and reliable performance for your computer. By estimating the power requirements of your components and adding some extra headroom, you can choose a PSU that meets your needs and provides room for future upgrades.

Windows 11 hardware requirements explained

Are you confused about the hardware requirements for Windows 11? Want to know why your computer can or cannot be upgraded to Windows 11? Let's take a detailed look at the hardware requirements for Windows 11.

Windows 11 hardware requirements explained

With Windows 11, Microsoft is focusing on security and is starting to enforce the hardware requirements to run it. Previous versions of Windows (10, 8.1, and 7) all had the exact general hardware requirement.

But with Windows 10, the security requirements were still there, but they were not being enforced. The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), Secure Boot, and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) (see below) requirements were optional for Windows 10 to install and run.

Case in point, TPM has always been required for BitLocker encryption to be enabled. Windows 10 would use either TPM 1.2 or TPM 2.0. But the TPM 1.2 standard has been depreciated, so TPM 2.0 is now the defacto standard.

And if you look into UEFI, you will find that Secure Boot is part of that standard. And since UEFI can take advantage of TPM, it makes sense to include all three (3) in the requirements for Windows 11.

Note: Sorry for anybody still running a 32-bit version of Windows 10, but Windows 11 is only available in a 64-bit version.

Hardware requirements for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10

Processor - 1 Gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

Memory - 1 Gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

Storage - 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

Graphics card - Compatible with DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Hardware requirements for Windows 11

Processor - 1 Gigahertz (GHz) or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC). This requirement is now particular on what processors are compatible with Windows 11. General Rule of thumb: If the processor is less than three (3) years old, it should run Windows 11. Microsoft has a list of processors that are compatible with Windows 11.

Memory - 4 Gigabytes (GB) RAM. This requirement has increased from 2GB to 4GB, which is no biggie. I have not seen a computer with only 2 GB of memory in over a decade now.

Storage - 64 GB or larger storage device. This requirement has also increased, and it is about time. I have seen Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 installed on 32 GB drives, which is not pretty. The biggest problem is there usually is not enough free space to perform a feature update. I recommend at least a 256 GB drive for the operating system and programs.

Graphics card - DirectX 12 graphics device or later with WDDM 2.0 driver. Since DirectX 12 was released with Windows 10 back in 2015, most modern graphic cards will be compatible with Windows 11.

Hardware requirements that are no longer optional

Display - High definition (720p) display greater than 9" diagonally, 8 bits per color channel. This requirement is pretty easy to meet.

System firmware - UEFI and Secure Boot capable. UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) has been used for over a decade now, so most computers running have UEFI enabled. And since the Secure Boot specification is part of the UEFI, that too should already be in place. However, you may have to change some settings in your computer's BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) to enable UEFI and Secure Boot.

TPM - Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0. Besides the processor requirement, this is another stumbling point for upgrading to Windows 11. A TPM can be a separate module that you connect to your motherboard or be part of the chipset on your motherboard. Most modern motherboards will use FTPM (Firmware Trusted Platform Module) that is included in the chipset. However, you may have to change some settings in your computer's BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) to enable the TPM.

Storage structure - There are two (2) types of drive structures; MBR (Master Boot Record) and GPT (GUID Partition Table). Previous versions of Windows would run on either of these structures. Windows 11 requires GTP for the drive that contains Windows 11. Microsoft has included a tool inside Windows 10 to convert drives from MBR to GPT. Here is a link to the documentation for MBR2GPT.EXE.

Make your computer faster by upgrading the hardware

One of the most frequently asked questions is, "How can I make my computer faster?". It may seem like a simple question, but it does not have a simple answer. Let's take a look at how you can make your computer faster by upgrading the hardware.

Make your computer faster by upgrading the hardware

In previous articles, I have discussed how to use software to speed up a computer. This time around, I will talk about how to get a computer run faster by upgrading the hardware.

Now when it comes down to what makes a computer fast, it boils down to how quickly can all of the different components process data. Let's take a look at all of the parts of a computer that affect the speed and see what we can upgrade.

Note: Some of these upgrades may require complicated disassembly of your computer. If you are not comfortable performing any of these upgrades, please contact a local computer repair service like Geeks in Phoenix.

Motherboard

The motherboard has the most bearing on the performance of a computer. The motherboard bus is what oversees the transferring of data between the various components. The faster the bus speed, the quicker the data travels through the motherboard.

The motherboard bus connects the Central Processor Unit (CPU) to the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets. The Northbridge handles the graphics bus and memory bus. The Southbridge handles all of the Input/Output (I/O) components, such as SATA and M.2 drives, USB ports, onboard audio, and network adapter. And the speed of the CPU and memory are based on multiplying the bus speed.

Upgrading your motherboard

This is one upgrade that requires serious consideration. If you have a laptop, all-in-one, or a brand name desktop computer (like Dell or HP), a motherboard upgrade is impossible. Only machines that use off-the-shelf components can have the motherboard upgraded.

The first thing to think about is your existing hardware. Will the CPU and memory work on a new motherboard? You would probably get better performance if you upgraded the CPU and memory too.

The second thing to think about is software. You will have to reinstall the operating system and all programs completely. And if you are running Windows, you will also have to get a new product key, as your existing key is bound to your current motherboard.

Technically speaking, you can upgrade any component that attaches to the motherboard and not have to reactivate Windows. Change out the motherboard, and Microsoft sees that as a whole new computer. It is in the EULA (End User License Agreement).

So upgrading the motherboard is probably out of the question. But there are a few other components that you can improve to get better performance from your computer.

CPU

Upgrading a CPU is an excellent way of gaining some speed on a desktop computer. Sorry laptop owners, the majority of laptop computers have the CPU soldered to the motherboard. The same holds for some all-in-one systems too.

Upgrading your CPU

If you are thinking about upgrading the CPU on your motherboard, you will need to do some research. The first thing to do is find the manual/specifications for your motherboard. It would be best if you found out what the CPU socket type it has. For example, Intel CPUs use LGA 1151, LGA 2066, etc. socket types, AMD CPUs use sTRX4, AM4, etc. socket types.

The second thing you will need to do is verify with the motherboard manufacturer what CPUs the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) supports. Installing a new CPU may require updating the BIOS firmware. And you will need to do this before installing a new CPU.

All of this information should be easy to find on the manufacturer's website. If you can't find it, give them a call. Once you have a list of supported CPUs and the BIOS versions to run them, you should be ready to go.

Remember to get some thermal compound when you order the new CPU. The existing compound will more than likely spread across the current CPU and cooler. Clean off the old compound on the CPU cooler and apply some new compound to the new CPU and then reinstall the cooler.

Memory

Upgrading the memory in a computer has always been the biggest bang for the buck. This applies to all types of machines; laptop, desktop, and all-in-ones. And the majority of the time, it is pretty simple.

I usually recommend looking at the existing memory and seeing how to get the maximum amount in the computer. This time around, I recommend looking at the speed of the current memory, and if you can install faster memory.

Installing faster memory could mean having to replace all of the existing memory modules. But doing that would make your computer run faster. Remember that you can not mix memory of different speeds, they all have to be the same speed and clock timings.

Upgrading your memory

There are three things you will need to find out. The first and most important is what type of memory does your computer take. The majority of computers nowadays can use memory that runs at different speeds. Remember that the memory speed is a multiple of the motherboard bus speed.

The second is memory slots; how much memory can each handle and how many does your computer have. Again, you can find all of this information in the motherboard/system manual. It would be best if you were able to find these on the manufacturer's website.

The third is how to access the memory slots. Getting to the memory slots in a desktop is pretty straightforward. Laptops and all-in-one systems may be tricky. I have seen some MSI laptops that had to be completely disassembled to get to the memory slots.

For more details on memory upgrades, check out the following article.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Drives

Having a drive that has a fast transfer rate will make a difference with the speed of a computer. Merely upgrading from a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) to a Solid State Drive (SSD) can be a game-changer. You would be amazed at the difference in performance between them.

Now HDDs and some SSDs use a SATA connection on the motherboard. The standard SATA connection has a transfer rate of up to 6 Gigabits per second. An HDD doesn't come close to that transfer rate, but most SSDs do.

And then there is the M.2 drive. It does require a particular slot on the motherboard, as it requires direct channels to the Southbridge chipset. But the transfer rate of 32 Gigabits per second will blow your socks off.

Of all of these recommendations for making your computer faster, this procedure will take the most time. Depending on the upgrade route you choose, the total time can be a few hours to a couple of days.

Upgrading your drive

There are two ways of upgrading your primary boot drive; cloning the existing drive or a fresh installation of the operating system. Each of them has its pros and cons.

Cloning your existing drive

  • Pros: This can be the fastest way of upgrading your drive, and you do not have to reinstall the operating system and programs.
  • Cons: You may run into a problem with resizing partitions and with getting your computer to boot correctly from the new drive.

There are two ways to go about cloning a drive; disk-to-disk or disk-to-image / image-to-disk. If you have a desktop computer, you can do either type of drive cloning. If you have a laptop or all-in-one computer, cloning to an image is the only option. And if you are upgrading from a SATA to an M.2 drive, cloning to an image is recommended.

For more details on disk cloning, check out the following article.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Fresh (clean) installation

  • Pros: You get a brand-new operating system and programs with that right-out-of-the box experience
  • Cons: This can take some time to get all of the software installed and personal files restored

This is the most time consuming of the two cloning procedures, but it has some significant advantages. What will take the most time is finding all of the software that you will want to reinstall. For more information on performing a clean installation of Windows 10, check out the following article.

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

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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Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

Customer service is #1

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.

Bring your computer to us and save

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.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

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