to upgrading a Motherboard (12/01/2000)
UpGrading a Motherboard is not
upgrades can boost your PC's performance, but for a real jump
for your old PC, nothing beats a full motherboard upgrade. A new motherboard, coupled with a high-speed
processor and a generous amount of RAM, can dramatically improve
system performance. It's not a job for a beginner, but if you're
comfortable doing major poking around in your PC (or have a
computer-savvy friend to help), the operation isn't too
Most motherboards today
retail for $60 to $250. Midspeed processors, meanwhile, cost
from about $100 (for a Celeron-500) to $200 (for a Pentium
III-600 or Athlon-700). Don't skimp on RAM, either. Go for 128MB
(about $80). For a total investment of between $240 and $700,
you'll have a powerhouse PC. If your budget is smaller, consider
64MB of RAM (about $40) and a lower-end CPU like AMD's K6-2-500
(about $60), dropping the bottom line to about $160.
Most computers made in the
past three years have cases that require a motherboard with an
ATX form factor. If you're replacing an ATX motherboard, you can
choose from a wide variety of boards, differing mainly in the
processor types and speeds they support. Your best bet is to
choose the processor you want and then purchase a motherboard
that supports it.
If your PC is older, its
case probably requires a board with an AT form factor. Check
your system manual to be sure, but if your serial and parallel
ports aren't built into the side of the board, you probably have
an AT motherboard. If so, consider buying a bare-bones ATX
system--essentially a motherboard (usually with CPU and RAM)
installed in a case with a power supply--and then transfer the
drives and cards from your old system to it. Watch out, however,
if you have lots of ISA add-in boards. Most new motherboards
have few (or no) ISA slots... or simply invest between $30
to $60 for a new ATX case as part of your upgrade.
The occasion of replacing
your motherboard is also a good time to upgrade other components
in your system, such as the hard drive or the graphics card.
Before you start your motherboard transplant, of course, run a
full system backup.
1. Remove the Cards and
Turn off your PC; unplug it from the
wall; and disconnect the mouse, keyboard, monitor, printer, and
any other external cables (such as USB). Remove the PC's cover,
and carefully look at what you need to remove or disconnect to
reach the motherboard. In some cases, you'll have to remove a
hard drive or other hardware to get to the motherboard.
Before you begin working
under your PC's hood, put on an antistatic wrist strap
(available from a local electronics supply store such as Radio
Shack) and clip it to a grounded metal object. Cost here is
between $4 and $10.
Remove the screws holding
the add-in cards, carefully remove the cards, and lay them on a
clean, flat surface, preferably in the order in which you
Label each cable with
masking tape and write down each connection as you remove it.
Unplug the power connector, the floppy disk cable, and the EIDE
connectors. Make sure to note which cable is connected to the
primary and which to the secondary EIDE connector (sometimes
they're marked Channel A and B, or 1 and 2).
Finally, unplug the small
connectors attached to the front-panel switches and LEDs.
2. Remove the Old
Most motherboards are attached to the
case with a handful of screws--usually about five, but the
number can vary. Find them, carefully remove them, and set them
aside in a handy container, such as a coffee cup or that ashtray
you don't use any more.
Remove the old motherboard
by sliding it slightly toward the front of the case (so the
connectors at the rear are clear of the case) and then pivoting
3. Install Ram and
Before you mount the
motherboard in the case, insert your new RAM module (or modules)
into the RAM socket (A), beginning with the socket marked
"Bank 0." DIMM modules fit only one way. Slide them
firmly into their sockets. Brackets on each side will snap into
place automatically when the module is correctly seated.
Most of today's CPUs fit
into sockets. To install a socketed processor, lift the lever on
the socket and carefully insert the CPU (B), making sure that
Pin 1 on the CPU matches Pin 1 on the socket. Hold the processor
firmly in place and lock the lever down. If you're installing an
older CPU that fits in a slot, carefully insert it until it's
A reminder: All
CPUs need cooling. If a heatsink or fan isn't built in, purchase
and install one. Without it, your new CPU will self-destruct in
4. Install the New Motherboard
Slide the new motherboard
into the case. You'll know it's in the correct position when the
mounting holes align.
Mount the motherboard,
using the screws you removed in step 2. Just "snug up"
the screws; screwing them in too tightly can damage the
Cards and Cables
Reinstall the cards and
cables that you removed. Don't rush through this step! Work
slowly and carefully, avoid bending pins, and double-check to
see that everything is correctly connected.
forget to connect the CPU fan's power cable to the motherboard.
Reinstall your PC's add-in
cards, securing them with the screws you removed earlier.
Reconnect the mouse,
keyboard, monitor, printer, and any other external devices you
may have, but don't put the cover back on your PC until you're
absolutely sure that everything's working.
Finally, plug in the AC
Start if UP!!!
Turn on your PC. If it beeps and you see
messages on the screen, that's a positive sign. Expect the new
hardware to confuse Windows initially. The OS should
automatically reconfigure itself, but don't be surprised if
Windows restarts itself several times during the process.
If nothing happens--or if your PC hangs
part of the way through start-up--turn off your PC, disconnect
the AC power, recheck all the connections, and start the system
up again. If it hangs again, contact your motherboard maker's
tech support. Dead-on-arrival motherboards, CPUs, and RAM
modules are rare, but they do occur.
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