How to Upgrade Motherboard

If your old PC isn’t quite as fast or as powerful as when you first purchase it and you’d really like to have a faster computer, you have two choices: buy a whole new computer or upgrade the motherboard (and possibly some of your PC’s peripheral devices). Depending on the upgrade you do, in general, upgrading your motherboard and CPU will cost you a whole lot less than a brand new computer.

Here is a list of the criteria you should consider when evaluating your PC and deciding how to upgrade it:

  • The CPU Which CPU you use with your current motherboard depends mostly on the motherboard itself. While nearly all motherboards can be upgraded with a new processor, exactly which CPU is totally dependent on the configuration of the motherboard. If you have a Core 2 processor and wish to move up to a Core i7, you can count on replacing the motherboard and CPU and perhaps the power supply and more. However, if you merely want to step up to the next level of processor, as long as the processor you wish to move to is within the specification of the motherboard, the move should be fairly effortless. Check your motherboard’s documentation or check with your PC’s manufacturer to be sure of your choices.

  • Sockets The most common socket style on newer motherboards have at least one ZIF (zero insertion force) socket. The specifications for the CPU you wish to move up to should specify its socket requirements.

  • Cache memory CPU cache is a Static random-access memory (static RAM or SRAM), used by the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer to reduce the average cost (time or energy) to access data from the main memory. CPU caches are small pools of memory that store information the CPU is most likely to need next. Processor cache is fast memory that the processor can access as quickly as possible. Lower CPU cache size will result in a higher probability of cache misses, which will significantly degrade performance. Both cache size and core count are vitally important when weighing a computer's performance. Modern processors integrate the L2 cache into the processor die just like the L1 cache, and most recent models include on-die L3 as well.

  • Memory modules Before you start cramming memory modules into open slots, verify the total amount of memory supported by your motherboard and the type of memory supported by the processor and chipset.

  • Expansion bus Consider your current expansion cards and what controllers or adapters may be built into your new motherboard. You will need to match your expansion card needs to the number of bus slots available on the motherboard. If your new motherboard has only one PCI slot and you need three, there is no retrofit to help you.

  • Form factor If you aren’t changing your case, then you are stuck with the motherboard form factor that will fit it. Typically, you are looking at an ATX case and motherboard, unless your system is older, in which case (no pun intended), it is likely a Baby AT. Remember that the power supply is also a component of the form factor and you may want to consider upgrading it as well. If you go that far, consider replacing the case as well.

  • Documentation This is an excellent consideration when choosing a motherboard. All things equal, the motherboard with the best documentation should win. Remember that documentation available over the Internet counts.