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If the processor is the brain of your computer, the motherboard is the heart — it’s the place where the different parts of a computer What's Inside Your Computer: The Story Of Every Component You Need To Know What's Inside Your Computer: The Story Of Every Component You Need To Know Whether you're buying a new computer or building your own, you're going to be subjected to a lot of acronyms and random numbers. Read More connect and talk to each other. So if your motherboard has a problem, it’s a bigger issue than just replacing one part.

Usually motherboards are sturdy enough to take the ravages of daily use. But there are some things you can do to make sure it keeps running right. Protecting the motherboard from damage is paramount to protecting every other component.

Avoid some of these common mistakes that damage a motherboard, and you’ll save yourself from headaches.

1. Check for Short Circuits

This problem is more prevalent in desktop computers, but also (yet rarely) occurs in laptops. If you like to build your own PC or you’ve got one assembled from somewhere, there are chances of a short circuit if it hasn’t been assembled properly.

The motherboard conducts electricity and passes it to other components, so it can’t come into contact with any metal, like the case itself or a badly fitted component. Loose CPU coolers often cause irreparable damage to motherboards. Also check for loose cables, a common PC maintenance mistake 8 PC Maintenance Mistakes That Kill Your Hardware Lifespan 8 PC Maintenance Mistakes That Kill Your Hardware Lifespan PC maintenance isn't rocket science, but you could be making a handful of mistakes that are actually harming your hardware. Read More .

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Cable Management

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In the course of assembling your PC, you need to fit the motherboard properly in the case. The motherboard has a few screws that you use to attach it to the case. Make sure you use every screw and that it is tight. As one user at Tom’s Hardware forums found, a loose screw can cause a short circuit, frying your whole motherboard.

In short, the inside of your computer should be neat and organized. If the motherboard ends up getting into contact with an unintended object, it can cause a short circuit.

2. Protect Against Power Surges

The motherboard is where your computer’s power supply unit (PSU) is connected. It’s important to buy the right PSU for your needs — if your components need more power than the PSU can provide, it will cause the components or the motherboard to fail.

But the more frequent problem for motherboards is power surges. Some electronics in your home are power-hungry, like air conditioners or refrigerators. Have you ever seen your lights flicker when these devices turn off? That’s because they needed to draw more electricity and caused a surge.

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Surge Protector

When they switch off, the current takes a few seconds to adjust. And in those few seconds, it gets redirected to other electronics, like your lights or your computer. This is the most basic explanation of a power surge. It happens more often than you think, depending on your power setup, your locality’s power grid, and even weather conditions (like lightning).

Most power supply units and motherboards can adjust their voltages to accommodate small power surges. But if it’s a big one, it can fry your motherboard and all the components connected to it. It’s a big issue, and one of those that we never tend to adequately account for. The only solution is to buy a surge protector for your computer Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? A surge protector is not the same thing as a power strip! Here's how they're different and why you need surge protectors instead, as well as how to choose a good one. Read More .

3. Clean the Ventilation Outlets

Heat is the enemy of electronics How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? From time to time, we all get concerned about our computer's temperature. But should we be worried? Read More . Computer components need to stay cool to run properly. But they generate a lot of heat themselves. That’s why heat dissipation is crucial to computers, whether it’s in the form of fans or heat sinks.

If your laptop is running hot regularly, you need to clean its ventilation outlets. Heat can cause the motherboard to warp. Now, we aren’t talking about it getting fully bent out of shape. But even small bends can affect stress points like where the screws are, or connectors. Remember, a loose or improperly fitted connection is a ticking time-bomb for your motherboard.

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Laptop Heat Dust

We’ve shown you how to check PC temperatures and what the ideal is PC Operating Temperatures: How Hot Is Too Hot? PC Operating Temperatures: How Hot Is Too Hot? Excessive heat can affect your computer's performance and your hard drive's lifespan. But how can you tell if it's overheating or just hot? Read More , so keeping an eye on that is the next step. If you’re worried about it running too hot when you aren’t around, there are some tips to reduce computer heat How to Prevent Computer Overheating & Keep Your PC Cool How to Prevent Computer Overheating & Keep Your PC Cool Overheating computers may lead to unexpected shutdowns, lost data, and hardware damage. We'll show you how to read computer temperatures and simple ways to keep your PC cool. Read More .

How to Check for Motherboard Damage

A damaged motherboard isn’t as simple to diagnose as other parts of a computer. Generally speaking, it’s apparent when your computer has a hardware error, like not booting up. But you can’t narrow it down to the motherboard immediately. That said, there are a series of steps you can take to figure out motherboard damage 3 Troubleshooting Tips Guaranteed to Boot Your PC's Motherboard 3 Troubleshooting Tips Guaranteed to Boot Your PC's Motherboard This article covers basic motherboard troubleshooting methods, common faults and anti-consumer friendly return policies, if all goes wrong. Read More .

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Cooler Cables

  1. Switch on the PSU and check for a green light on the motherboard. If there is no green light, then the problem is with either the power supply or the motherboard. Check with a different PSU, and if the motherboard still doesn’t light up, then it’s probably damaged.
  2. If the green light is coming on, then check the bare basics of your PC components, i.e. the CPU and RAM. Connect only these two components and see if the motherboard is booting into the BIOS or UEFI What Is UEFI And How Does It Keep You More Secure? What Is UEFI And How Does It Keep You More Secure? Read More .
  3. If it is still not booting, check the CMOS battery on your motherboard Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Whether you’re using a desktop computer or a laptop, your computer’s motherboard contains an integrated battery. Unlike a standard laptop battery, the motherboard’s battery doesn’t power your computer while you're using it. Quite the opposite,... Read More . If your computer is over a year old, chances are the battery may need to be replaced.

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Battery

The Beep Codes

All motherboards are built with a self-diagnostic tool. If there is an error, the motherboard will sound out a series of beeps. These “beep codes” can vary by manufacturer, but are largely the same. A series of repeated long beeps, for instance, indicates a RAM problem.

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Hero Shot

You can translate these “beep codes” at your motherboard manufacturer’s website, or use Computer Hope’s beep code guide. It should let you quickly diagnose the motherboard problem and hopefully solve it.

In Case of Damage…

If the motherboard has been clearly diagnosed to be at fault, then you have two options. You can repair it, or you can buy a new one… but do yourself a favor and just buy a new one. Any experienced computer user will tell you that if a motherboard has already developed one problem, it is likely going to get several new ones soon.

You should upgrade your motherboard to get new tech 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard Not sure when you should upgrade your motherboard? Here are a few guidelines to help you out. Read More , like faster USB standards or built-in Wi-Fi. If you plan on using the same components like CPU or RAM, make sure the new motherboard is compatible with those.

Share Your Motherboard Woes

Those who have used a computer for many years have experienced a motherboard fault at some point or the other. Tell us your sorrowful stories of motherboard mishaps in the comments!

If you have any questions about a motherboard error, feel free to ask them in the comments section. Our knowledgeable readers will help you out.

  1. Zeugma
    November 24, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Years ago I was working for a computer consulting firm that wrote custom relational data base systems. I was the hardware guy and as part of a project with a large engineering firm I went to their office and picked up a desktop computer so we could set it up and test the system on it. While transporting it in my car I laid it on its side so it wouldn't fall over. Back at our office I turned it on and it died a quick death. They had an extended on site service plan and when the tech opened the PC we found a heavy, flat, braided bare metal grounding wire swinging free inside. It had shorted out the mother board. He had a spare in his truck.
    Another time I was setting up some new desktop PCs for a client and in one machine found the little internal speaker unsecured and laying on the mother board. Good thing I heard it rattle around as I un-boxed the PC before I turned it on.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Transporting PC cases is one of the most difficult things to do properly. The number of times they get damaged in the car is insane.

  2. J
    November 23, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Slight corrections on the above:

    1. Tightening the screws on the motherboard too tight can also cause shorts from things touching/getting trapped under the board and cause damage (personal experience). I've been fixing computers for 35 years and I was taught that you always leave a half-turn loose when you are screwing a motherboard because the motherboard needs a little bit of movement with the big-a*s fans from the CPU and video card pushing around. In practice, I have seen a motherboard crack from being too tight with one of those ridiculous fans (the ones that are bigger than the case that make you computer look like a muscle car) strapped to it.

    2. Surge-protected power supplies are generally good for one big surge and then they stop doing their jobs. When I say big surge, something more than the lighting flickering or the power going out for a second, like if the power in neighbourhood goes out and everybody had everything in world on at that point and the power jumps back on. Also, be smart about what you're doing: I have customers with a 6-port surge-protected power bar with a couple of 3-plug extension cords plugged into it, plugged into a extension cord, plugged into a three port splitter at the wall. In those situations (it happens a lot more than you think), I strongly suggest getting a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) with surge protection and a battery built in. If you get a major surge (transformer blew or lightning strike), it will block off all the ports and kill the UPS and save everything you have plugged into it. This is why most UPSs come with a $30,000 equipment guaranty.

    3. Ventilation: use canned air to blow out the dust bunnies in your fans or good old-fashioned breath. I had a customer try to lubricate their squeaky CPU fan with axle grease and started a fire.

    4. Most CPU-batteries last longer than the usual life of the computer. I've had to replace the 2032 batteries a bunch of times on people's computer, but those machines were in excess of 7-8 years old. You could have a defective battery or one that is starting to go, but you can tell by the internal clock constantly resetting to January 1 1980 or 1999 or 2001 or the time in Windows constantly getting way out of sync (I.e. not advancing after you have set the correct time in Windows).

    5. Generally speaking if you are getting beep codes on the motherboard, it usually means something isn't plugged in properly or has been dislodged. I always unplug and re-seat memory and video card as they are usually the cause. It the CPU isn't firing or somehow got disconnected will cause beeps as well, but that is unusual and if the CPU is blown then there is probably other damage elsewhere. There are little pci-e diagnostic cards you can buy for about $6 that you can plug into a motherboard (they makes ones for desktops and laptops) that will generate a reference code that will tell you exactly which part is faulty (I think I bought one from Amazon a couple of years ago and marvelled/wondered why this isn't a vital piece of every computer tech's arsenal).

  3. Salem Ahmed
    November 23, 2016 at 5:58 am

    After replacing 2 motherboards, blaming Asuss for faulty mobo, I found out that Windows 10 power settings is causing hourly shut downs with black and blue screens of hell. Switching to Win 7 in my multiboot PC things are fine now with the 3rd motherboard, X99-DELUXE.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Hmm did you try changing the power settings in Windows 10?

  4. smoss20
    November 23, 2016 at 1:16 am

    My first build (Years Ago) I plugged a power supply jack into the motherboard. (They looked like they matched) Fried the board and spent hours trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Brought it into the retailer and tech discovered it quickly. They just gave me a new board though.

    FYI Don't do that!

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Phew, nice of them to replace it :)

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