Technology Explained

3 Common Mistakes That’ll Damage or Ruin Your Motherboard

Mihir Patkar 11-12-2019

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 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.

Common Motherboard Mistakes -- Cable Management


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 Are Surge Protectors Necessary? Here's What They Really Do A surge protector is not the same thing as a power strip! Here's how they're different and why you need a reliable surge protector. Read More .

3. Clean the Ventilation Outlets

Heat is the enemy of electronics 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? Excessive heat can damage your computer's performance and lifespan. But at what point is it overheating? How hot is too 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 and Keep Your PC Cool An overheating computer can lead to hardware damage. Use these tips to keep your PC cool and maintain a safe temperature. 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.


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? If you've booted your PC recently you might have noticed the acronym "UEFI" instead of BIOS. But what is UEFI? Read More .
  3. If it is still not booting, check the CMOS battery on your motherboard Why Does My Motherboard Have a Battery? Did you know there is a battery on your computer's motherboard? Here's what the CMOS motherboard battery does and why you need it. 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 6 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard Not sure if you should upgrade your motherboard? Here are a few tips to explain when and why to buy a new motherboard. Read More , like faster USB standards, built-in Wi-Fi, or the latest PCIe standard, PCIe 4.0 What Is PCIe 4.0 and Should You Upgrade? PCIe 4.0 will make your PC hardware faster, but it probably isn't supported yet. Should you upgrade your hardware to PCIe 4.0? Read More . If you plan on using the same components like CPU or RAM, make sure the new motherboard is compatible with those. We’ve shown how to find out what motherboard you have How to Find Out What Motherboard You Have Planning to upgrade your PC or laptop? You've probably asked "What motherboard do I have?" Here's how to find out. Read More if you’re not sure.

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!

And if you’re considering building your own computer, take a look at how to build a PC with the Mini-ITX form factor How to Build a Small PC With the Mini-ITX Form Factor Want to build a small PC? Here's how to build a small gaming PC or media center using a Mini-ITX motherboard. Read More .

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Computer Parts, Motherboard.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. J
    May 21, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    When I go to turn on my PC: the Case Power button lights up, my mobo light stays on Green and my fans keep spinning continuously, nothing turns off/stops, but I still get no POST on my screen. What is it? The motherboard? Does ASUS anti-Surge work on motherboards?

  2. Mike
    May 12, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    I have a 3 year old hp lab top. In the last year I couldn’t get computer to turn on. Brought it to HP and they replaced the mother board. A month ago it happened again. Sent to a repair shop in area and it was the motherboard and replaced. It just happened again and I’m lost. I was happy with computer but not know. Can any one advise on what to do! Does gaming create this kind of problem? Help

  3. Gene
    January 14, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    For the first time, I am having an issue with laptop. I forgot to remove battery (yet the system was shut off), replaced battery but now it is not booting. Does anyone know if that can cause motherboard to get damaged doing this?

  4. Mike Walsh
    October 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Mm. Y'know, your motherboard diagnosis routine IS kinda predicated on the fact that everyone OUGHT to be a good little boy/girl and regularly buy new hardware, they way they're told to...

    My tower's motherboard is approaching its 15th birthday. It still runs perfectly, too! It only gets light use, and most components have been upgraded in recent years. BUT.....what's all this about 'green lights' on the mobo??

    Don't tell me even motherboards now have displays all over them, too.....


    Apart from that, the same routine can be followed. You just have to START with the PSU, that's all.

  5. Beachy
    September 10, 2019 at 8:54 am

    I have lived in this house for 7 years. In that time I have had over 40 brand new computers fail. No exaggeration I promise. I have had laptops and desk tops from most famous brand names such as Dell, MSI, HP, Apple Mac Asus as well as custom builds from reputable build shops. What these computers all have in common is they fail. Sometimes they last as long as three months at other times they last only three days. Another thing they have in common is the smell of burnt electrical components. Sometimes it is the PSU that fails. Sometimes the GPU and on laptops the motherboards fail.
    I have a good UPS. I have had the road dug up and changed to another electrical circuit on my street. I have had a new circuit board fitted to my house electric that has a surge protector built in. I have a voltage regulator fitted where the electric comes into my house. I have had qualified electricians check all my sockets. Nobody can seem to find what the problem might be?
    Yet the issue continues. Computer equipment in my house does not last longer than 3 months. I have seen smoke and sparks come from inside the case. The Dell technician who visited my home to do a repair also witnessed the same after replacing the PSU.
    Incidentally I have just had a spate of modum routers fail too. Although these seem to last longer than PCs do.
    Has anyone any ideas what is wrong with my house that a computer of any description just simply does not last.

    • poop
      February 1, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      Maybe the voltage from your power supplies is the incorrect amount?

  6. Starr Geary
    August 22, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    I have a 2011 model Vaio laptop. This laptop was so very good. Was really proud of it. Grandson was using it. Then I say down to use it and nothing. No power. He told me it had 14% battery.
    I took it to a repair guy to get info put on a disk. But disk is blank. Hmm. $20 down the drain.
    Why would it be ok then absolutely no power or anything?
    Thank you, Starr Geary

  7. Walker
    June 17, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    This totally explained everything that was wrong with my motherboard and basically tells me I can’t fix it because I went poking around with metal without any knowledge of the harm it could do.

  8. Tom K
    March 24, 2019 at 3:50 am

    So sad. I had an old 2009 Dell laptop. It was a top Insprion with great internals, but since day 1 always ran too hot. My wife used it a few years but then put it aside. Fast forward to today 2019... I need one now and decided to try to put it back to use.

    Took it completely apart, replaced the cmos battery, did a cleaning and redid the thermal paste. I put it back together loosely. And ran it fine! The temperatures were lower too. From 70 down to 55. The old paste was totally crumbled and fan was pretty dusty. So, it sounds great, BUT! I ran over to Hobby Lobby and got some nice adhesive paper to cover the (now very old) sticky nasty top cover material.

    Then, I replaced all the screws (but there were 2 golden nuts that I could not figure out where they went.) Then the moment of truth - power on, and nothing. It blinks one time, every 4 seconds. Dell's diagnostic reporting method of saying "motherboard issues." Won't even post.

    So best I can figure is that I built up some static electricity during my trip to Hobby Lobby and I failed to ground myself (I usually hold the pipes under the sink a minute) because I thought I was already done with the dangerous parts. I must have shorted either the mobo or the cpu just screwing in all the chassis screws.

    It's a brick now... at least got a lot of good experience taking apart and putting back together a laptop.

  9. Curtis
    October 30, 2018 at 3:07 am

    "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 connect and talk to each other. " Wouldn't that make the motherboard the nervous system though? And if anything its the PSU would be the heart pumping electricity through the different body parts of a PC that it needs flowing

  10. Jack
    August 22, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    I got a new laptop and tried to connect an external cd drive through the USB port. The drive had its own power supply : a 15 volt adapter. The laptop screen instantly went off, although the computer seemed to be on - the fan was running and the keyboard backlight was on. After that, I was never able to restart it. I took it back to the retailer and they gave me a new one. Do you think the 15v went through to the laptop, and was that enough to fry it?

  11. Paul
    August 12, 2018 at 4:17 am

    I was given a usb desk top fan so I connected it to my HP laptop - 2 days later the motherboard is toast. I replaced the motherboard but did not connect the external USB fan. Instead I connected it to my Dell desktop and now that refuses to boot up. The fan was a gift for my daughter but she didnt want it - is it possible this fan is frying the motherboards? Its a rechargeable fan and charges whilst plugged into the usb outlet. When I disconnected the AC power supply from the desktop the desklamp which is also USB was glowing too. How can this be with the AC power totally disconnected.

  12. oliver
    April 17, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    hi,,, im using HP Prodesk 400 GT3 MT, and i have a problem on no signal issues on my monitor,, at first i experience this when i plug in computer it automatically turn on with pressing the power button,and then no signal will appear in my monitor,then suddenly after a minute i notice the fan spinning faster that i can hear loud noise... I tried a lot of different methods ive seen in google and youtube but then my unit still on the same issue,nothing happen,,i think my motherboard still working because the indicator green light is still up...what suppose to be the problem,,can you help me guys?

    April 16, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    My Laptop gets too heated when I play Gta 4. It heats around 50 to 60 degree celsius. Will it Blow out my Laptop's motherboard ii a year. I have a new recently buyed laptop
    I5 7200U
    4GB RAM DDR4
    2GB RADEON 530 GPU

  14. FereçHryshi
    March 18, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Well this might be a serious problem out here.
    I have this PC over 3 years from now, it worked well, H61-M motherboard, 6GB of RAM, i3-2120 and that all was build by myself.
    As of 2018, after 2 weeks of studying and, not having the PC as a concern, I didn't opt for any upgrade nor I do feel it's needed since it's working well, still, I know the CPU doesn't fit my needs as a music producer and sound engineer, and my budget won't allow me to buy a new one, or build, whatsoever, because it's very low.
    So, I booted up my PC and heard a high gritting pink noise coming from the PSU, it's like someone is digging a hole in the surface, or likely...... I couldn't use my PC, and I thought the PSU was failing so I replaced it with a retrograded one, 2006's model from an old PC, which worked well when tried it out at first, but then, when I replaced the actual PSU with the "new" one, the same noise appeared but with different rates maybe because the model differs...
    I think the motherboard is the problem, because I tried both PSUs in two another motherboards...
    So I tried to unplug everything, except for the CPU because the motherboard won't boot in case the CPU is not found, I tested RAMs and... Short circuits ?
    It appeared like when I touch any steel surface on the case, I get shocked, is it static electricity ?
    I feel bad for the computer because I'm actually using it with that noise, I keep it for kinda 10 minutes then reboot, the noise disappears, but I hear little scratches on the HDD, and on the PSU. Above all of that, I don't have necessary budget to upgrade to a370 w/ i7-8700K | 16GB DDR4 RAM. I still need to save my PC until summer or even later on, it has all my stuff, and I didn't backup all that yet, I feel the whole thing will fail one day, please help and Thanks !

  15. Dorian
    April 15, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I bought a computer about a year ago. It has a i7 4790 processor,8gb ddr3 ram,a deep cool cpu cooler and a wibtek z87m motherboard. Today my computer woudnt start. So I disassembled it and tested all the components besides the cpu(because I don't have a spare motherboard). All the components seem to work but when I plug them into the motherboard they don't start. So i concluded that the problem must be with the motherboard. How can I fix this without buying a new one?

    • THOMAS
      August 9, 2017 at 11:52 am

      i bought a core i5 dell desktop home.i had an old desktop called targa.the dell had 2 more empty slot where ma hard disk area soo i decided to remove the hard disk in the old pc and add it to the dell.i fixed the additional hard disk but couldn't display soo i kept trying but still to no avail soo i stopped ,took the old hard disk n off the computer.i later switch it on and now it wont display on my monitor i don't understand

  16. Tim Kopachena
    March 18, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    I have AC plug that has the neutral and hot wire reversed. One computer I had would freeze at random times when plugged in that outlet. Tried a computer that worked perfectly on that outlet and now when I turn it on it restarts a few times before it posts. Found out the wires were reversed when I plugged in a UPS in the outlet and indicated the wiring fault and the UPS also failed after being plugged into the outlet. The wiring is also aluminum. Does anybody else had this problem? I googled it but could find anything about the reversed polarity damaging computers.

    • Colin
      June 19, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Aluminum wires have been known to loosen over time(causing fires). Reverse polarity is a indicator of other problems in your wiring, should check all your wires or get a professional to do it.

  17. Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
    March 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Also: since I don't have the money to buy a new laptop I can't be sure, but all laptops we bought, to a varying degree, were missing their GPU (and to less extent CPU) heat pastes.

    My Asus F3Sv (precise model unknown) used purple pads instead, which were 90% useless, and seemed to had burned away whatever heat paste it had; once I carefully scraped the stone-like remains away and added a legit paste, heat problems went away for 70% of the total picture.

    Dell XPS M1530 also seemed to never have any paste, but due to its high-quality components it worked great under 100C+ for several years until what seems BIOS or motherboard failure occurred. The damn machine had 80C+ even by just being in the damn BIOS ! Idling in Kubuntu Linux, 90-120, easily (WinXP and 7 around 100C idle). Stressed, up to 150, at which point forced shutdown occurred.

    Dad's Acer-something also never had heat pastes and the problem went away after he added them himself.

  18. amenditman
    December 5, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Power surges are not the only power elated problem which can damage electronics.
    One you seldom hear/read about is a power sag (a drop in voltage). These can be very damaging to delicate electronics.
    The power needed by your devices remains constant, if there is a voltage drop the device will draw more current. power = voltage x current

  19. 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.

  20. 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).

  21. 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?

  22. 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 :)

  23. Doc
    November 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    A well-thought and meaningful reply! Thank you!