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How To Know If A Motherboard Is Compatible With Your System

How To Know If A Motherboard Is Compatible With Your System

So, you’re building a new computer or upgrading an older one and you need to make sure that your motherboard is compatible with the rest of your system. Let’s check it out!


How To Know If A Motherboard Is Compatible With Your System CPU, GPU, RAM, etc - Compatibility Guide



Overview

The motherboard is the connectivity hub of your computer. Everything plugs into it, but it generally doesn’t affect the performance of most components, unless we’re talking storage. You won’t get more Frames Per Second in your favorite game by getting a newer motherboard though. Regardless, let’s go component by component and make sure everything will fit and work as expected.

CPU (Socket)

we have the processor. There are a few things to consider here: The CPU socket, the motherboard chipset, and BIOS compatibility. The CPU socket is simple and it looks like this for Intel and like this for AMD in general. It is the slot on the motherboard where your CPU “plugs in”.

For Intel, they have names like LGA 1151 or LGA 1155 and for AMD CPU’s they have names like AM4, for example. Checking is as simple as looking up your CPU, finding its socket type, and making sure you buy a motherboard with the same socket.

CPU (Chipset)

The chipset dictates some features that your motherboard has or doesn’t have. For example, cheaper chipsets do not support overclocking. However, if you don’t want to overclock, you can save some money by going with one of those. This is usually the thing that you have to look out for. You can google the name of chipsets that you are comparing and find tables of differences. This is a table comparing the AM4 chipsets and their features, pulled from AMD’s website.

CPU (BIOS)

Last but not least, especially recently, is the matter of BIOS compatibility. The BIOS deserves its own video, but it is basically a very basic software that runs at an even lower level than your operating system. Its name even stands for Basic Input Output Software. The thing with BIOS compatibility is that motherboards are sometimes compatible with several generations of processors.

For example, motherboards that use the AM4 socket support several generations of AMD Ryzen processors. However, a motherboard BIOS that came out 2 years ago doesn’t have software support for a CPU that came out a few months ago. This means that you need to do a BIOS update before you can successfully run that new processor in that older motherboard.

This is fine if you are upgrading a computer because you can update the BIOS and then install the new CPU. However, if you are building a new computer, you don’t have an older compatible CPU that you can use to update that motherboard’s BIOS before you install your new CPU.

For example, if you want to put a brand new AMD Ryzen 3000 series CPU into an older motherboard, say one that has chipset B350, it would need a BIOS update. If you buy a newer motherboard, say one with chipset B550, then it would already have BIOS support for that CPU.

These are all things that you can find by quick google searches or by putting your components into PCPartPicker and seeing if it reports any compatibility issues. Now that the CPU is out of the way, we’re done with the worst part. From now on, it should be fairly smooth sailing.


Check the graphics card GPU

The GPU plugs into your motherboard’s PCI-E 16x slot. You don’t need to check if the motherboard has one, because yes, it does have one. There are a few details here, however, even though they might not be relevant for most of you guys, but we do have to cover them. The number of slots, their size, and their speed varies from board to board. The usual slot is presented as PCI-E 16x 4.0.

Here, the 16x is the length of the slot and the 4.0 is the generation. Newer generations are faster, but all versions are compatible with each other, so you don’t need to worry about that aspect. As for the length, you’ll have at least one 16x slot for a GPU, and then a number of other slots.

Some of those may also be 16x, or they may be 8x, 4x, or 1x, with smaller numbers meaning shorter PCI-E slots. Obviously, if you want 2 GPU’s in your system, you need at least 2 PCI-E 16x slots. These slot sizes affect more than just your GPU.

Any expansion cards, like a WiFi card, a video capture card, a network card, etc that you want to add to your system will likely use a PCI slot. For those, you’ll need a slot that is AT LEAST their required length. A 4x card will work perfectly well in an 8x or 16x slot, but not in a 1x one.

RAM

Motherboards support a certain type of RAM, so you need to make sure that the generation of RAM that you want to plan to install is correct. If you have a DDR4 motherboard, get DDR4 sticks. If you have a DDR3 motherboard, get DDR3 RAM sticks. Nothing complicated. They just have to be the same version. While we’re on the topic of RAM, we need to check the number of RAM slots, which look like this.

How To Know If A Motherboard Is Compatible With Your System

Motherboards generally have at least 2 slots, but you’ll find 4 slots, 8 slots, and so on. Obviously don’t buy more RAM sticks than you have RAM slots available. Last but not least, if you want RAM for a laptop motherboard, you need SO-DIMM RAM, instead of regular DIMM modules. The only difference is the shape of the module here. This is what a typical DIMM module looks like and this is what SO-DIMMs look like.

How To Know If A Motherboard Is Compatible With Your System


One additional thing to keep in mind is the maximum capacity and speed for RAM. Any motherboard has a maximum RAM capacity that it supports, usually something like 32, 64, 128, or 256 GB, but these numbers vary. The implication here is that you can’t get more RAM than the motherboard supports. In the same vein, boards also have a maximum supported RAM frequency.

This might be 2133 MHz, 2400 MHz, 3200 MHz, or anything else really. If you put RAM that is faster into the board you’ll end up having to essentially slow the RAM down. This is a waste of your own money, as faster memory is more expensive but you won’t be using the additional speed you paid for. That being said, we’re done with RAM as well.


​Storage Drives

On the list of things that you should probably check, but shouldn’t really be a problem usually, we have storage. Your motherboard has SATA ports, which are where virtually all mechanical hard drives and 2.5” SSDs connect. Once more, this is simply a matter of having enough ports. If you want to add 5 drives to your computer but you only have 4 SATA ports, that won’t work, obviously.

However, this isn’t really the thing that can catch you out about storage compatibility with your motherboard. There are 2 other commonly used ways of connecting storage drives: Firstly, NVMe drives might plug into a PCI-E port. Here, the same rules as discussed previously apply.

Second, some drives use M.2 ports. However, M.2 is just a port. It talks to the rest of the computer either over PCI (which is very fast) or over SATA (which is relatively much slower). So, if you want to install a superfast M.2 NVMe drive, make sure your motherboard’s M.2 slot is also NVMe, or else you’ll be wasting money on unusable speed.


Case & Fans & Extra Features

Last but not least, we have case compatibility and other details that don’t fit anywhere else. Firstly, let’s make sure that your motherboard will fit in your case. The case manufacturer will tell you which motherboard size formats are supported. These are standardized and have names like EATX, ATX, mATX, and so on for various sizes.

If you want a huge EATX board, make sure your case supports that. Similarly, if you have a tiny tiny case, make sure you get a motherboard in a tiny supported format. In other case-related news, if you have case fans that require motherboard headers for power, make sure you either have enough on the motherboard or you buy some splitters so you can accommodate all of your fans.

Similarly, some motherboards will have RGB headers so that you can synchronize all of your LED’s and get those extra style points. In this series of nice-to-have features we also have networking options: If you want Bluetooth, some motherboards may have it, some may not. Also, some motherboards will support WiFi, but most don’t.

If you need extremely fast internet that is faster than 1 Gbps, you might need to check that the motherboard supports that, or else you’ll be limited by your motherboard’s top speed. Of course, these 3 networking caveats can be solved afterward by just adding cards like wifi cards, faster network cards, and so on.

And I think that about covers it. If you feel like I missed anything please put it down below so that everyone can find out. So, I really do hope you found this article helpful then share this article with your friend, also share your thought in the comment section below.

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