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A motherboard (sometimes alternatively known as the mainboard, system board, planar board or logic board,*1+ or colloquially, a mobo) is the

main printed circuit board (PCB) found in computers and other expandable systems. It holds many of the crucial electronic components of the system, such as the central processing unit (CPU) and memory, and provides connectors for other peripherals. Unlike a backplane, a motherboard contains significant sub-systems such as the processor.

Motherboard specifically refers to a PCB with expansion capability - the board is the "mother" of all components attached to it, which often include sound cards, video cards, network cards, hard drives or other forms of persistent storage, TV tuner cards, cards providing extra USB or Firewire slots, and a variety of other custom components. (The term mainboard is applied to devices with a single board and no additional expansions or capability, such as controlling boards in televisions, washing machines and other embedded systems.) Contents Design The Octek Jaguar V motherboard from 1993.*2+ This board has few onboard peripherals, as evidenced by the 6 slots provided for ISA cards and the lack of other built-in external interface connectors The motherboard of a Samsung Galaxy SII; almost all functions of the device are integrated into a very small board

A motherboard provides the electrical connections by which the other components of the system communicate. Unlike a backplane, it also contains the central processing unit and hosts other subsystems and devices. A typical desktop computer has its microprocessor, main memory, and other essential components connected to the motherboard. Other components such as external storage, controllers for video display and sound, and peripheral devices may be attached to the motherboard as plug-in cards or via cables, in modern computers it is increasingly common to integrate some of these peripherals into the motherboard itself. Modern motherboards include, at a minimum:

sockets (or slots) in which one or more microprocessors may be installed. In the case of CPUs in BGA packages, such as the VIA C3, the CPU is directly soldered to the motherboard.*citation needed+ Slots into which the system's main memory is to be installed (typically in the form of DIMM modules containing DRAM chips) A chipset which forms an interface between the CPU's front-side bus, main memory, and peripheral buses Non-volatile memory chips (usually Flash ROM in modern motherboards) containing the system's firmware or BIOS

A clock generator which produces the system clock signal to synchronize the various components Slots for expansion cards (these interface to the system via the buses supported by the chipset) Power connectors, which receive electrical power from the computer power supply and distribute it to the CPU, chipset, main memory, and expansion cards. As of 2007, some graphics cards (e.g. GeForce 8 and Radeon R600) require more power than the motherboard can provide, and thus dedicated connectors have been introduced to attach them directly to the power supply.*3+ Most disk drives also connect to the power supply via dedicated connectors.*citation n

Integrated peripherals

Disk controllers for a floppy disk drive, up to 2 PATA drives, and up to 6 SATA drives (including RAID 0/1 support) integrated graphics controller supporting 2D and 3D graphics, with VGA and TV output integrated sound card supporting 8-channel (7.1) audio and S/PDIF output Fast Ethernet network controller for 10/100 Mbit networking USB 2.0 controller supporting up to 12 USB ports IrDA controller for infrared data communication (e.g. with an IrDA-enabled cellular phone or printer) Temperature, voltage, and fan-speed sensors that allow software to monitor the health of computer components

Bootstrapping using the BIOS


Motherboards contain some non-volatile memory to initialize the system and load some startup software, usually an operating system, from some external peripheral device. Microcomputers such as the Apple II and IBM PC used ROM chips mounted in sockets on the motherboard. At power-up, the central processor would load its program counter with the address of the boot ROM and start executing instructions from the ROM. These instructions initialized and tested the system hardware, displayed system information on the screen, performed RAM checks, and then loaded an initial program from an external or peripheral device (disk drive). If none was available, then the computer would perform tasks from other memory stores or display an error message, depending on the model and design of the computer and the ROM version. (For example, both the Apple II and the original IBM PC had Microsoft Cassette BASIC in ROM and would start that if no program could be loaded from disk.)

Most modern motherboard designs use a BIOS, stored in an EEPROM chip soldered to or socketed on the motherboard, to bootstrap an operating system. (Non-operating system boot programs are still supported on modern IBM PC-descended machines, but nowadays it is assumed that the boot program will be a complex operating system such as MS Windows NT or GNU/Linux.) When power is first applied to the motherboard, the BIOS firmware tests and configures memory, circuitry, and peripherals. This Power-On Self Test (POST) may include testing some of the following things:

Video adapter Cards inserted into slots, such as conventional PCI Floppy drive Temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds for hardware monitoring CMOS used to store BIOS setup configuration keyboard and mouse network controller Optical drives: CD-ROM or DVD-ROM SCSI hard drive IDE, EIDE, or SATA hard disk Security devices, such as a fingerprint reader or the state of a latch switch to detect intrusion USB devices, such as a memory storage device

On recent motherboards, the BIOS may also patch the central processor microcode if the BIOS detects that the installed CPU is one for which errata have been published. Accelerated Graphics Port The Accelerated Graphics Port (often shortened to AGP) is a high-speed point-to-point channel for attaching a video card to a computer's motherboard, primarily to assist in the acceleration of 3D computer graphics. Originally it was designed as a successor to PCI type connections. Since 2004, AGP has been progressively phased out in favor of PCI Express