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Author: Eunice Njuguna
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

How To Replace a Motherboard

Simple as it may sound, replacing a motherboard is a complex process. If you think of it from disassembling your computer, replacing a motherboard is like half the task. It is time-consuming, and both experienced and inexperienced people require several hours to get it done. 

Understanding the components of the motherboard and case is vital in the successful completion of the process. Also, having the right tools is essential. Ensure you have a screwdriver that aligns with the type of motherboard screws, a bowl for holding loose screws, and a brush or vacuum cleaner for cleaning the motherboard. 

Your safety comes first when replacing the motherboard. If working in a static prone environment, consider using an anti-static wrist strap or mat to keep you grounded throughout the process. Also, avoid stepping on regular rugs when working on the PC since constant movement produces static electricity. Static electricity can create spark discharges, also known as micro-shocks, harmful to the body.

Removing the Motherboard

The first step to replacing a motherboard is to remove the old motherboard. If you replace your motherboard with a different model, consider backing up the data since you will have to reinstall the operating system once done.

Disconnect the cables from the switches and computer and move them to the work area. An ideal workplace is a flat table in a well-lit room. Unscrew the access panel from the left side of the case, slide it toward the front of the case, lift it out, and set it aside. Position the case on its side with the motherboard facing up. You can now clean the components with a brush or vacuum cleaner before starting the next process.

The next step is to get the expansion cards out. All expansion cards are mounted to a screw at the back of the case. First, check the top or side of the GPU for the power rail and remove it. Next, remove all the screws holding the cards to the case and place them aside. 

Check for the PCI slot on the motherboard and pull it away from the expansion card. Press the PCI slot until you hear a snap sound, and your card is now ready to pull out. Set the card aside and repeat the process until all the expansion cards are out. 

We can now remove the power supply pin connector, a single 10x2, 20-24 pin feature. The latch can be difficult to remove at times since 20-24 tight connections hold it down. To get it out, press firmly just at the top of the latch and use a bit of force to pull it out. The process takes some time and might require the use of both hands to work. 

When the pin connector is out, unplug the disc and storage drives, better known as the SATA cables. Next, repeat the same process to remove the 4-8 pin power cables located near the CPU socket.

Next, you need to unplug the data cables. Then, remove the data cables connected to the optical and hard drives through the motherboard. Usually, it is recommended to leave the cables on the drivers' side for motherboards with large cases. But if space is limited, leave the cables on the side of the motherboard for proper removal. 

Now we can remove the CPU cooler. Small CPU coolers that are not blocking any cables can be left in the motherboard. But for large coolers, you first have to remove a backing plate on the opposite side of the motherboard before you can get it out. However, like those found in Intel and AMD, standard coolers can easily be turned and removed since they are not attached to a backing plate.

With the CPU cooler out, it is time to locate the screws. The number of screws is determined by the design and size of the motherboard. It's easy to identify most of them with good lighting but refer to the users' manual if you can't. In most cases, an individually purchased motherboard will include the manual as part of the packaging. However, if your computer was already assembled when purchased, you have to get the manual from the manufacturer. Once identified, remove the screws and place them in the bowl for use during the installation of the new motherboard.

The last step is removing the front panel leads connections. The connection contains the power switch, the LEDs for hard drives and power, and reset buttons. They are easy to remove since they do not hold on to other components. Their installation is also fast on any new motherboard.

It is finally time for the most critical step, removing the motherboard. You can gently hold it with both hands, move it to the right to disengage from the I/O plate, lift it from the back of the case, and set it aside. In the case of obstructions, put it back and check for holding screws or cables. Get the obstacle out before trying to remove the motherboard again.

Installing a New Motherboard

First, you must compare the I/O template for the old and new motherboard. Usually, new motherboards are shipped with new I/O templates. If the motherboards are of different models, then you can replace the I/O template. But for similar models, you can use the old I/O template if it is in good condition.

To remove the plate, use a screwdriver to push the core from the outside while supporting from the inside with your hand. It is a simple process that requires little force to remove the plate. Check the old I/O template and if in good condition, keep it for future use.

Next, compare the ports in the new and old I/O template to see if they match. Finally, pull the new template from the back of the case and place it on the old motherboard to locate the position of each port. If additional punchouts are necessary, make them before fitting the template to the new motherboard.

Confirm that the I/O template fits appropriately into the I/O core before mounting it in the case. To mount the template, press gently on all sides until it fits properly. The fitting is done on the inside, and the handle of a screwdriver can be used to press the edges gently.

Next, check the standoffs on the case to confirm they match with the screws counted out on the motherboard. For example, if you counted out five screws, make sure your standoff locations are also at five. Finally, you can hold the motherboard above the case and check the mounting holes to confirm they fit perfectly. 

If the holes align, gently secure the motherboard in the case. Check the back-panel connectors and I/O template and make sure they correspond. If either of the tabs does not align, slightly shift the position of the motherboard until it fits. Leaving the tabs unaligned means they cannot be used and can lead to shorts on the motherboard. Also, confirm that cables and wires are not stuck below the motherboard before you begin securing it. 

Once the confirmation is complete, mount the motherboard by placing screws in every standoff and tightening. Remember not to over tighten the screws, or you might damage the motherboard.

The rest of the steps are simply a reversal of the above steps for removing the motherboard. Check this list to ensure you complete the installation:

  • Connect the front panel leads
  • Install the CPU and CPU cooler
  • Plug the data cables
  • Plug the SATA cables or the hard drive and disc cables
  • Plug the 20-24 pin connector
  • Plug the 4-8 power cables
  • Install the expansion cards

When you are sure you have every component in place, it is time to power the system. You can test the PC before placing back the access panel to the case to be sure it works well. If every system is working right, replace the access panel, put the PC back into the initial position, and reconnect the other computer parts.

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