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How to install your motherboard

The mother of all problems

Featured post How to install your motherboard

You’ve just learned how to install your power supply; the next step in our How to build a PC guide is installing your motherboard. This is arguably one of the fiddliest bits of building a PC, so it’s important to take your time here. I’ll be building into an ATX-sized motherboard into a mid-tower case in this particular instance, but the same steps apply for ITX and mini-ITX builds as well – you’ll just have fewer mounting points to worry about.

Step 1: All right, then, let’s get started. Open up your motherboard box and take everything out. The first thing you need is the thin metal backplate. This goes in front of your motherboard’s ports to keep things nice and tidy. Some motherboards have them pre-mounted these days, so you can skip this bit and move onto Step 2 if you happen to have one of those.

For everyone else, it’s time to wheedle this onto the back of your case. Sometimes you’ll need to remove the metal tabs covering up each port hole beforehand by twisting them off the backplate or pushing them inwards, but most motherboard backplates have the holes cut out already.

The best way to install the backplate is to push it into place from inside the case. You’ll want the metal rim and any writing it has to be on the outside, but check how the ports on your motherboard are actually laid out to make sure you’ve actually got it the right up. Once it’s in the correct orientation, give it a gentle push and it should click into place.

Most motherboards will need you to push in a little silver plate (left), but some come with it pre-mounted (right).

Most motherboards will need you to push in a little silver plate (left), but some come with it pre-mounted on the motherboard itself (right), which is MUCH less hassle.

Step 2: With the backplate installed, it’s time to measure up your motherboard. Place your PC on its side so the main cavity is facing upwards. Inside your case, you should see a variety of pre-drilled holes in the back. Take your motherboard out of its anti-static bag and try and line them up with the holes on the motherboard itself, making sure it’s nice and snug against that backplate you’ve just fitted. Make a note of which holes you can see and then put your motherboard back inside its anti-static bag.

Step 3: Next, grab that accessory box and find your motherboard standoffs. These are tall screws that are hollowed out in the middle. Their main purpose is to both secure your motherboard in place and prevent it from touching the case, as it will short out if it comes into contact with it.

Some cases will have them pre-installed or built into the case already, in which case you can just go right ahead and place your motherboard down over them. If your case doesn’t, pop the standoffs in the necessary holes inside your case and then screw them into place. You don’t technically need to put one in for every hole you can see on your motherboard – sometimes cases simply don’t come with enough standoffs for all the available gaps – but naturally the more you install, the more secure your motherboard’s going to be inside your case. If you have any standoffs left over, then put them back in the bag inside your accessory box. With your standoffs in place, you can now fit your motherboard properly.

Some cases have handy windows for installing your CPU cooler's backplate, but others do not...

Some cases have handy little window cut-outs for installing your CPU cooler’s backplate, but others do not…

Step 4: Before you do that, though, have a look at the CPU cooler you’ve bought. If it needs to be screwed into a motherboard backplate to hold it in place, NOW is the time to install it. Otherwise you’ll be tearing your hair out later and probably have to undo all the hard work you’re about to do. Most of the time, it’s simply a matter of screwing it down onto the back of the motherboard, but this is extremely hard to do once the motherboard’s actually in place, so for the love of all that is holy, do this BEFORE you even think about putting your motherboard inside your case.

You may also want to pause a moment and skip right ahead to getting your CPU and accompanying cooler installed before you screw your motherboard into place. It can often be a lot easier to do it out in the open where you’ve got more room to manoeuvre and aren’t confined by the boundaries of your case. If you’d prefer to carry on and do these steps later, then by all means carry on. For those who’d rather save themselves some trouble, jump ahead to our How to install your CPU walkthrough. Just remember to come back here once you’re done!

Step 5: With all that taken care of, carefully slot each hole on your motherboard over the standoffs. Once it’s in place, complete the fitting by screwing them down with the correct screws in your accessory box. Generally, I find it easiest to start with the corners and then screw in the others once the rest of it’s locked down.

Time to screw your motherboard into place.

Time to screw your motherboard into place.

Step 6: Once it’s secure, voila! Your motherboard is now installed inside your PC. The next thing we need to do is connect it to your power supply. First, you’ll need to find your PSU’s ATX connector. This is the largest cable sticking out of your PSU (or in the cable bag, if you’ve got a modular power supply) and has a 24-pin connector.

It only plugs in one way on your motherboard – you’ll notice some of the pins are completely square rather than being rounded off at the end, so use those to make sure it’s aligned correctly – but may take a bit of brute force to clip into place. Don’t worry if your ATX connector has four pins that look slightly separate from the rest, either – this is because older motherboards only used to have 20-pin connectors, so make sure these are pressed firmly into place as well.

If your case has routing holes down the side, make sure to thread your cables through them to help improve airflow inside your case

If your case has routing holes down the side, be sure to make use of them as it will help improve airflow inside your case.

Step 7: Next up is the secondary power connector. This will either be a four or eight-pin connector depending on what type of motherboard you have, and slots in much the same way as the main ATX connector. Once that’s clicked into place, you’re done!

Next up, we’ll take a look at How to install a case fan in your PC, but if your case already has some of these pre-installed, then you can skip ahead to How to install your CPU.

Contents:

How to build a PC guide
How to install a power supply

How to install a motherboard
How to install a case fan
How to install a CPU
How to install RAM
How to install a graphics card
How to install an SSD / HDD
How to connect your system panel connector and case cables
How to put your case back together again and connect your peripherals
How to install Windows 10

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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