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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Installing a motherboard seems to be very easy, but there are many tricks involved in the process. If your motherboard isn’t correctly installed you will face problems like overheating and system crashes (computer “freezing”, “locking”, “reseting” – you name it). This tutorial is a step-by-step guide on how to correctly install your motherboard, avoiding such troubles.

Matching Holes

The motherboard is installed in the computer case. The first step is to open the case and locate the metallic plate where the motherboard is screwed to. Normally this plate can be removed from the case by unscrewing it from the back end of the case and sliding it. You must remove it from the case to install the motherboard on it. This plate has several holes, as you can see in Figure 1.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 1: Metallic plate where the motherboard will be screwed to.

The motherboard also has several holes, as you can see in Figure 2 (we’ve drawn red arrows to point you where the holes are located).

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 2: Holes on the motherboard.

You should lay down the motherboard on the metallic plate and check which holes from the metallic plate match the holes on the motherboard, as we show in Figure 3. As you can see by comparing Figures 1 and 2, the metallic plate has more holes than needed. On the holes on the metallic plate that matched a hole on the motherboard, you will install a nut screw (more on that in a few moments). On the holes that don’t match a hole on the motherboard, you will simply leave it away. Sometimes you will find some holes on the motherboard that don’t match any hole on the plate. That’s normal too. In Figure 3, you can see a hole on the motherboard that doesn’t match any hole on the plate.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 3: Matching the holes on the metallic plate with the holes on the motherboard.

Together with the case come a lot of small pieces. From these pieces you will need screws and screw nuts to install the motherboard. For now, take the screw nuts and install them on all the plate holes that matched a hole on the motherboard. They can be easily installed by turning them clock wise using your thumb and index finger.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 4: Screw nuts, screws and washers that come with the case.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 5: Metallic plate after installing the screw nuts.

[nextpage title=”Installing the Motherboard to the Metallic Plate”]

Now you should lay down the motherboard on the metallic plate again, placing a screw on every motherboard hole that matches a nut that you’ve installed. There is a very important detail that a lot of people don’t know, however. If you pay close attention to the motherboard’s holes, you will find two kinds of holes: metalized and non-metalized. As the name implies, the metalized holes have a metallic contact around them. Pay close attention in Figure 6 to see the difference between these two kinds of holes.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 6: Metalized versus non-metalized hole.

Metalized holes are meant to be directly screwed. So, on these holes go ahead and place a screw on them. But the non-metalized holes you cannot screw them directly. You need to place a cardboard washer between them and the screws. Actually, two washers are needed per hole, one between the nut and the motherboard and another between the motherboard and the screw, like a sandwich where the motherboard is the stuffing.

One of the most common mistakes while installing a motherboard is using these washers on all holes. This cannot be done. The metalized holes were metalized to make the proper grounding with the system case. Actually, you probably won’t find any non-metalized holes on motherboards nowadays. And if you do, almost always they don’t match any hole on the chassis anyway. So, just leave these cartonboard washers behind! Don’t use them!

Another very common – and dangerous – mistake is to use a foam sheet (which is usually pink) that some motherboards come with between the motherboard and the metallic plate. Some people believe that this foam will prevent the motherboard from touching the metallic plate, avoiding a short-circuit. This way thinking is completely wrong. First, if you install all the nuts correctly and install a screw on all motherboard holes possible, the motherboard will never touch the case’s metallic plate. In second place, if you install this foam sheet you will simply cut the motherboard ventilation, which will lead to an overheating condition. The space between the motherboard and the metallic plate is used to dissipate the heat generated by the motherboard and nothing should be put there.

For more common mistakes made when installing a motherboard, you should read two tutorials: Typical PC Assembling Problems and Cases: How to Avoid Overheating.

After these explanations, let’s go ahead. In Figure 7 you see the motherboard correctly installed to the case’s metallic plate.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 7: Motherboard correctly installed to the metallic plate.

You may think that the next step is to install the metallic plate back to the case, now with the motherboard attached to it. But it is not. Before doing that, we still need to do several things.

[nextpage title=”Installing the Case Finishing”]

First, you need to prepare the case. If you pay attention, the case has a rectangular opening measuring 6.250 in x 1.750 in (15.87 cm x 4.44 cm) to accommodate the plugs available on the back of the motherboard. This hole is covered with a finishing that has smaller holes matching the plugs availabe on the motherboard. You need to check if the plugs on your motherboard match the holes on this finishing. See Figures 8 and 9.

How to Intall a MotherboardFigure 8: There are several plugs on the back of the motherboard.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 9: Finishing that came with our case from factory.

In our case, the holes on the case didn’t match the pattern of the plugs available on our motherboard. So we needed to remove the finishing that came with our case using a pliers and install a finishing that matched our motherboard. Motherboards usually come with a case finishing that match the pattern of its plugs. Cases usually come with a set of most common finishings.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 10: We had to remove the finishing that came with the case.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 11: Finishing that came with our motherboard.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 12: Case with the new finishing installed.

[nextpage title=”Installing CPU and Memory”]

Now that you have prepated the case, you can install the CPU, the CPU cooler and the memory modules on the motherboard. Of course you can do that later, but since the motherboard isn’t inside the case yet is easier to install these components right now.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 13: Processor, cooler and memory modules installed on the motherboard.

Put the motherboard next to the place where it will be installed in the case, as shown in Figure 14. Don’t install it to the case yet. We will use this position to install all the wires and cables that come from the case to the motherboard. You could do this later, but since the motherboard isn’t inside the case yet it is easier to do that right now.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 14: Positioning the motherboard for installing the system cables.

[nextpage title=”Installing the Front Panel Wires”]

Locate on your motherboard the front panel connectors (see Figure 15). You will install the corresponding wires that come from the case’s front panel to these connectors (see Figure 16).

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 15: Front panel connectors from the motherboard.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 16: Wires from the case’s front panel.

You will find the following wires:

  • Reset switch (no polarity required)
  • Power switch (no polarity required), sometimes also called Standby switch
  • Power LED (polarity required), sometimes also called Message LED
  • HDD LED (polarity required)
  • Speaker (polarity required)

Just install these wires to the connector with the same name on the motherboard. On the wires we marked “polarity required” you will need to match the positive (+) and negative (-) markings on the motherboard. The white (or black) wire should be installed to the pin marked as negative (-) on the board.

Also, sometimes the connectors are colored, as it occurs in our example in Figure 15, but the colors on the connectors rarely match the colors of the wires. So, don’t follow the color scheme from the motherboard for installing the front panel wires.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 17: Wires from the front panel correctly installed on the motherboard.

If your case also has front USB ports and front audio jacks, you will need to read our tutorials on how to install these features: Installing Frontal Audio Plugs and Installing Frontal USB Ports.

[nextpage title=”Installing I/O Brackets, Drives and Power Supply”]

Together with your motherboard came some I/O brackets, such as more USB ports, FireWire ports and audio jacks (see Figure 18). It is time to connect them to the motherboard, but leaving them uninstalled from the case for now. Of course you can install them later to the motherboard, but once again it is easier to install them while the motherboard isn’t inside the case yet.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 18: I/O brackets from the motherboard.

You should install them following the directions presented on the motherboard manual. We cannot publish were exactly they should be installed since it varies depending on the motherboard model.

Next, install the flat cables coming from the hard disk drive, optical units and floppy disk drive. If you didn’t install these devices to the case yet now it is a good time to do so.

The cable from the hard disk drive must be installed on the IDE1 (primary) port and the cable from the optical unit must be installed on the IDE2 (secondary) port. The floppy cable should be installed on the floppy port. To install the cable, just pay attention on the red wire, it should be installed facing the “pin 1” marking on the motherboard. This marking is usually a number “1” or “2” painted on one of the sides of the connector (the opposite side should be marked “40” or “39”, or “33” or “34” in the case of the floppy port).

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 19: Cables from the hard disk drive, optical unit and floppy disk drive correctly installed.

The next step is connecting the power supply. The power supply has one 20-pin connector and your motherboard can have an extra 4-pin connector called ATX12V, which should also be installed (not all motherboards have this extra connector). You may need to lift the motherboard in a 45º angle with the table you are using to assemble your PC, since usually the wires from the power supply aren’t long enough to reach the motherboard while it is on the table outside the case.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 20: Installing the power supply connector.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 21: Installing the ATX12V connector (only if your motherboard has it).

[nextpage title=”Installing the Motherboard to the Case”]

The next step is finally placing the motherboard in the case. Fit it on its correct place (see Figure 22) and then slide it on the direction of the back of the case (see Figure 23). After the motherboard is in the correct place, screw the metallic plate where the motherboard is installed back to the case.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 22: Installing the motherboard to the case.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 23: Installing the motherboard to the case.

Now screw the I/O brackets to the correct place in the case.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 24: Screwing the I/O brackets.

The final step is organizing the cables inside the case. Take a look at Figure 25 how was our PC after we installed the motherboard. You can see cables everywhere. The wires and cables must be organized in a way that they let the correct airflow inside the case to take place. Otherwise you will face overheating problems, and that’s a very common mistake when assembling PCs. In Figure 26 you see our PC after we organized its cables.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 25: Our PC just after installing the motherboard.

How to Install a MotherboardFigure 26: Our PC after organizing its cables.

That’s it, your motherboard is now correctly installed and you won’t have headaches. Just install other devices you want in your computer and it will be ready to operating system installation.