Replace Your Motherboard

Category: Hardware

We had a storm last night and it seems that my motherboard was fried by lightning. There is a big black spot on the motherboard and some solder nearby is melted. I'm sure I need a replacement motherboard, but I've never installed one myself. Do you have any tips on replacing a motherboard?

replacement motherboard

How to Replace a Motherboard

The motherboard of your computer is a giant circuit board inside of your desktop or laptop computer. Soldered and plugged into the motherboard are most of the components that drive your computer: CPU, disk drive controller, display and network adapters, connections for USB, PS/2, and other ports that allow external devices to be plugged into the motherboard; sockets for RAM chips; and so on. The motherboard really is the central nervous system of your computer.

Between all the components run silver lines of conductive metal, "wires' fused directly to the motherboard's insulating plastic. The conductors sometimes break or melt; or a component that cannot be easily removed burns out. This could happen as a result of a power surge due, a lightning strike, or because of a manufacturing defect.

If you're not a circuit geek, and handy with a soldering iron, the only choice is to buy a replacement motherboard and install it. It might seem intimidating at first, but it's really not that hard to replace the motherboard in a desktop computer. The only tools you need are a screwdriver and a steady hand. If you have a laptop, things can be a little more challenging, though, since the components are packed so tightly.

Buying a Replacement Motherboard

It's important to get the right replacement motherboard, because all of your existing components (RAM, CPU, drive connectors, etc.) are selected to be compatible with the motherboard. In fact, I strongly recommend that you get the SAME make and model, to avoid problems that are explained later in this article.

So how do you know what kind of motherboard you have? Since you're going to have to pop the hood anyway, shut down your computer, disconnect it from the power, and open the case. Locating the motherboard is pretty easy. It's the large flat circuit board that almost everything is connected to. Look closely at the board, and there should be a manufacturer and/or model number printed on it. If you see only a model number, a little googling with that number should help you identify the manufacturer.

Another option is to use the free Belarc Advisor software, which will scan your computer and generate a report of EVERYTHING in there, including hardware, software and all devices connected to your computer. Download and run the Advisor, then look in the report for the section titled Main Circuit Board for the motherboard info. In my case, it says Board: Intel Corporation OEMD975XBGG1. Yours might be made by ASUS, Biostar, Dell, Gigabyte, MSI or some other company.

My favorite online store for computer parts is Tiger Direct. You can search for the motherboard there or use Google Product Search to find another vendor to supply the replacement motherboard. If you're lucky, a local store may carry the exact model you need.

Replacing the Motherboard

First, you need to unplug all devices, such as RAM, disk drives and power supplies, from their sockets in the motherboard. Label everything as you unplug it so you know where things are to be plugged back in later.

Remove the heat sink from atop the CPU and carefully remove the CPU itself. (Careful, the heat sink or CPU may be hot!)

Unscrew the motherboard from its mountings and remove it.

This is a good time to clean the inside of the case very thoroughly, getting the dust bunnies out from under the motherboard.

Screw in the new motherboard, plug everything back in, and you're done with "easy" part. Yes, it can get worse from here.

Motherboard Replacement Gotchas

Another reason to replace a motherboard is to upgrade the components of your system; for example, getting a faster hard drive controller to go with a shiny new fast hard drive. But when you start changing the hardware components of your computer, you may run into problems with Windows.

When Windows is installed, it takes a meticulous inventory of the hardware in your computer, right down to the serial numbers encoded into device controllers, CPUs, and so on. Windows uses this data to create a "signature" that more or less uniquely identifies the machine it is installed on. Windows checks this signature against the actual hardware it finds during boot-up. If the hardware has changed too much, Windows assumes it's been stolen and installed on another machine.

If you can't boot up after making hardware changes, you'll need to reactivate Windows using the original installation CD. This may require calling Microsoft to get an activation code. On some versions of Windows, you will be able to contact the activation center via the Internet.

Do you have something to say about replacing a motherboard? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Replace Your Motherboard"

Posted by:

Charles Morris
07 Apr 2010

I think one thing important to remember, is that if your CPU heat sink uses a heat sink paste, be sure to clean it up as far as possible and replace with new paste.


Posted by:

Mary
07 Apr 2010

Belarc Advisor is a great tool, but if the mobo is fried, sure hope everyone got their system specs beforehand and you saved the data in a secure location.

Depending on the brand of laptop one has, you might have to remove just about everything to get to the motherboard. By everything I mean things like the hard drive, optical drive, monitor, keyboard, fan, processor, memory modules, etc just to be able to get to the screws that secure the mobo to the chassis. To give you an idea of what you might be faced with, here's how I'd have to go about removing the board from my Dell Vostro:

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/vos1520/en/SM/td_sysbd.htm

Good luck.


Posted by:

Jorge
07 Apr 2010

There is a lot more to say about the MB.
What kind of hard drive can you connect, IDE or SATA?
Are the tiny joints well identified, as power, reset, HD led, etc?
My last MB change didn´t get me total satisfaction, I´m still fighting with powering on my MSI MB...


Posted by:

Tina
08 Apr 2010

Is it possible that there was no un-interruptible power supply connected to the computer before the lightning struck? This may have helped prevent the problem in the first place. Please correct me if I am wrong.


Posted by:

Bruce H
08 Apr 2010

If a lightning strike burnt the MB and melted solder, there is a good chance that the surge went through other components and fried them as well. So, after replacing the MB, you may still have a lot of other parts to replace. One should always use a surge protector. However, a surge protector might not stop a direct lightning hit, but its insurance can replace the computer.


Posted by:

Digital Artist
20 Jun 2010

I don't know about your location, but GOODWILL INDUSTRIES here (Omaha NE, USA) has the best recycled computer store where you could buy the entire computer you are trying to repair for less than $100. If the one you buy is the same model, you can install any upgrades from the fried one so long as they are not also fried. Maybe even just move your old hard drive into the new (used) computer. When you are done, donate the old 'puter to Goodwill. It does a lot of good for people and the environment.


Posted by:

sandeep kumar
12 Nov 2010

I have replaced my hp pavilion notebook motherboard, ater replacing it, it is not showing serial number and product no. while booting.....iam also not able to install new version of windows 7 in it.... please help me ....what shall i do?


Posted by:

Doug Richardson
23 Aug 2016

My ASUS K8S-LA motherboard crashed on the hp pavilion a810n desktop running Windows XP. I got an ASUS M4A88T-M motherboard to replace the crashed one. Will I have any problems with installing it in the hp pavilion a810n desktop case? Let me as soon as quickly as you can, okay?
Doug


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