Replace Your Motherboard
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?
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Apr 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Replace Your Motherboard (Posted: 7 Apr 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved