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Motherboards, Power Supplies, and Cases
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Objective 401 Objective 402 Objective 403
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Copyright 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies Click here for terms of use
MIKE MEYERS A+ CERTIFICATION PASSPORT
At the heart of all personal computers live certain core components The motherboard provides the framework upon which every other component builds The power supply provides DC current to feed the hungry motherboard and components and makes everything chug along happily The case or system unit holds it all together Don t think that all cases are created equal, however, as subtle differences between identical-looking cases can influence how difficult it is to upgrade and service the PC Every good tech needs to understand these basic ingredients of the PC, including their common variants
Objective 401
Motherboards
very device in your computer system connects either directly or indirectly to the motherboard The motherboard, in essence, defines the type of computer you have
Local Lingo
System boards, mobos boards or mobos Many PC techs call motherboards system
Manufacturers decide three things when creating a new motherboard First, they select the set of chips appropriately called the chipset that provide support for everything that plugs into the motherboard Second, they select a style of motherboard, the form factor, that defines the size and shape, among other things Finally, manufacturers decide which connectors to include for both internal and external devices This section looks at chipsets, form factors, and connections available on motherboards It wraps with notes on installation and troubleshooting
Chipsets
Every motherboard has a chipset that determines the type of processor the motherboard accepts, the type and capacity of RAM, and what sort of internal and external devices the motherboard supports The chips in a PC s chipset serve as electronic interfaces through which the CPU, RAM, and input/output devices interact Chipsets vary in feature, performance, and stability, so they factor hugely in the purchase or recommendation of a particular motherboard Most modern chipsets are composed of two primary chips the Northbridge and the Southbridge (Figure 41)
CHAPTER 4 Motherboards, Power Supplies, and Cases
Northbridge
Southbridge
FIGURE 41
Northbridge and Southbridge
The Northbridge chip on Intel-based motherboards helps the CPU work with RAM On AMD-based motherboards, the Northbridge provides the communication with the video card, rather than memory, because the memory controller is built into the CPU Current Northbridge chips do a lot and thus get pretty hot, so they have their own heat sink and fan assembly (Figure 42)
FIGURE 42
Heat sink and fan on a Northbridge
MIKE MEYERS A+ CERTIFICATION PASSPORT
Travel Assistance
5 covers CPUs in detail The Southbridge handles some expansion devices and mass storage drives, such as hard drives Most Southbridge chips don t need extra cooling, leaving the chip exposed or passively cooled with only a heat sink This makes the Southbridge a great place to see the manufacturer of the chipset, such as Intel Corporation (Figure 43) Most motherboards support old technologies such as floppy drives, parallel ports, and serial ports Although supporting these old devices was once part of the Southbridge s job, hardly any modern chipsets still support these devices Motherboard manufacturers add a third chip called the Super I/O chip to handle these chores Figure 44 shows a typical Super I/O chip
Travel Advisory
Super I/O chips work with chipsets but are not part of the chipset Motherboard makers purchase them separately from chipsets
FIGURE 43
An Intel Southbridge chip on a motherboard
CHAPTER 4 Motherboards, Power Supplies, and Cases
FIGURE 44
Super I/O chip on ASUS motherboard
The system ROM chip provides part of the BIOS for the chipset, but only a barebones, generic level of support The chipset still needs support for the rest of the things it can do, so it requires drivers loaded from a CD or downloaded from the manufacturer
Travel Assistance
7 covers the system BIOS and system ROM chip in detail Four companies make the vast majority of chipsets for PCs: Intel, VIA, NVIDIA, and AMD through its ATI brand With the exception of Intel, every chipset maker has chipsets for Intel and AMD processors, so you need to pay attention when purchasing or recommending a particular motherboard You can buy an NVIDIA nForce 590-based motherboard that supports an AMD Athlon 64, for example, or an NVIDIA nForce 590-based motherboard that supports an Intel Core 2 Duo processor They re not interchangeable!
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