The motherboard is the main printed circuit board. It contains the buses, or electrical pathways, found in a computer. These buses allow data to travel between the various components that comprise a computer. A motherboard is also known as the system board, backplane, or main board. Figure 1-4 shows a variety of motherboards.
The motherboard accommodates the central processing unit (CPU), RAM, expansion slots, heat sink/fan assembly, BIOS chip, chip set, and the embedded wires that interconnect the motherboard components. Sockets, internal and external connectors, and various ports are also placed on the motherboard.
Figure 1-4 Motherboards
The form factor of motherboards pertains to the board's size and shape. It also describes the physical layout of the different components and devices on the motherboard. Motherboards have various form factors:
■ Advanced Technology (AT)
■ Advanced Technology Extended (ATX)
■ Smaller footprint than Advanced Technology Extended (Mini-ATX)
■ Smaller footprint than Advanced Technology Extended (Micro-ATX)
■ Low-Profile Extended (LPX)
■ New Low-Profile Extended (NLX)
■ Balanced technology Extended (BTX)
An important set of components on the motherboard is the chip set. The chip set is composed of various integrated circuits attached to the motherboard that control how system hardware interacts with the CPU and motherboard. The CPU is installed into a slot or socket on the motherboard. The socket on the motherboard determines the type of CPU that can be installed.
The chip set of a motherboard allows the CPU to communicate and interact with the computer's other components and to exchange data with system memory (RAM), hard-disk drives, video cards, and other output devices. The chip set establishes how much memory can be added to a motherboard. The chip set also determines the type of connectors on the motherboard.
Most chip sets are divided into two distinct components, northbridge and southbridge. What each component does varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in general the north-
bridge controls access to the RAM, video card, and the speeds at which the CPU can communicate with them. The video card is sometimes integrated into the northbridge. The southbridge, in most cases, allows the CPU to communicate with the hard drives, sound card, USB ports, and other input/output (I/O) ports.
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