What is the Function of the Computer Motherboard?

By John Arkontaky

The motherboard paves the highway in which hardware components speak to each other to execute commands.
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There are various computer components that add bells and whistles to your computer’s functionality, but the motherboard is an essential piece of hardware that is within every computer, whether it is a Mac or PC. While it is important to know what RAM, processor, hard drive and graphics card your computer has, none of these components would work correctly without the help of the motherboard.


In the most basic of terms, the motherboard is the base or hub in which other essential computer components connect to. In effect, the motherboard bridges the gaps between each component, allowing them to work together harmoniously to perform whatever function the user prompts.


The motherboard has many slots for computer components, and understanding the layout of a motherboard can be quite complicated. Perhaps the most important slot is for the central processing unit, which acts as the brains of the computer. There are also slots for RAM, power sources, audio and graphics cards, network cards, chipsets, dual inline memory modules, external hardware such as a monitor, keyboard or mouse, and USB connectors.


A motherboard will almost always have open slots for users to increase power, speed or performance of a computer. Most motherboards have expandable slots for RAM, power sources and CPUs. Installing additional components to the motherboard will have any number of effects. For instance, adding RAM may offer users faster processing speed when opening programs or running multiple programs. Installing a second CPU will help with multitasking and general performance, but adding extra components to the motherboard may necessitate adding a power source.


While motherboards offer expansions, components need to be compatible with the motherboard. This can get complicated, and it’s best to look up a motherboard’s specifications on the manufacturer’s website before buying components.

As a general rule of thumb, a CPU will need to match the motherboard’s socket type and bus speed in addition to being a compatible processor type, such as a dual-core or quad-core processor. For RAM, the motherboard must be compatible with the RAM type -- DDR, DDR2 or DDR3 -- and have matching pins in its RAM slot with the component. If there is a dedicated graphic card slot on the motherboard, the graphics card will generally be fine as long as it has a compatible connection.