An Overview of Motherboard Types – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 1.2

As a CompTIA A+ technician, you’ll work on numerous motherboard types. In this video, you’ll learn about the types and characteristics of some popular motherboards.

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There are many different kinds of motherboards. There’s kinds you would have on a laptop computer. There’s others that are in desktops. Some desktops are very large and made for servers. Other desktops might be very small, to take up as little room as possible on a desk. And all of these have different characteristics associated with them.

One is the size of the motherboard itself. That depends on the size of the case you might be using. Another important consideration is the basic layout of the motherboard, and where different parts or different components may be located on the physical motherboard itself. There’s also a number of power connections. There are a set of standardized power connections on most motherboards, and we’ll look at those in this video.

Another important consideration is air flow. Motherboards are not just designed to be functional, but they’re also designed to be able to cool all of those components on the motherboard that get very hot whenever you’re starting to do any type of operation. If you look at Wikipedia, there are over 40 different motherboard types that you’ll happen to find. It’s almost impossible to try to memorize all of those, but fortunately there are some major motherboard types that you’ll commonly run into, and that’s what we’re going to cover in this video.

Laptop motherboards are generally very specific to the laptop model. They are specially designed for those laptops. But for desktop computers, you’ll find these standard motherboard types. The Standard-ATX and the Micro-ATX are very standard to find in most desktop type computers. As we get smaller systems, however, we’ve needed to create smaller motherboards. And so you’ll see these ITX versions of motherboards, either the mini or the nano or the pico ITX versions. And that way, we’re able to have even smaller systems that we can put behind a television or use for some other very specific purpose.

The ATX motherboard stands for Advanced Technology Extended, and it’s a motherboard type that’s been around since 1995. It’s very standardized. It’s one that was created by Intel. And there a number of changes that have occurred to the standard since it was released. If you look at older ATX motherboards, you may find a 20 pin power connector on the motherboard, whereas the newest version has 24 pin connectors. That’s because as our systems became more powerful, we wanted to put high end graphics cards and additional power, and that extra power that is on the 24 pin connector allows us to do that.

You may also find that your ATX motherboard gives you options for what interfaces might be available on the back. So there might be a back plate that you can remove and replace depending on what ports you want to have available. This is a very standard motherboard. You can find motherboards available for purchase that are ATX motherboards today. And it’s such a popular format that it’s feasible to see the ATX motherboard be available for many years in the future.

This is a common ATX motherboard. You can see that it’s pretty large. This would be for a desktop. There are a number of different interface connections. So you can plug in a PCI card, an adapter card, and add on additional capability. The ATX is very large, relatively speaking, so it has a number of different interfaces that we can plug into right there on the bus. We have our slot for CPU. There’s slots for memory to add to this motherboard.

And there’s that 24 pin power connection right on the edge. And on the other side are the interfaces that would be on the back of the motherboard. You can see it’s relatively big, and if you need something that has a lot of options for upgrading in something that will be on a desktop, this is a very good motherboard type to use.

These days, of course, we want our systems to be as small as possible, so the Micro-ATX was a motherboard type that took that same style of the ATX and shrunk it down a little bit. It limited the number of expansion slots that you might have while still enabling the same type of functionality that the ATX motherboard allowed us.

One of the nice capabilities of the Micro-ATX is that it was backwards compatible. That is, you could take a case that was designed for an ATX and a Micro-ATX would also fit inside of that case. All of the mounting points and the screws in every place that you would use to put it into the case are exactly the same as an ATX motherboard. This is also popular form factor. You’ll find it available for sale today, and you’ll certainly be able to find it available in the future.

Here’s a picture of Micro-ATX motherboard. You can see, very similar to the last one we were looking at. That was the ATX size. It has a space for your CPU. There’s the memory slots. But you can see the number of expansion slots available is a lot less than the ATX we were looking at. It’s the same functionality on this board, just in a little bit smaller form factor. As we wanted our desktops and our systems to become smaller, we found that the Mini-ATX was just a little bit too big.

So VIA technologies in 2001 came out with the ITX motherboard standards. This particular motherboard standard allows you to have a lot smaller of a motherboard. In some cases with the Mini-ITX, you can see that it only has a single expansion slot available on it. It still has the standard power, but there’s certainly a lot less space on that motherboard. And so there’s a lot less features available on that motherboard.

One other consideration that the Mini-ITX brought to the table is that it used the same mounting points as the ATX or the Micro-ATX. So you could use the same type of case and simply replace the motherboard. It also was a very standard way for case manufacturers to be able to build cases that they know would work with this particular motherboard type.

Obviously, not a lot of room on these, especially as you get into the much smaller devices, but even the Mini-ITX doesn’t have a lot of options here for adding additional capabilities. You have one expansion slot, and that’s about it. Because these are so small, you don’t have a lot of flexibility. But if you’re looking for a motherboard that is going to take up the smallest amount of room, that Mini-ITX might be a good option.

There are a lot of different motherboard types, and whether you’re looking at an ATX, a Micro-ATX, or even the Mini-ITX type versions, you should be able to find a motherboard that fits perfectly for what you’re trying to accomplish.