How to Fix a Dead Motherboard
Last updated on April 7, 2022
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While many newer and more modern motherboards are pretty well-built and can withstand a lot, they’re not unbreakable. As a result, motherboards can still sustain damage and require repair or replacement.
Due to the very nature of motherboards, repairing and replacing them is more time-consuming than other elements of a PC. It can definitely be a panic-inducing experience for anyone if you power on your system and find your motherboard is unresponsive.
If you’re looking at a dead motherboard and are feeling lost on what to do next— don’t worry. In this guide, we will walk you through the basics of how to troubleshoot an unresponsive motherboard. We’ll begin with the simplest fixes and progress to more complex issues.
1. Check the Power Cables
Before doing anything else— like throwing your motherboard in the trash— you need to check to make sure that all is well with your power cables.
To do so, you need to check to see that the power cables are seated properly, including the 24-pin connector and the CPU power cables (and whatever extra power cables your unique system may have installed). Some motherboards have lights that indicate whether or not things are powering up, but not all motherboards are equipped with this feature.
2. Remove Discrete GPU and RAM
If all is well with the power cables, you’ll next want to try removing the RAM and the GPU. This is because you need to see if the motherboard will power on if they’ve been removed. If so, it means that the GPU or RAM wasn’t seated properly and will need to be more carefully installed.
This is most easily done if your motherboard has the indicator lights mentioned in step 1. If your motherboard doesn’t have these lights, this process will be a bit tricky. Without these lights, you’re better off removing one (either the RAM or the GPU) and seeing if you can power on. If it still doesn’t work after removing one, then remove the other and try again. To reseat both of these, you’ll need to again do this one at a time, testing as you go.
3. Double Check the Power Supply
Yes, we know you already checked once, but it’s worth checking again. Instead of checking the power cables this time, you need to test the actual power source. To make sure it’s emitting power at all. If it is, check that it’s emitting as much power as you need.
To do this, you’ll want to use a device to get a reading on the output. Both a PSU tester and a multimeter would work great for this purpose, and both are pretty affordable (under $20 at most stores).
PSU testers work by plugging in the power cables to the tester. The multimeter requires a bit more knowledge of pins and connectors, but it’s easy to figure out with the help of online articles or YouTube videos.
4. Check the Motherboard Standoffs
You’d be surprised how easy it is to accidentally mess up the standoff positions on a motherboard. Sometimes you accidentally misplace one when you’re rearranging things, and you don’t even notice that it happened. If this occurs and the metal touches the wrong part of the motherboard, it can cause a short to occur. Shorts show up in a way that’s nearly identical to a truly dead motherboard, but it’s easy to test if this is the case.
To check if your standoffs are the problem, you’ll need to first remove your motherboard from its case. Then you need to place it on a non-conductive area and try powering it on. If the motherboard turns on, it likely means it’s a problem with standoff placement, which should be easy to fix once you identify which one is to blame.
5. It May Be Dead
This isn’t what you want to hear, but if you’ve checked everything else on this list and you still aren’t seeing results, it’s possible that your motherboard is simply faulty. If you feel so inclined, you can always take your setup to a repair specialist to see if they can diagnose the problem, but that can be expensive.
If you suspect that your motherboard really is dead after all, the first thing you should do is check the warranty. If it is valid, you can (and should) file a request with the manufacturer to get a reimbursement or a replacement.
Things to Keep in Mind When Diagnosing Motherboard Issues
One of the most challenging things about diagnosing a problem with a motherboard is that when there’s an issue with one thing, it can trickle throughout the system and affect multiple parts of the motherboard. This causes many things to appear as if they have a problem when they’re actually functioning properly.
To this end, diagnosing a motherboard issue correctly is time-consuming and frustrating. A process of elimination is one of the only reliable ways to truly find out what’s wrong with the motherboard.
Motherboards are also incredibly fragile and very complicated. Any number of small mishaps or interferences could cause catastrophic performance issues with your motherboard. Things like dust, pet hair, small objects, etc., can all get sucked into the fan of your PC and lodge themselves in nooks and crannies on your motherboard.
These tiny problems can have a big impact, so be sure you keep your PC in an area that has limited dust and pet hair, or just clean the area regularly.
If you do decide to replace the motherboard altogether, be sure you get the exact model you need because not all motherboards are created equal. Using the wrong motherboard can cause a ton of problems and should be avoided at all costs.