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How to Upgrade a Motherboard? [Beginners Guide]

by  Farihas -  Last updated on May 27, 2022
Young Boy Fixing The Motherboard Chip

If you are looking to upgrade your motherboard by replacing and installing a new one, you might be wondering how exactly the process works. If you are replacing your motherboard, you will also need to replace the CPU.

If you are not familiar with PC hardware, this guide should outline everything you need to know to get started. It will take you a few hours so make sure you are setting aside enough time to get everything done.

If you have never replaced a motherboard before and are not too familiar with PC hardware, you might need more than just a few hours, so make sure you are starting this process on a day when you are home and have enough time to get everything sorted.

Tips for Replacing a Motherboard

If you are replacing your motherboard, first look for the CPU compatibility with motherboard. Just be prepared to reinstall your operating system and restore it. You should also back up all your data and settings before installing the new motherboard.

You will also need a few tools to get started, including:

  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Anti-static bracelet
  • Something to hold the screws
  • Thermal paste
  • A clean working space

Once you have all the things above, you can start with the first step of upgrading the motherboard.

Here’s How to Upgrade a Motherboard

Step One: Getting Ready

Motherboard Installation

Before getting started, make sure you unplug the power and the data cables from the PC. Move them away from the workspace so that dust and dirt do not get on them.

Next, you should remove the screws that are holding the left-side access panel. You will see them on the back of the machine screwed onto the edge. Gently slide the access panel off and lay it aside. Some side panels are shaped differently and need to be removed differently. If your side panel is not the traditional rectangle shape, you might want to access the instruction manual you have and see if it has different instructions.

Next, set your PC on its side with the motherboard facing up. You should be able to see all the connections and ports of the motherboard. Next, you need to remove the motherboard to get it completely out of the case. Some motherboards will have a case fan which also needs to be removed. Keep in mind that you will need to remember where everything goes.

You might want to snap a few photos of the arrangement of everything to refer back to when you need to put everything back together.

Step 2: Removing the Internal Parts

Now that you have the motherboard out of the case, you can start to remove the inside parts. First, remove the power rail. It’s usually found at the side or top of the GPU. Remove the screw that is holding it to the back of the case.

Next, look for the PCI-Express Slot. It usually has a plastic tab attached to it. Pull the tab away from the graphics card. Press down until you hear a snap or click. Pull the graphics card out. Make sure to put it in a safe place so you don’t lose it.

Repeat this process if you have PCI-E expansion cards. Otherwise, you can move on to the next step.

Step 3: Using the CPU Cooler

gaming cpu fan

Each motherboard will have a different CPU cooler and CPU processor, so these steps might look different for each user. Most people have AMD or Intel coolers which can be removed easily. If you have a large cooler, you will need to remove it from the opposite of the motherboard once you have removed the backing plate.

The main reason you want to remove the CPU cooler is that it blocks cables. Some coolers are very small and might not even need to be removed if there are no cables in the way.

Step 4: Unplugging the Main Cables

Now that the cooler is removed, you should have access to all the main cables. Remove the main motherboard power cable first. This is the longest cable and has between 20 to 24 pins.

Unplug it and then unplug the pin power cables near the CPU socket. There should be between 4 to 8 depending on your motherboard and CPU. Now you can unplug the disc drives and storage. Pull them out and leave them dangling to the side.

The next part is to remove the case connections and fans. These are all the cables marked USB. You might also have cords marked AUDIO and HD AUDIO. You can remove this as well and all the cables plugged into the output and input ports.

You should take a photo of all these cables and their positions as well as you will want to remember which cables were in which place.

Fans should also be unplugged during this step, but you can leave the RAM. The next step is to remove the motherboard completely, so at this phase, you shouldn’t have anything plugged in except the RAM. Feel free to unplug any cables that are in the way as you don’t want them to snag and ruin the removal process.

Step 5: Removing the Motherboard

Motherboard Removal

Now you are ready to remove the main component. Remove all the screws that are holding the motherboard in place. There should be 4 to 8 of them depending on how large your motherboard is.

Consult the motherboard’s manual if you do not know to see the screws or if you are not sure where the screws are located. Grasp the motherboard with both hands and remove it gently by lifting it up. You might need to pull slightly to the right so that you can clear the I/O Plate. This is a small piece of metal that can get in the way.

If you are replacing the motherboard with a new model completely, you will need to remove the I/O plate after removing the motherboard.

Now you can remove the RAM DIMMs from the motherboard. Press down on the tabs on both sides and pull them free. You can also remove the M.2 storage drive at this point if you are using one.

Step 6: Switch to the New Motherboard

Now you can switch to the new motherboard. You can also install the CPU backing plate during this step since you have easy access. If you are not using a CPU backing plate, you can install the new RAM into the motherboard and the DIMMs you are using, whether they are new or old.

Step 7: Installing the New CPU

CPU Installation

Now you can remove the new CPU from the box and install it. You will need to release the tension bar. This will allow you to lift the plate that holds the CPU into place.

Insert the new CPU into the open designated place on the motherboard. It should easily slide in without you needing to put pressure on it. Lower the backing plate onto the CPU. You shouldn’t have to force it very hard. If you feel resistance, try lifting it back out and then lower it again.

Step 8: Installing the CPU Cooler Back

If you have a small CPU, it’s better to install it now because it will not interfere with power rails and screws. You will need to put a small amount of thermal paste onto the top of the CPU. You can then gently lower the cooler on top so that it sticks.

Some coolers have the thermal paste pre-installed. You will need to apply your own in this case, just lower into the correct spot. Before moving on to the next step, make sure to plug the CPU power cable into the CPU fan. There should be an open four-pin slot on the motherboard close to the CPU.

Step 9: Installing the New Motherboard

A Man Installing The Motherboard

Place the new I/O into the back of the case. Stick it into the open slot and apply light pressure. Lower the motherboard down onto the risers. The small metal pieces should accept the retention screws easily.

If there are any cables underneath the board, pull them so they don’t get stuck. Screw the motherboard retention screws into place. Pull them through the holes of the circuit board. Make sure you do not over-tighten them. You don’t want to crack the motherboard as it will not work if there is any damage.

Step 10: Replacing the Cords

You now need to replace all the cables and cords. It’s easier to replace them in the opposite order of how you removed them:

  • Main motherboard cable
  • CPU power cable
  • SATA cables
  • Case Cables for audio, I/O plate, and audio
  • Cast fans

Step 11: Replacing the GPU

Place the GPU back into the PCI-Express slot. Lift the plastic tab and replace the screws. Plug the connecting power rail into the supply. If your CPU is larger and you didn’t install it earlier, you can do so now.

Once all the connections are back in place, close the panel and put the screws back in. Plug the power cables back in and turn on the new motherboard and make sure to test your motherboard before use. You should now be ready to use all your new parts.

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