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What Are Motherboard Standoffs & Why Do You Need Them?

by  Jone -  Last updated on August 11, 2022
Motherboard

A motherboard is very important to your computer. Much like a real mother, it makes sure all the smaller parts of the computer are talking to one another and communicating perfectly. If your motherboard doesn’t work for you or starts to break down, then your entire computer is at risk until it is fully fixed up.

Along with proper maintenance of your PC and making sure to have your computer inside of a clean environment, you can also use motherboard standoffs.

What Exactly are Standoffs?

As the case for your computer is made of metal, there needs to be something that prevents the motherboard and the metal case from touching one another.

In short, the motherboard standoffs are the required mental spacers that go in between the motherboard and the case.

This article is going to go into more depth about what motherboard standoffs are, why you need them, and what happens whenever they are not pre-installed into your motherboard. So, let’s get started with the biggest questions of all, what are motherboard standoffs?

What are Motherboard Standoffs for Your Computer?

Metal Screws

Standoffs look like small pieces of metal screws, and the end of them looks like the bottom of a screw with the classic threads that can be screwed into a hole. However, instead of the traditional screw head at the top, there is a circular space for another standoff to be inserted instead.

The threaded side is used to mount the standoff into your computer case, while the head end has threads on the inside that are screwed into your motherboard.

If you are building your computer yourself, you would traditionally screw the standoffs into the case and then place the motherboard on top of the standoffs. Once everything is lined up, you can screw the motherboard into the standoffs until it is secure.

Depending on what type of motherboard you have, you will need to connect a different number of screws and standoffs in order to operate it safely.

Do You Need Motherboard Standoffs?

The answer is yes. On every single motherboard, there are electrical terminals on the top and the bottom of the motherboard, and whenever the motherboard is turned on and fully operational, there will be a current passing through those terminals.

When the electric terminals touch the metal of the case, it can cause a lot of problems for your machine. If the standoffs work as intended, then none of those conductive parts get shorted out.

Additionally, standoffs can do two more things for your board. First, they can help to hold the motherboard in place, which is helpful if you are moving your computer around. Plus, the standoffs act like little pillars and hold the motherboard up to create a gap.

This gap can allow air to flow underneath and around the motherboard, which helps to cool the board during operation. And the cooler your computer parts are during play, the longer your machine is going to last.

What if I Don’t Use Motherboard Standoffs?

If you decide against using motherboard standoffs for some reason, then you are going to fry your CPU and/or your motherboard. Full stop, it is going to happen, and something terrible will happen to your computer. These are a required part of your computer, and more and more motherboard manufacturers are starting to include holes for the screws built-in with their motherboards.

Take the time to install them correctly and make sure they are tight and secured. If you don’t have them or they don’t do their job, something is going to be damaged.

How Bad is a Short Circuit Anyway?

If you are still wondering why you need to fiddle with motherboard standoffs and what damage they can potentially cause to your computer, then you need to know what a short circuit is. To make a long lesson about electricity short, circuits are the pathways that electricity travels on to get from one place to another.

Electricity flows on the path of least resistance. In your desktop computer, the power will flow from your plug to each of the parts of the computer and make the computer work. However, if your motherboard is touching the metal parts of your case, then there’s an easier path where the electricity can go.

If it goes towards your case, it can cause a lot of problems for the machine, leading to overheating and other damages that can take a while to fix.

The metallic standoffs are able to act as a grounding point between the case and the motherboard and allow for any electrical discharges to be directed away from the components (and you!) and to be directed into the ground.

What if They Don’t Come With my Motherboard?

Well, the standoffs actually come with the case because that is what they end up screwing into, so they will come within the case that you buy. Sometimes they are pre-installed, and other times you will need to do the screwing yourself. However, keep an eye on the case because if the standoffs are pre-installed, you will be limited to what motherboards you can install.

For example, having a case with standoffs designed for an ATX motherboard means that only ATX motherboards will go inside. All other types of motherboards will not fit, so if you have a BTX motherboard, you will need to find a case designed for it.

How to Install Motherboard Standoffs?

Tools

Most Standoffs require a hex driver to fully install them because they are almost always hex shaped. You can screw them in with your fingers or another tool because they are very similar to screws. However, in order to firmly tighten them to the case, you need to use a hex driver. Just make sure not to over-tighten them or you will break them and damage the case.

Additionally, depending on the size of the motherboard you have (standard, micro, and mini), you might need to only screw in the right standoffs for the size of the board that you have. So make sure to identify the specific holes that you need to mount your board and only use those specific holes.

Finally, you might have more motherboard standoffs than you have holes, and you don’t need to use all of them. You can simply put the rest inside of a bag and use them whenever you need extras. As long as your motherboard is secure and stable, you can get by without using all of the standoffs that are included with the case.

However, you might as well use them all. It’s pretty easy to just install everything all at once, and damage to the standoffs doesn’t happen often enough to where you can justify having some extras. Just make sure that you aren’t using too many standoffs or installing standoffs in holes that are not meant for your motherboard. Not every standoff hole needs to be filled.

If the standoffs are not aligned with the equivalent holes, then you can run the risk of bending your motherboard, which is something that you don’t want.

What if I Need to Remove and Replace My Motherboard Standoffs?

You could need to remove and replace your motherboard standoffs for various reasons. You might have overtightened them during the installation, the metal could have warped with time and heat, or you might want to replace your old motherboard with a new one.

If you open your computer case, then you can use a pair of pliers to grip the tops of each standoff and simply use the tool to loosen it. After the standoff is loosened, then you can use your hand to unscrew it fully and remove it.

Now, if you need to replace your motherboard standoffs, then you have a few options. You can buy them from the storefront or website where you bought your case, as they will certainly have the correct ones for your type of motherboard.

You can also look at purchasing them from electronic stores or online retailers. But keep in mind you will need to make sure that everything is 100% compatible with your motherboard and your case.

Make Sure Your Standoffs Get Installed

Whether you get them pre-installed with your case, have to install them yourself, or need to purchase them separately, you need to ensure that your motherboard has the proper number of standoffs and that they are installed correctly.

Otherwise, you will have damage to one of the most valuable parts of your computer, and that’s something that no one wants.

Hopefully this article has shown you just how important a good set of motherboard standoffs are, and why you need to focus on making sure your motherboard is properly secured. The more that you can do to secure the parts of your computer during the PC building process, the better your computer will work for you whenever it is finally ready to be booted up for the first time!

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