How to Check if a Motherboard Is Bad

Look out for the most obvious signs behind a bad motherboard

What to Know

  • The computer doesn’t switch on or it fails the POST test.
  • Check for visible signs of physical damage on the motherboard itself.
  • Diagnostic LEDs on the motherboard start blinking.

A faulty motherboard isn’t the only culprit behind a computer's failure to boot. But it’s important to determine if a motherboard is bad when are troubleshooting a PC. Here are a few common visual and diagnostic methods you can use to check if a motherboard is bad. 

What Are the Signs of Motherboard Failure?

A bad motherboard will fail on you instantly or show some warning signs. If you can spot the warning signs early, take preemptive action, like creating a backup of your critical files. A computer that doesn’t turn on is obviously the first hint of trouble. But it’s important to discount simple reasons like a loose power cord, a damaged power button, or even low input voltage before this becomes a motherboard problem. 

Look out for these clues which suggest a bad motherboard. 

Computer Fails POST

The Power On Self Test (POST) is performed by the BIOS and is the first step in the pre-boot sequence. The self-diagnosis ensures the internal hardware and peripherals are working properly. Problems are indicated by the failure of the POST or a specific beep code. Beep codes can vary with each manufacturer. For instance, three short beeps hint at a motherboard failure on a Dell computer, while two beeps may mean an unseated RAM module. 

So, consult the user manual for the meaning of the particular beep code and then follow POST troubleshooting steps to pinpoint the problem.

Tip:

You can search online to find the meaning of the error beeps. For multiple POST error codes, solve them in the order they occur.

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

The dreaded BSOD can result from a faulty motherboard or driver errors. It could also be related to some other hardware. The BSOD error code that appears on the screen is the shortest route to decipher the reason. Check Microsoft's Knowledge Base to match the error code with the problem before the motherboard can be singled out.

Microsoft says that most errors are caused by third-party driver codes, while 10 percent are caused by hardware issues, and 5 percent have unknown causes. 

Blinking Diagnostic LEDs

Some motherboards come with error lights. For instance, some ASUS motherboards have Q-LEDs that light up when there’s a problem with the CPU, DRAM, graphics cards, or the HDD/SSD. Depending on the brand, the lights can behave in different ways. Refer to the motherboard manual to see what the indicators mean. 

How Else Do You Know if a Motherboard Is Bad?

Beyond the clues explained above, you can do a check for worn-out motherboard parts and use a variety of diagnostic tools. However, do note that both approaches will require experienced eyes. Also, diagnostic tools may not always work correctly because of the sheer number of motherboard manufacturers and the components used. 

Visual Check for Motherboard Defects

Check for physical damage to the motherboard and its components. Components should be seated properly. Lumpy capacitors, chipped circuits, or charred transistors are all surefire signs of motherboard damage. A problematic capacitor bulges at the top and can show electrolyte discharge too. 

It’s recommended to call a support technician to get a motherboard physically checked as it often needs an expert’s eye. If you attempt it yourself, always shut down the computer and ground your hand to prevent electrostatic discharge from frying the delicate inner parts. 

Diagnostic Software for Motherboard

Special diagnostic software can help find deeper problems and prevent a motherboard failure if detected in time. These software toolkits might not detect every motherboard. Here are some recommended benchmarking utilities

The root cause behind a bad motherboard is one of the hardest things to diagnose. Many components make up the circuits. These are just some of the checks you can perform on your own before it becomes necessary to call for help. Technicians can charge a lot to repair a motherboard. If it’s unserviceable, then replacing the bad motherboard is the only option left. 

FAQ
  • What are the causes of motherboard failure?

    Motherboards can fail or go bad for many reasons. Over time, excessive heat can wear out a motherboard and cause it to fail. Electrical damage is another common danger to motherboards. Electrical damage can come in the form of surges, such as when lightning strikes a power line, or even through routine maintenance when a tech discharges static electricity into the motherboard. Physical damage and water damage are also common causes of motherboard failure.

  • How can I check to see if my laptop motherboard has no power?

    A faulty laptop motherboard often has the same symptoms as other component failures. First, make sure your problem isn't just a dead battery or faulty power supply. Try plugging your laptop into an outlet with your AC adapter. If it powers up, you'll know your motherboard is likely fine and the battery is the culprit. To check if the power supply is the problem, try plugging it into another working system. If the problem persists, you'll know the power supply is at fault.

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