Installing a Desktop PC Motherboard

How to install a motherboard

All modern standard ATX motherboards have a variety of connectors and jumpers that must be properly set inside the computer case. The pin layout will vary for different cases and motherboards, but the process for installing a motherboard is basically the same for all systems.

How to Install a Motherboard

Before you begin, it's helpful to have the manual for the motherboard and your PC on hand. You will also need a Phillips screwdriver and possibly a hex driver.

  1. Open up the desktop case. Most cases have a side panel or door, while others require the whole cover to be removed. If necessary, remove any screws holding the cover to the case and set them aside.

  2. Remove the motherboard tray. Some cases have a removable motherboard tray that slides out of the case to make it easier to install a motherboard. If your case has such a tray, now is the time to remove it from the case.

    Removing the motherboard tray from a desktop computer case
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin

    If your computer doesn't have a removable tray, then you must install the motherboard directly inside the desktop case.

  3. Replace the ATX connector plate. While there is a standard ATX connector design for the back of the motherboard, each manufacturer uses a different layout for the connectors. Consequently, you may need to remove the basic ATX connector faceplate and replace it with the custom one that comes with the motherboard. Gently press one corner of the basic ATX plate until it pops out, then do the same on the opposite corner to completely remove the plate.

    Install the new ATX plate by aligning the connectors (the PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports should be on the same side as a power supply), gently pressing from the inside until it snaps into place.

    Removing and installing an ATX plate in a computer case
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  4. Determine the motherboard mounting location. Compare the motherboard to the tray that it is going to be installed in and line up the mounting holes between them. Any location that has a mounting hole will require a standoff installed in the tray.

    A motherboard and the motherboard tray side-by-side with mounting locations noted
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  5. Install the motherboard standoffs in the appropriate location. The standoffs may come in a variety of styles. Some boards have brass hex standoffs that require a hex driver to install. Others include a clip that snaps into the tray.

    Installing motherboard standoffs on a motherboard tray
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  6. Fasten the motherboard. Lay the motherboard over the tray and align the board so that all the standoffs are visible through the mounting holes. Starting with the centermost mounting point, insert the screws to fix the motherboard to the tray. After the center, work in a spiral pattern to affix the corners of the board.

    Screwing a motherboard onto the motherboard tray
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  7. Attach the ATX control wires. Locate the connectors for the power, hard drive LED, reset, and speakers in the case. Use the manual for the motherboard to identify the appropriate headers for each connector.

    Attaching ATX control wires to a motherboard
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  8. Connect the ATX power connector. All motherboards will use the standard 20-pin ATX power connector block. Since most new computers require additional power, there may also be an additional 4-pin ATX12V power connector you need to connect.

    Connecting the ATX power connector to a motherboard
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  9. Replace the motherboard tray. If the case uses a motherboard tray, slide the tray back into the case.

    Replacing the motherboard tray in a desktop PC case
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  10. Install any port headers. Many motherboards today have a variety of additional connectors for different types of ports that do not fit on the ATX connector plate. To handle these, the plates supply additional headers that connect to the motherboard and reside in a card slot cover. Additionally, some of these connectors may reside on the case and can be connected to the motherboard.

    Installing a header is very similar to installing a standard interface card. Once the header has been installed into a card slot, it needs to be attached to the motherboard along with any case port connectors. Consult the motherboard manual for guidance if necessary.

    Attaching port connectors to the motherboard
    Lifewire / Mark Kyrnin
  11. Install the remaining adapter cards and drives to the motherboard to complete the installation. Once the system is up and running, verify that all of the connectors, jumpers, and switches are fully functional. If any of them are not working, power down the system and refer to the instruction manual to see if the connectors may be improperly installed.