Motherboard Standoffs: What They Are and When You Need One

Spacing your motherboard from your case is essential

A standoff is a required metal spacer placed in-between your motherboard and case.

When building a PC, one of the most important components you will install is your motherboard. On a motherboard, there are many electrical connections on the back of the board as well as the front of the board.

Since computer cases are made from metals, it's essential there is space between the motherboard and the case to avoid the two touching.

What Are Standoffs on a Motherboard?

Standoffs are small pieces of metal similar to screws. However, instead of a head, a standoff has an anchor where another screw can be inserted. Standoffs are traditionally screwed into a case, and then the motherboard is placed on top of the standoffs and screwed into them.

Each motherboard screw requires a standoff. Depending on what form factor motherboard you have (i.e. ATX, mATX, mini-ITX), differing amounts of screws, and thus standoffs, are required.

Do I Need Motherboard Standoffs?

Yes, you do. However, you may not need to install your own standoffs.

Many computer cases come with standoffs built directly onto the case or preinstalled for you. Regardless of whether or not you have built-in, preinstalled, or separately included standoffs, you must make sure your case supports your motherboard's form factor.

Do Motherboard Standoffs Come With Motherboards?

No! They do not. This is a common misconception, as standoffs are included with (or built onto) the computer case itself. Motherboards are standardized within form factors, but cases can vary greatly in shape, size, and depth, so screws and standoffs are included with your case to guarantee compatibility.

However, there is a lot of standardization when it comes to screws and standoffs in modern computing. Most likely, if you have standoffs from an ATX case, for example, these standoffs will work with any ATX board in any ATX case.

What Happens if You Don't Use Motherboard Standoffs?

Whether or not you fry your motherboard, CPU, both, or simply just fail to boot, is unknown, but without standoffs, one of these outcomes is all but guaranteed. Simply put: If you install a motherboard without standoffs, you will end up sad.

It is best practice to take the time and care to install all screws and standoffs your motherboard supports because fully securing your motherboard guarantees you won't ever run the risk of shorting the board.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I install motherboard standoffs? Some motherboards have brass hex standoffs that require a hex driver to install, while others include a clip that snaps into the tray. Place the motherboard over the tray and align the board so that all the standoffs are visible through the mounting holes, then insert the screws/clips to affix the motherboard to the tray starting with the center mounting point.
  • How do I remove motherboard standoffs? Use needle-nose pliers to hold the standoff in place, then unscrew the motherboard screws. You can then remove the motherboard and the standoff.
  • Where do I buy motherboard standoffs? You can purchase standoffs from online retailers like Amazon or Newegg. You might also be able to find them at your local hardware store. Make sure to look for a standoff that is compatible with your case.
  • What is the purpose of installing standoffs and spacers between the motherboard and the case? The standoff serves as a barrier between the motherboard and the metal case. If the metals were to touch, it could cause a short circuit and ruin your computer.
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