Do Motherboards Come with CPU and RAM?

If you are new to building PCs then there are many basic questions that can go around your head such as “is a motherboard part of a CPU?” or vice versa or “do motherboards come with CPU and RAM attached?” These kind of misconceptions are quite normal to have.

The bottom line is No! motherboards DO NOT come with CPUs and RAM. Motherboard is a separate entity and so are CPU and RAM.

A motherboard only DEFINES what CPU and RAM it can handle, it does not include CPU and RAM by default.

Now laptop motherboards come with CPUs ATTACHED (due to the nature of how their socket is designed), however, as an entity, they are completely separate.

A motherboard serves its function whereas CPU and RAM serve theirs.

In this article I will explore in detail whether motherboards come with CPU and RAM built-in.

Defining Motherboard, CPU and RAM

For the uninitiated, it is important to understand the difference between these three core components of a PC.

Know that a PC will NOT work if any of these core components is missing.

What is a Motherboard?

How Many PCie Slots Do I have
A motherboard is a complex circuit board with multiple chipsets and controllers for different interfaces.

A motherboard is essentially the main circuit board on a computer that facilitates electrical connection and data transfer between different components such as between CPU, RAM, storage, peripheral devices, PCIe devices etc.

If a PC were a human body, then a motherboard would be the skeleton and the nervous system that enables the CPU (the brain) and the rest of the hardware (limbs) to send and receive signals.

Which brings us to the CPU.

What is a CPU?

A CPU, aka the processor, is the brain of the computer. It is the orchestrator that directs what and when things need to be done.

Do Motherboards Come with CPU and RAM
CPU is the brain of the computer

CPU is a separate chipset. Often people confuse motherboards as being part of a CPU. 

A CPU ATTACHES ON TO THE MOTHERBOARD. 

All motherboard have a socket, or a placeholder, where you plug in the CPU.

cpu plugged in motherboard
CPU locked into the CPU socket on the motherboard

The CPU socket is NOT uniform across all motherboards. Different motherboard have different CPU sockets.

So in other words, the socket on the motherboard determines what make and model CPU you can plug into your PC.

The following table shows different motherboard CPU Sockets and the CPUs supported. So for instance, to install a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 CPU, you would need to have a motherboard with the LGA1200 socket. 

BrandMotherboard
Socket
TypeCPU SupportedPins
IntelLGA1151LGA- Intel 7th, 8th and 9th Gen Celeron, Pentium and Core CPUs1151
LGA1200LGA- Intel 10th and 11th Gen Celeron, Pentium and Core CPUs1200
LGA1700LGA- Intel 12th Gen Celeron, Pentium and Core CPUs1700
LGA2066LGA- Intel Core Extreme 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th Gen
- Intel Xeon Skylake-W and Cascade Lake-W
2066
AMDAM4PGAAMD Athlon and Ryzen 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 50001331
sTRX4LGAAMD Threadripper 3000 series4094

Also Read: How to Check What Motherboard Socket You Have?

And finally we have the RAM.

What is RAM?

RAM is referred to as the memory of the PC. You can think of this as the extension of the CPU itself. This where the CPU makes all the calculations and manipulation of the data.

DDR3 DIMM RAM
A DDR3 RAM sticks, goes into the RAM slots labelled in the motherboard above.

RAM goes into dedicated RAM slots on the motherboard.

DDR3 RAM Slots motherboard
DDR3 RAM Slots motherboard

The amount of RAM slots and the amount of RAM a motherboard can support differs from model to model. It is in fact determined by the motherboard’s chipset model.

Also Read: Which Motherboards Support DDR5 RAM?

Often People Confuse Motherboard Chipset with a CPU

Motherboard chipset and c pu socket
Motherboard chipset and CPU socket labelled separately

Newbies often confuse the motherboard chipset with the CPU. 

A motherboard chipset is basically the heart of the motherboard itself. The chipset determines essentially the specification of your PC itself.

The chipset defines:

  1. What CPU socket your motherboard would have – in other words what make and model CPU your motherboard would support.
  2. How much RAM and of what kind it can support
  3. How many PCIe lanes it will have
  4. How many storage drives your PC would be able to support
  5. The number of USB ports you will have
  6. The version of the ports and slots
  7. Overclocking support
  8. VRM and Phase Power design

and much more…

So Do Motherboards Come with CPU and RAM?

Now that you have a basic idea about what each of these components are you should already be able to tell that they are all procured separately when building a PC.

For Desktop PCs

So if you are building a desktop PC, then you will need to procure a motherboard, a CPU and RAM separately making sure they are all compatible with each other.

On desktops, the motherboard, CPU and RAM are all separate components that can be detached or plugged in.

For Laptop PCs:

On laptops, the motherboard, CPU and RAM are also separate components, but on laptops, the CPU is SOLDERED onto the motherboard which can give you the feeling that on laptops, the motherboard does come with a CPU.

However, the reason for the CPU to be soldered onto the motherboard is because of the type of socket laptop uses.

As for the RAM, most laptops have detachable RAM sticks. However, on certain laptops, the RAM is also soldered on to the motherboard in their dedicated slots.

Laptop BGA vs Desktop LGA/PGA Sockets

lga vs pga
Pin Grid Array processors (with needles sticking out) Left; and Land Grid Array (with flat contacts) Right

Laptops use Ball Grid Array (BGA) sockets. These are soldered onto the motherboard. 

Desktops use Pin Grid Array or Land Grid Array sockets which can be detached or plugged into the motherboard socket separately.

Also Read: LGA vs BGA

So in the end, whether you are talking about laptops or desktop, the answer to the question “do motherboards come with CPU and RAM” is a negative. Typical motherboard do NOT come with CPU or RAM attached.

There are Exceptions

In very rare instances, you may find desktop motherboards that come with CPUs attached to them. 

These are intended for specialized tasks such as for low-key servers, NAS, mining etc.

Motherboard with processor
Motherboard with Intel Xeon X5650 

FAQ

Is a Motherboard a Part of a CPU?

No, motherboard and CPU are two different components. Neither are part of each other, albeit both are core components for a PC.

A CPU, or a processor, is a separate chip that ATTACHES to a motherboard.

Also Read: Why is a Motherboard Important?

How Can I Know What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard?

To tell if a CPU is compatible with your motherboard you have to look at the socket type of both. 

In other words, the socket on the CPU and on the motherboard should match.

I have written comprehensive article on this topic: What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard?

Final Words

So in the end, it should be absolutely clear to you that CPU and RAM DO NOT come with a motherboard. 

When building a PC you have to buy a motherboard, CPU and RAM all separately making sure that they are all compatible with each other.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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