How to Tell if Motherboard is Bad or Dead?

PCGuide101 is reader-supported. If you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

A computer’s motherboard connects all the components together, and if it fails, your computer may be rendered useless.

If for some reasons, your PC is acting up like freezing out of the blue, not detecting attached components or simply not turning on at all. Then there can be a vast range of culprits involved and motherboard is one of them.

There are certain telltale signs that can indicate that your motherboard is failing or is just configured badly.

For instance, if your system freezes and lags with no other plausible cause, that could indicate a bad motherboard setting. On the other hand, if your system does not even turn on despite it being connected to the power supply unit, then that could indicate a hardware issue with the motherboard.

Visible signs of damage can mean the part is bad, so you’ll need to look out for them. Additionally, if your motherboard comes with status indicated LED lights or a beep code speaker, you can use it to understand the cause of the issue. 

At times, the motherboard may seem to be bad, yet the real cause could be misconfigured item or a bad connection between components.

In the following text I will talk in detail about how to tell if motherboard is bad or failing.

Misconfigured Motherboard vs Bad Motherboard

You have to understand the difference between a misconfigured motherboard and a failing motherboard.

A misconfigured motherboard can be fixed by fixing the underlying issue. This is software related.

A bad motherboard, on the other hand, has key physical components that are failing. This can include a bad capacitor, a failing CPU socket or a damaged power connector.

Also Read: When to Upgrade Motherboard?

How to Tell if Motherboard is Misconfigured?

A misconfigured motherboard CAN be fixed. You cannot pronounce a misconfigured motherboard bad or dead!

If your computer is getting slower, crashes frequently, or is not recognizing installed hardware, you may need to confirm if the motherboard is in fact just misconfigured.

A few causes of motherboard misconfiguration include:

1. Overclocking of Components

Check if the CPU is overclocked. Overclocking is when a higher voltage is given to the CPU to improve its performance.

If your motherboard does not have the right physical capacity and robust components such as power VRMs and a good Phase Power Design, then it could certainly fail in overclocking.

You can check if your CPU is overclocked via BIOS.

Also Read: How to Check if CPU is Overclocked? 

In addition to that sometimes the PCIe BUS can also be overclocked. This can cause some series erratic behavior with your motherboard.

How to Fix This Issue?

If issue with your motherboard lies with overclocking, then there is generally a fairly easy fix for this.

You need to access your BIOS at the PC startup. It can generally be accessed by pressing the DELETE, F10 or the F2 key repeatedly, however, the specific key can be different from motherboard to motherboard.

Once you have accessed your BIOS, there is often an option for “RESET TO DEFAULT”.

Select this and “SAVE and RESET” your from the BIOS. This should bring your system back to their default settings.

The following image shows a typical BIOS. On this BIOS pressing F9 would bring it back to its default settings as shown in the menu below.

BIOS version Insyde

2. Recent BIOS Update

Another cause of a misconfigured motherboard could be a bad BIOS update.

Unfortunately, you cannot re-install the original BIOS with a press of a key. You’ll need re-flash your motherboard again to bring it back to original version.

3. A Loose Device

Another culprit for erratic motherboard issues could be a loosely connected device.

Often times RAM and a PCIe expansion cards are not firmly affixed in their respective slots.

blue screen of death
Blue Screen of Death is often caused by a bad hardware component, often the RAM.

If your PCIe expansion card is not getting detected, then the issue could be as simple as plugging it in firmly into the slot. People often confuse this with a bad PCIe slot on the motherboard.

Other times, dust can get packed into the crevices of the PCIe slot rendering any attached device inoperable.

Therefore, before pronouncing your PCIe slot on the motherboard dead, it is better to clean it, plug the device in properly and verify with another expansion card.

Also Read: How to Tell If a PCIe Slot is Bad?

How to Tell if Motherboard is Bad or Dead?

If you are certain that the issue is not a misconfigured motherboard, then there are seven ways to check if the motherboard is bad or dead.

  1. Disconnect All Components Except of Power Supply Unit
  2. Check the CMOS Battery
  3. Check Whether the Motherboard Performs POST on the Screen
  4. Check POST LED and Beep Code Speaker
  5. Check Your Motherboard with a Second Set of Components
  6. Check for Physical Signs of Damage
  7. Replace the Power Supply Unit

1. Disconnect All Components except of Power Supply Unit

The first course of action is to check if the issue lies with the motherboard or with the connected components.

For this, disconnect all components i.e CPU, RAM, Hard Disk or any other connected peripheral devices like keyboards, USB drives etc.

You would want to bench test for this; meaning take the motherboard out of the PC case and place it on an anti-static material.

Plug in the Power Supply cables to the motherboard and turn it on by jumping the power ON pins on the motherboard Front Panel Header.

power swtich front panel header
The two power ON pins that you need to jump with a screw driver to turn the PC on if the motherboard is outside the case.

If the motherboard turns on and shows sign of life by flashing lights or making beep codes then that could indicate that your motherboard is not in fact dead and that the issue could lie with any of the connected components instead.

Read in Detail About Bench Test Here: How to Test Motherboard Without CPU?

2. Check the CMOS Battery

Cmos battery latch
CMOS battery (a coin battery)

Often times the cause of dead motherboard is as simple as a dead CMOS battery.

The CMOS battery is responsible for powering up the BIOS. It maintains the system settings even when you turn your PC off.

When CMOS battery dies, the motherboard becomes inoperable.

However, this is very simple to fix. Just locate the CMOS battery on your motherboard (it is quite hard to miss) and replace it with the appropriate coin battery.

3. Check Whether the Motherboard Performs POST on the Screen

will motherboard post without cpu
If the computer fails at POST screen and if it shows errors, then that is a sign of a hardware failure.

Some motherboard when they turn on, show the POST screen.

A Power-On Self-Test (POST) is the most initial test the motherboard performs to check if all the hardware and sub-components are in order and functioning properly.

If an error is detected in any of the critical components like the CPU, RAM, hard disk or even the motherboard itself, the POST screen may display the issue highlighting where the problem lies.

Crucial Points to Note Here

For starters, if your motherboard is performing the POST function and actually displaying it on the screen then there are high chances that the motherboard is working fine.

A dead motherboard often does not display any screen at all.

Also, if you do not have the CPU attached to your motherboard or if in fact the CPU is bad, then no POST screen will be shown since CPU powers the video output ports on the motherboard. NO CPU=NO GPU=NO Display

Also Read: Will Motherboard POST Without CPU?

4. Check POST LED and Beep Code Speaker

Some motherboards come with status LEDs or beepers that emit various error codes when the system has a problem.

a. Beep Code Speaker

motherboard speaker
If you have motherboard speaker installed, you can hear beep codes for troubleshooting. Motherboard beep code speaker can be bought separately in case if your motherboard does not come with one

If your motherboard does not display the POST screen on the motherboard, it may generate POST function Beep Codes to indicate where the issue lies.

Many motherboards come with a built in beep code speaker. Often times the beep code speaker is found with the PC chassis. If your system doesn’t come with a beep code speaker than you can procure one from an IT store.

If the POST function identifies any issues with the hardware, it will generate a beep sound code. The number of beeps it makes indicates where the trouble lies. So for instance

  • 1 Beep – issues with the memory
  • 2 Beeps – issues with the motherboard
  • 5 Beeps – issues with the CPU
  • 9 Beeps – indicate problem with ROM or BIOS

PCMag.com has a list of beep codes and what they indicate.

Also Read: What are Front Panel Connectors on Motherboards?

b. LED indicators

motherboard flashing leds
Motherboard may flash POST LED lights indicating something is wrong (missing CPU)

LED indicators are used on some motherboards to show the status of various components. The number of LEDs and what they represent will depend on each manufacturer’s design.

You will have to refer to your motherboard’s manual to understand what the LED lights entail.

5. Check Your Motherboard with a Second Set of Components

One very radical approach you can take is to test your motherboard with another set of CPU, RAM, Hard Disk and Power Supply Unit.

If the issue persists, then the problem most certainly lies with the motherboard itself.

Also Read: How to Tell if CPU is Bad or Dead?

6. Replace the Power Supply Unit

If your motherboard shows no indication of turning on at all, then the problem could lie with the power supply unit.

So just to verify this hunch, test the motherboard with a spare Power Supply Unit.

If the motherboard does NOT turn on or if it shows no sign of life even after replacing the Power Supply Unit, then that could further indicate the issue lies with the motherboard.

7. Check for Physical Signs of Damage

How to Tell if Motherboard is Bad
Swollen or leaking capacitors are a death notice for motherboards. Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Physical damage can be a result of anything from poor handling to accidental electrical surges. And, this can, in worst cases, damage your motherboard.

a. Check for bends or breakages

Even the most minute of scratches on some of the PCB tracks can cause the whole thing to fail. Telltale signs include abnormal bends or cracking on the surface of the board.

b. Water Damage

Some computers have tiny stickers that get discolored when they come into contact with a significant amount of moisture.

You should check these if present to rule out any possibility that your motherboard may have suffered water damage.

A sub ambient temperature, for instance, can cause condensation. If your PC was placed next to an air conditioner, then condensation could have occurred.

c. Short Circuits

While these may be harder to identify, you should at least take a keen look at the board and try to see any indicators of electrical problems like a short circuit.

One thing to look for is any signs of burns on the motherboard that may have been caused by electrical failures.

Conclusion

So how to tell if motherboard is bad? The first thing you need to do is ensure everything is correctly connected so that you don’t spend too much time searching for a problem that doesn’t exist.

From then on you should proceed to check the motherboard for any signs of damage and also listen for beeps and also look at the status LEDs on the board if present.

It is important to test your motherboards as soon as you begin to notice unusual behavior so that you can catch problems earlier on before they cause more damage to your system.

Photo of author

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.

Leave a Comment