A motherboard standoff is basically a small cylindrical-shaped metallic object that screws into dedicated mounting holes on the PC case. The purpose of motherboard standoffs is to lift the motherboard off from the CPU case.
Hence, in the simplest of definitions, a standoff is technically a spacer between the motherboard and the case.
Motherboard has a lot of intricate electrical circuits with hundreds of solder points and electrical terminals on its backside.
Therefore, it is imperative that the motherboard is lifted up so that it does not come in contact with the metallic PC case as it could create a short circuit.
Motherboard standoffs, while they may look small, trivial and without much consequence, they are an integral part of PC building.
In the following text we look further into what are motherboard standoffs, why should you install them, and how do you install them.
What Are Motherboard Standoffs?
Motherboard standoffs have a very peculiar design. On one end, they have threads, just like a regular screw. This side is used for mounting the standoff onto the PC case.
The other end of the standoff has a hole that is threaded on the inside. This is the end on which the motherboard can be screwed into.
Why are Standoffs Necessary?
For starters you have to be aware that there are electrical connections at the bottom of the motherboard just as there are at the top.
These connections, mostly soldered points, will have current passing through them during operation.
While the manufacturers have usually done their part to isolate the different circuits, as users, we too have to play our part to avoid shorting the motherboard.
This is where motherboard standoffs come in. As the name implies, motherboard standoffs are used to keep the bottom side of the motherboard OFF from any surface, especially the case.
Since motherboard cases are mostly metallic, a standoff is used to raise the board off from the metal case so that none of the conductive parts at the bottom of the board can get shorted out – which would happen if multiple conductive circuits end up touching the board.
In addition to preventing potential short circuits, standoffs also offer two other functions. Firstly, they firmly hold the motherboard in place and secondly the gap created contribute to cooling the board during operations as air can flow much more easily.
Also Read: Why is a Motherboard Important?
Standoffs Come with the Case
Standoffs come packaged with the case.
Some PC Cases come with the standoffs pre-installed while with others you have to install the standoffs manually depending upon the size of your motherboard.
How to Install Motherboard Standoffs on a Case
Motherboard standoffs are often hex shaped and therefore may require a hex-driver to install if you want to firmly tighten the standoffs to the case.
Unfortunately, neither the case nor the motherboard comes with a hex driver.
Also Read: How to Connect Extra Fans to Motherboard?
Motherboard Form Factor and Standoff Alignment
Essentially you have to align the standoffs on the case to the mounting holes on your motherboard.
There are three common types of motherboard form factor or sizes:
- ATX: 12 x 9.6 inches
- Micro ATX: 9.6 x 9.6 inches
- Mini ITX: 6.7 x 6.7 inches
Depending upon the form factor you have, the locations of the mounting holes would differ.
Now, larger PC cases like mid tower or full tower cases are designed to support all three of these form factors. Full tower cases can even support the workstation grade E-ATX (extended ATX) motherboards.
Hence, before installing the standoffs, you will need to ensure that you have matched and identified the specific holes that will be needed to mount your board form factor.
So for instance if you have an Micro ATX motherboard, but if your PC case supports Mini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX form factor, you will need to make sure that the standoffs are placed ONLY on the PC case holes which correspond with the Micro ATX dimension.
Also, ensure that you tighten it just enough. Over-tightening the standoffs can break them or damage the case.
Mounting the Motherboard on the Standoffs
With the standoffs correctly and firmly mounted on the case, the board can now be mounted on top.
To do this, simply align the board with the standoffs, place the screws and tighten. Again make sure you do not over tighten the screws on the motherboard.
Also Read: What are Motherboard Power Phases and VRMs?
Keep the Space Underneath the Motherboard Clear
With the motherboard mounted and elevated on standoffs, it leaves up some space below it where you may be tempted to route your cables.
However, the space left underneath should be left empty for avoiding any damage to the motherboard as well as to promote good airflow.
When building a computer, one of the few things that most beginners can overlook is the importance of motherboard standoffs. Here talked comprehensively about what motherboard standoffs are, why and how they should installed.
Basically, installing standoff is not optional, but a critical part of building a PC. They serve an important role in ensuring that the motherboard doesn’t contact the case and end up shorting out.
Motherboard standoffs will often come with the case that you buy for your board. With a compatible case, you will find matching mounting holes for your board’s form factor.
The installation itself is fairly easy, you can use the manual that comes with your PC case or you could simply simple logical of aligning the standoffs the with the mounting hold on your motherboard.
It is worth mentioning that you should always take care when handling electrical equipment during PC builds.