When to Upgrade Motherboard?

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There are many reason that can warrant a motherboard upgrade. While motherboards are rarely changed, there comes a time when upgrading this crucial component becomes a necessity.

Generally, upgrading the motherboard means a complete overhaul of your system as motherboard upgrade often requires a CPU upgrade as well.

Here we will talk in detail about when to upgrade motherboard specifically.

Again, upgrading motherboards is not seen as common as some of the easier upgrades you can do to a computer like a storage upgrade or a memory upgrade.

Here are some circumstances when upgrading the motherboard is necessary.

When to Upgrade Motherboard?

The following are eight reasons when upgrading motherboard becomes important.

1. When You Want to Buy a New Processor

When to Upgrade Motherboard
LGA 1155 socket for 2nd Gen Intel CPUs

The motherboard and the CPU are a two piece combo. They both have to be compatible with each other.

You can’t just buy any CPU and place it on any motherboard you like. You have to make sure that the motherboard has the compatible SOCKET for the CPU.

If the socket of the your new CPU does not match that of the motherboard, then you will need to upgrade the motherboard.

It is worth noting that many times a motherboard socket is shared across CPU generations. For instance, the AM4 socket can be used not just for the newer 5000 series AMD CPUs but also for the 1000 series CPUs released all the way back in 2017.

If the older CPU and the newer CPU both share the same CPU socket, then you DO NOT need to buy a new motherboard. Albeit a BIOS update may be required to support the newer generation of CPUs on an older motherboard.

CPUs (Desktop Only) Socket Supported
Intel 6th Gen – 9th Gen CPUs LGA1151
Intel 10th and 11th Gen LGA1200
AMD 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 AM4

2. When You Need a More Robust Motherboard Chipset

Motherboard chipsets determine the primary characteristics of the motherboard. Among other things a chipset determines:

  • Whether you can overclock your CPU or not
  • How Many PCIe lanes it has – and their version
  • How many expansion slots and ports it has and their version
  • Whether it can support multiple GPUs or not
  • and of course the CPU socket itself

The more premium a chipset you get, the more features you can expect from your motherboard.

Both AMD and Intel have 3 popular series of chipset catering to different budget segments.

AMD Chipsets:

A Series, such AMD A520 Entry-Level chipset, for budget builds
B Series, such as B550 Mid Range chipset, for most gamers
X Series, such as X570 For Enthusiasts and high-performance PC builds

AMD 500 Series Chipset comparison

Intel Chipsets

H Series, such H310 For budget builds
B Series, such as B460 Very similar to H series, but are considered for mid-range builds
Z Series, such as Z590 For premium builds. The only Intel chipset that offers overclocking support.

3. When You Need a Motherboard For Overclocking and with Premium VRMs

If you are an enthusiast and you want a motherboard that is capable of overclocking your CPU to great potential, then you may need to upgrade your motherboard.

There are two factors that determine how well a motherboard can overclock your CPU:

  1. Its Chipset
  2. Its VRM size and Phase Power Design

The chipset defines whether a motherboard can overclock or not. For instance, the AMD A520 chipset does NOT allow overclocking, the B550 and the X570 does.

VRM and Phase Power Design

VRM stands for Voltage Regulator Modules. These are tiny electrical components that make sure your CPU gets a clean a stable power supply.

The more powerful your CPU is and the more overclocked it is, the more powerful VRMs you should look out for.

In addition to that, the higher the number of VRMs your motherboard has, the better would be performance of your CPU particularly when overclocked.

Phase Power Design is denoted with numbers such as 6+1, 8+2, 14+2 etc. The first number indicates the number of VRMs for the CPU. The second number indicates the number of VRMs for the RAM.

Again, premium motherboards have robust phase power design.

More on this here: What Are Motherboard Power Phases and VRMs?

4. When You Need Newer and Faster RAM

RAM physical slots identifications
An old motherboard for DDR3 RAM. For DDR4, an upgrade would be required.

The problem with RAM is that, you cannot physically install any other RAM type other than the one supported by the motherboard.If your motherboard supports DDR3 RAM, then the newer DDR4 RAM will NOT work on the motherboard. In other words, the RAM slots are not backward or forward compatible.

A typical DDR4 RAM is multiple folds faster than a typical DDR3 RAM.

Hence, for RAM intensive work such as gaming, video editing, simulation your PC performance will be missing out tremendously if you are still using the older RAM.

DDR3 vs DDR4 performance comparison
DDR3 1866 vs DDR4-3200Source: atpinc 

Also Read: How to Tell if RAM Will Work With Your Motherboard?

5. When You Need More Ports and Slots

This is quite straight forward.

If your motherboard has a limited amount of ports and slots, then an upgrade can be warranted.

There are essentially two interfaces that the motherboard uses to connect devices to your PC:

  • SATA
  • PCIe

SATA

wsata-data-cable
SATA Ports and SATA cable

SATA is the primary interface for connecting hard disk drives, optical CD/DVD drives and SATA SSD drives.

PCIe

PCIe is robust interface capable for supporting High Speed Input Output (HSIO) devices such as graphics cards, network adapters, video capture cards and port expansion cards.

PCIe is also the primary interface for connecting the M.2 NVMe SSDs – the fastest storage drives that you can find for a PC.

pcie slots labelled and watermarked
PCIe expansion cards

In addition to these, if your motherboard is missing a specific port that you absolutely need, such as a Thunderbolt 3 port, then you may need to get a new one.

Also Read:

6. When You Need Newer PCIe Version

pcie slot version 2

Another very important consideration is the PCIe protocol VERSION the motherboard operates at.

After every few years, the PCIe standard upgrades and with each new upgrade, it doubles the transfer speed per lane compared to the previous generation.

The following table shows how the speeds of different PCIe generations compare:

Versionx1
(GB/s)
x2
(GB/s)
x4
(GB/s)
x8
(GB/s)
x16
(GB/s)
1.00.2500.500 1.0002.0004.000
2.00.5001.0002.0004.0008.000
3.00.9851.9693.9387,87715.754
4.01.9693.9387,87715.75431.508
5.03.9387,87715.75431.50863.015
6.07.87715.75431.50863.015126.031

The latest generation of motherboards offer PCIe v4.

A motherboard with PCIe slots conforming to version 4.0 can support newer and more powerful devices such as Gen 4 NVMe SSDs as well as more powerful graphics card compared to older gen slots.

Read in detail: PCIe 3.0 vs 2.0

7. When an Important Port or Slot is Damaged

In certain situations a certain critical port or slot can get irreparable damage which can warrant a motherboard upgrade.

For instance, if the primary PCIe x16 slot of your motherboard used for installing a graphics card gets damaged beyond repair, then you will be compelled to get a new motherboard in order to use the graphics card again.

8. When the Board is Dead

This is the worst-case scenario and also the most obvious that warrants a new board.

When the entire board has received irreparable damage, it is necessary to replace it.

At this juncture, you may also need to consider making an upgrade instead of going for one at the same level as the previous motherboard as it can give you newer features, expandability, and performance.

Also Read: How to Tell if Motherboard is Dead?

Incompatibility Problems with Upgrading the Motherboard

Here I am just reiterating the points I have made above.

With the new motherboard, especially when upgrading to a different form factor or generation, you may find that some of your older modules are no longer compatible with the new board. This can be the case with your processor and RAM especially.

Here are some of the things that may warrant a change along with your motherboard:

  • CPU – if of a different socket
  • RAM – if of a different type
  • Case/Chassis – if the motherboard form factor isn’t supported by the case.
  • Power Supply Unit: If the newer components require more power.

FAQ

How Often Should You Change a PC’s Motherboard?

You shouldn’t change your motherboard UNLESS if it is damaged or you want to install newer components that are not supported by your current motherboard.

Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason to change your motherboard.

Also Read: Do Motherboards Have Integrated Graphics?

If You Replace Your Motherboard, What Would Happen on System Start?

Your system would boot up and start normally IF EITHER:

  1. The replaced motherboard is exactly identical as the original motherboard
  2. The connected components like the CPU and the RAM are compatible with the new motherboard.

Also Read: Why Motherboard is Called Motherboard?

Final Words

Upgrading your computer’s motherboard should be an exciting thing to do. Apart from the fact that you’re possibly getting a performance boost, you will also get to use newer components that go hand in hand with the new board.

Here we talked specifically about when to upgrade motherboard and there are plenty of reasons when doing so becomes important.

With an upgrade, you can get more ports and slots for your peripherals. You also get to keep some of the older components you had as long as they can be integrated into the new board without compatibility issues.

Nevertheless, upgrading your motherboard should be accompanied with a valid reason and should not be done needlessly.

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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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