A motherboard on a computer is fairly hard to miss. It is after all, the largest printed circuit board on any computer build. A motherboard is the circuit board on top of which the rest of the components sit.
So where is the motherboard located in a computers? Basically, a motherboard is located inside the case of your laptop or the desktop PC. As such, in order to access a motherboard, you have to open the PC case up.
There are many analogies used to describe what a motherboard looks like. Some say it looks like a city with different blocks and complexes and to an extent, its working do mimic that of a city.
For instance, a motherboard has information highways (PCIe lanes) and circuits that pass traffic from one components to the other. Similarly, it has various landmarks and structures such as the CPU socket, Chipset, Slots etc.
Others liken a motherboard to the human central nervous system. A motherboard not only acts as the skeleton for the PC hardware, its circuits also acts as neurons passing information from the brain (CPU) to the rest of the limbs (components).
What is a Motherboard?
Well, a picture would be worth a thousand words here.
Above is an image of a typical ATX motherboard WITHOUT anything attached to it.
You can see that it has a various slots, ports and chips all of which serve a different, yet critical, functions.
To understand what each of the different components on a motherboard does, I recommend reading this article: What Does a Motherboard Look Like?
There are various sizes of motherboards commonly referred by their form factor name. There are 3 common motherboard form factors for commercial PCs and 1 common form factor for workstations:
- ATX – 12 x 9.6 inches (305 x 244 mm)
- Micro ATX – 9.6 x 9.6 inches (244 x 244 mm)
- Mini ITX – 6.7 x 6.7 inches (170 x 170 mm)
- E-ATX – 12 x 13 inches (305 x 330 mm) – For Workstations
Knowing what a motherboard looks like would help you identify its location since you need to know what you are actually looking for in order to locate it.
Also Read: Are All Motherboards the Same Size?
So Where is the Motherboard Located?
Now that you know what a motherboard looks like, where is it located?
Well, as alluded to earlier, a motherboard is located INSIDE the PC case.
Motherboard Location in Desktop PCs
The image above shows the location of a mini-ITX motherboard with respect to the case and the rest of the components.
Note that since the components plug on top of a motherboard, it may be hard to locate it or to reach it.
A motherboard sits parallel to the motherboard, but the expansion cards and a majority of the connected components sit perpendicular to the motherboard.
The motherboards essentially sits on top of standoffs that are screwed in to the various holes on the PC case.
Standoffs are small cylindrical like screws that have the purpose of lifting the motherboards off from the PC case. The reason being that you do not want the motherboard to come in contact with the metallic surface of a PC case.
The standoffs come with the PC case.
Also Read: What are Motherboard Standoffs?
Motherboard Location in Laptop PCs
A motherboard on a laptop is also located inside its case. However, unlike the desktop motherboards, the laptop motherboards DO NOT follow a set standard.
As such, the laptops motherboard can be found in irregular shapes and sizes.
The general idea to locate the motherboard on a laptop, however, is the same. You will have to open up the case and remove attached components in order to get to it.
Also Read: Can You Upgrade a Laptop Motherboard?
Essentially A Motherboard = Computer
In many ways, a motherboard technically IS the computer. It is the foundation on which the rest of the computer builds upon.
A motherboard dictates what kind of CPU and devices would attach to it.
As such the make and model of your CPU, the choice of your expansion cards, the amount of components you can attach, the size and type of RAM you can attach etc is all decided by the motherboard you have.
While a motherboard may not have a direct impact on the performance of your PC. If you are an enthusiast or a gamer, then the subcomponents it offers and the amount of expandability it offers may offer an indirect impact on the performance.
Read in Detail: Does Motherboard Matter for Gaming?
Is Motherboard Located in CPU?
No, it is actually the other way around. A CPU is located (or rather plugs) on top of a motherboard.
When building a PC, however, a motherboard and a CPU are both separate components that need to be procured individually.
Where is Motherboard Mounted?
A motherboard is mounted inside the PC case. However, it is not just attached right on top of the PC case.
Instead, a motherboard is mounted on standoffs.
So the answer to the question “where is the motherboard located in a computer?” is very easy IF you know what you are looking for.
Once you can identify what a motherboard looks like then it is just a matter of opening up the PC case to locate it.
Also Read: What is Motherboard Revision?