The most difficult
component to install and troubleshoot in a computer is the motherboard
(also called the system 'mainboard'). The main reason
behind this is that different motherboards rarely install in
the same way or require the same settings.
Not only do installation procedures differ from manufacturer
to manufacturer, but dissimilar models created by the same
manufacturer could also vary greatly. The good news
for beginners is that the recent trend has been toward
simplification. Setting jumpers manually or physically
adjusting dials on the mainboard are now things of the past.
Most settings today are controlled through the CMOS Setup or
are automatically set on the first boot (CPU Frontside Bus
and Multiplier specifications in particular). While
experienced professionals and Overclockers will tell you
that the lack of control is a bad thing, the general public
has accepted the simplified procedure with open arms.
Even with the streamlined installation procedures and
wonderful (sometimes) step-by-step instructions provided,
however, people can still find a way to mess things up.
This page is written as a guide to motherboard installation
troubleshooting. Before reading, please note that this
guide was written particularly for the case of a 'NEW'
installation. While some of the procedures will apply
to troubleshooting a failed unit, this guide is not intended
to target that problem.
How can I get my motherboard to power up?
Oftentimes a novice installer
will conclude that there
is a problem with their new motherboard if there is no
response on the first boot attempt. It is important to
realize that sometimes things don't work on the first try.
Don't give up! Troubleshoot.
If you aren't receiving any signs of power (ie- when you hit
the power switch and neither the CPU fan nor the Power
Supply fan begin spinning) when you first hit the switch on
the front of your case, the problem could be many things.
The first thing to check may seem obvious, but any
technician will tell you that it happens far too often:
check to ensure that the Master On/Off switch on the back of
your power supply is set to 'On'. This can be a very
time-consuming mistake so always check it first. No
matter how great a troubleshooter you are, if your
motherboard is not getting power it will not function.
Secondly, ensure that BOTH the ATX Connector and ATX 12V (if
needed) connectors are plugged into the motherboard
securely. The ATX connector is a 20-pin or 24-pin connector
(depending on your motherboard) and the ATX 12V is a 4-pin
connector. Both of these come directly from the power
supply. In cases in which it is required, the ATX 12V
connector will provide additional power required by a newer
processor for proper operation. Without it, your
processor will probably not start up and your system may
seem unresponsive. Most new AMD and Intel motherboards
require the added power so when shopping for a power supply
it's a good idea to make sure it is ATX12V or P4 ready.
Next, ensure that you have set the 'Clear-CMOS' jumper
correctly to the 'Normal' position. Some motherboard
manufacturers set the 'Clear-CMOS' jumper to 'Clear' while
shipping to conserve battery life. The problem with
this is that a motherboard cannot function with the CMOS set
to clear. Other manufacturers simply leave the setting
on 'Normal' to avoid the installation issue with users who
do not know about it. What this means is that you
never really know what has been set and should check the
jumpers. For information on this, reference your
motherboard manual to obtain the correct configuration.
If the Clear-CMOS jumper is indeed set to clear, switch it
to Normal before proceeding.
After ensuring that your power supply is properly connected
to your motherboard and the jumpers are set, make sure that
the power switch cable is plugged in correctly. The
power switch on the front of your computer connects to your
motherboard via a cable leading from the front of the
chassis. This cable must be properly attached to the
corresponding power switch pins as illustrated in your
motherboard manual. It is very easy to plug this cable
in incorrectly or to mix up pin assignments, so be very
careful with this. Always reference the location and
pins you are plugging into with the picture in your manual.
With ATX power the ON/OFF switching mechanism is vital;
without a proper 'ON' signal received, your power supply
will not trigger. Thus properly plugging in the switch
becomes very important.
If you still haven't gotten a response, check to make sure
that you are not 'shorting out' the motherboard. Ensure that
the board is in no way touching the case chassis (just the
spacers that come with your case) and that no metal touching
the bottom of the motherboard is touching the chassis panel.
Without properly attached spacers a motherboard could be
shorted out and will fail to function. Also make sure
that each spacer is correctly aligned with a hold on the
motherboard. Sometimes stray spacers the aren't
aligned with a hole (and are touching metal contacts on the
bottom of the motherboard) can create a path for current to
flow and short out the board.
If none of the
methods illustrated above help you with your problem, you
may want to look at compatibility issues with the components
you are looking to install or possible failure issues with
other critical components (such as your memory, CPU, video
card, etc). If you know all of your devices to be
functional there could be a problem with the motherboard
itself. Before determining that, however, read the
motherboard manual all the way through to see if there are
any necessary steps that you skipped. Manuals can be
tough to decipher at times, but are generally helpful in
setting up and troubleshooting a motherboard.