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What are the Basics of Motherboard Identification?

By Robert Grimmick
Updated May 17, 2024
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The process of motherboard identification can be tedious and frustrating, but there are a few basic steps one can take in order to save time. As a first step, the computer’s documentation can be checked, if it is available. Software tools might be able to identify a motherboard if the computer is in working order. As a last resort, it might be necessary to inspect the motherboard visually.

A motherboard, sometimes called a mainboard, is the central component in a desktop or laptop computer. Other components, such as the processor, are connected to the motherboard. Typically, motherboard identification is necessary only if a computer is having major problems, needs a specific update or is being repaired or built from scratch.

A simple method for motherboard identification is for one to look at the documentation that came with the computer. The manufacturer's website also might provide easy answers. Some desktop computers might have the motherboard model printed on the back, near the ports and connectors.

On a working computer, software tools might be able to perform motherboard identification. Free programs that will identify motherboards can be downloaded. Motherboard manufacturers sometimes offer software that can detect its motherboards.

The basic input/output system (BIOS) can be useful in motherboard identification. When a computer first boots, information from the BIOS is displayed on the screen. The maker of the BIOS usually is listed in the top left, with an identification string a line or two below. This string, typically a series of letters and numbers between dashes, can be used to search for more information about a motherboard.

Visually inspecting a motherboard generally should be used only when there are no alternatives. Desktop computer cases should be opened only by those who feel comfortable doing so. Laptops should never be opened except by trained professionals.

The name or model number of the motherboard usually is printed directly on the board. Frequently, motherboard identification is printed between the expansion card slots. It might also be found near the central processing unit or in a variety of other locations on the motherboard. It might be necessary to remove the motherboard from the computer case in order to find the printed model number.

Often, the model number but not manufacturer is printed on the motherboard. Some motherboards might contain more than one model number. A cheap motherboard might contain no model number. In these cases, the Federal Communications Commission Identification number, which is required on all computer hardware sold in the United States, might yield some information about the motherboard.

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