What Are Motherboards Made Of? [Main Components & Manufacturing]

CG Director Author Christopher Harperby Christopher Harper   /  Published 

What are motherboards made of, anyway?

They’re the backbone of any PC and determine quite a lot about your final user experience, but no one really talks about what they’re made of, or how they’re made.

So…let’s break it down a little, and dig into the “what” and “how” of motherboard technology.

What are Motherboards Made of in Raw Materials?

So, let’s start with raw materials. Motherboards are largely composed of fiberglass and copper, formed into various PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards).

A printed circuit board is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and yes, that means that the bulk of your electronics is being “printed”— albeit with materials MUCH different from paper or ink.

That is the basics of how motherboards and their various components are made, for pretty much any modern piece of consumer electronics.

Of course, there’s a lot more nuance that goes into that. For example, what components actually make up the rest of the motherboard, and in what order are all of these pieces manufactured and put together?

Let’s dive into all of these questions.

What Components Make Up a Motherboard?

List of PC parts from Gigabyte's Factory

Image Credit: GamersNexus’ Gigabyte Motherboard/GPU Factory Tour.

The image above is taken from a tour of Gigabyte’s motherboard and GPU manufacturing plant.

This graphic is set above a workstation where people manually test each of the listed components with motherboards as they are manufactured, ensuring that everything is working correctly before the motherboard is even boxed and shipped.

Below, I’ll be listing the core components of a consumer motherboard, and a brief explanation of each: I will not be listing all possible components and connectors, just key ones to be aware of.

General I/O

The part where all the ports are for your USB devices, mouse and keyboard, and general peripherals. Depending on your motherboard specs and onboard hardware, you’ll notice different ports and numbers of ports.
For example, some motherboards may have different or newer USB ports or antenna plug-ins for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Motherboard General IO

Motherboard General IO

ROM Chip

Read-Only Memory Chip for the motherboard’s key functions.

CMOS and CMOS Battery

CMOS is used to store your BIOs, and the CMOS Battery serves as both a power source and key control.

CMOS on Motherboard

The battery will be placed in an accessible place so it can be removed and placed back in to hard-reset the BIOs after the motherboard has completely powered off and disconnected from all power sources.

CPU Socket

Holds the CPU. Until Socket AM5, AMD’s CPU sockets have been PGAs, or Pin Grid Arrays for a Field of Pins on the bottom of the CPU.

Motherboard Socket Types

Intel’s modern sockets, and now AMD’s new sockets, instead offer “Landing Grid Arrays”…which means the pins are now on the motherboard instead of the CPU. Harder to damage with proper installation, sure, but also harder to repair.

CPU Socket on a Motherboard

CPU Socket on a Motherboard

8-Pin CPU Power Connector(s)

Used for direct power delivery to the CPU.

CPU Power connectors

8-Pin CPU Power Connector(s) on Motherboard

8-Pin CPU Power Connector(s) on Motherboard

20-Pin ATX Power Connector

Used for general power delivery to the motherboard.

24 Pin Power

CPU Fan Port

Will be marked as something like CPU_FAN on the motherboard. Used for your cooler, but visually may look like any other 4-Pin Fan port without confirming the “CPU” text and proximity to the CPU.

CPU_FAN

CPU Fan Header Position on Motherboard

CPU Fan Header Position on Motherboard

VRMs

Voltage Regulator Modules. VRMs will determine how well your motherboard manages power, especially in your CPU and RAM. For this reason, premium VRMs are sought after in high-end overclockers’ motherboards.

VRMs on Motherboard

VRMs on Motherboard

RAM Slots

Holds your RAM. Always placed as close as possible to the CPU socket to ensure smooth communication between the CPU and the PC’s memory.

Motherboard RAM Slots

Image Credit: MSI

Chipset

Pretty much the middle-man between your CPU and the rest of your PC. Determines your motherboard’s features, including things like CPU overclocking, max RAM speed, and PCIe lanes.

Chipset Position on Motherboard

Chipset Position on Motherboard

Heatsink(s)

Parts of the motherboard that require cooling, such as the chipset, will generally have heatsinks. High-performance motherboards may have extra or larger heatsinks.

Heatsinks on Motherboard

Heatsinks on Motherboard

SATA Ports

Used to manage your SATA-based HDDs and SSDs.

SATA Ports on Motherboard

SATA Ports on Motherboard

M.2 Slots

Come in either SATA M.2 or NVMe M.2 variations. Be sure to double-check which slot you have before buying an M.2 drive. It’ll usually be NVMe though, as SATA speeds can be achieved on SATA drives.
M.2 SATA ports are more common on budget and Mini ITX/laptop motherboards and very uncommon on high-end boards
.

M2 Slots on Motherboard

M2 Slots on Motherboard

Front Panel Control Port

Used for your power, reset button, etc.

Front Panel Case Control Ports on Motherboard

Front Panel Case Control Ports on Motherboard

Front USB Panel Header

Used for things like front panel USB 3.0 or Type-C ports.

Front USB Panel Header on Motherboard

Front USB Panel Header on Motherboard

4-Pin Fan Ports

Used for CPU cooler fans and other fans with PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) support, which allows for controlled fan speeds.

3-pin vs 4-Pin Fan Headers

3-Pin Fan Ports

Used for non-PWM fans without controls for fan speeds.

Lighting Control (RGB) Ports

Dedicated ports for lighting control. Most common on gaming and high-end motherboards, and not so much on a budget or older motherboards. You’ll use these for your RGB fan controller or a few RGB components.

RGB Headers on Motherboard

RGB Headers on Motherboard

Onboard Audio Hardware and Sound Card

An onboard sound chip and capacitors are built into all modern consumer motherboards to provide onboard sound without requiring an external sound card. Results can vary, though.

Onboard Networking Hardware

Onboard network chips connecting to the Ethernet ports and/or antenna ports on the I/O of the motherboard enable networking.
Also a standard feature of pretty much every consumer motherboard, but wasn’t always standard. And if you have heavy-duty networking needs, you might still need to consider a dedicated network card— or at least a higher-end board with a better integrated solution.

How are Motherboards Manufactured?

So, with an understanding of the key components that go into a motherboard in mind, how are motherboards actually manufactured?

With the information established up to now, it’s pretty easy to sum things up. I don’t really have the scale required to describe literally everything that happens in the motherboard manufacturing process, but I can give you an extremely solid baseline understanding.

There are dozens upon dozens of distinct machines and steps in the motherboard manufacturing process, so this will be a somewhat simplified take on what happens.

First, the basic printed circuit board (PCB) is created from layers of fiberglass merged together, after which a coating of copper is placed on the top and bottom.

ROG STRIX B550-F 6 layer PCB

Source: ROG ASUS

A separate chemical called photoresist is placed on the top layer to protect the future copper paths on the PCB.

The rest of the copper (unprotected by the photoresist) gets stripped away during manufacturing, leaving behind the basic motherboard PCB, but without any of its core chips or components actually installed yet.

That part comes next, through the use of SMT (Surface Mount Technology, not to be confused with Simultaneous Multi-Threading) which is used to install the majority of components on the motherboard.

After that, capacitors and all hand-mounted components are placed within a Dual In-Line Package (DIP) production line within the factory.

As it turns out, several components are mounted by hand in the motherboard manufacturing process, not just installed through machines. It requires not only a great deal of machinery but a great deal of skilled labor in order to manufacture a motherboard.

“Function” box used to rapidly test motherboards with pre-mounted components.

Image Credit: GamersNexus’ Gigabyte Factory tour video — shows a “Function” box used to rapidly test motherboards with pre-mounted components.

Even once the motherboard has finished its assembly, it needs to be thoroughly tested by workers on the floor before it ever leaves the factory.

Once tested, a motherboard is then packaged with anti-static bagging in order to prevent electro-static discharge (ESD) before padding, boxing, and shipping are done.

Those are the basics of motherboard manufacturing.

If you want to see every step of the manufacturing process for yourself, I highly recommend the GamersNexus video below, as it’s fairly recent and goes into high detail with high production value.

FAQ

How do I tell if a motherboard has Wi-Fi?

Fortunately, it’s usually pretty easy to tell if your motherboard has Wi-Fi. The most obvious tell will be if there are ports with which to connect an antenna on the I/O.

I O on Motherboards with on-board Wi-Fi

Source: GIGABYTE

However, you may also want to take a closer look at your onboard Wi-Fi specifications to make sure that you have an up-to-date standard!

If you’re concerned that your motherboard doesn’t have Wi-Fi or an up-to-date standard, you may also want to take a glance at Alex’s roundup of The Best Wi-Fi Cards.

How does a motherboard impact my PC’s performance?

So, how does a motherboard impact your PC’s performance?

Immensely, actually.

The motherboard might be the most important component in your system, since it determines compatibility with every other component in your system and is, in fact, responsible for making them all work together properly.

If you’ve been following the article up to now, you may even have an idea of what specific parts of the motherboard are most responsible for your performance.

For example, did you know that overclocking capability is determined by your chipset before it’s determined by your CPU?

Even though all modern AMD CPUs and certain Intel CPUs can be overclocked, you won’t be overclocking those processors without the correct Chipset enabling the feature on your motherboard.

In Intel’s case, there’s only one chipset that does this for consumers in a given generation, and it will be the most expensive one for that series of CPUs.

For more on this and other motherboard-related bottlenecks you may encounter, consider Alex’s detailed Guide to How Motherboards Impact Performance.

What temperatures are safe for a motherboard?

If you’ve ever worried about system temperatures, especially for your CPU or GPU, you may also have worried about motherboard temperatures.

In fact, most temperature reading guides will include thermal readings from the motherboard, not just your core performance components.

You can click here for a more detailed guide to motherboard temperatures and controlling them if you like, but you shouldn’t worry too much about your motherboard overheating.

Your CPU or GPU, the actual sources of heat inside your PC besides your PSU, are the components you generally want to stop from overheating.

In general, you’ll want to monitor your system temperatures whenever you can, but especially when you notice that something is wrong due to crashing or slowdown.

Think of these as ways for your PC to tell you that something is wrong.

If you need an application to monitor your temperatures, I highly recommend you use SpeedFan due to its inclusion of all the core temp readings in one place and is fairly lightweight. It’s a little old, but it has yet to fail me.

Over to You

And that’s it, at least for now!

I hope that this article helped you learn what motherboards are made of and at least gave you a decent idea of how it all gets put together.

If you have any other motherboard or PC hardware-related questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section or the forums! Me or one of my fellow writers will be happy to assist you.

Until then…stay hydrated. And keep that hydration away from your electronics, especially your motherboard. A lot goes into making those things, it turns out.

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Christopher Harper - post author

I have been a passionate devotee to technology since the age of 3, and to writing since before I even finished high school.

These passions have since combined into a living in my adulthood, and has made writing about myself very satisfying.

If you need any assistance, leave a comment below: it’s what I’m here for.

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