A slow PC is a massive headache!
More often than not, a hardware upgrade is the ultimate solution that fixes the problem.
When discussing upgrading PC parts, many think of getting a better CPU or installing more RAM.
In reality, a motherboard upgrade may also be necessary as it’s the central platform that lets all your PC components communicate.
How often should you upgrade your motherboard?
How can you tell it’s time to buy a new one?
In this piece, we’ll cover ten reasons to consider upgrading your motherboard and whether you have any other options instead of upgrading.
We’ll also give you a few tips and product recommendations if you do decide to pull the trigger and upgrade your motherboard.
Should I Upgrade My Motherboard? (10 Reasons You May Need To)
You should upgrade your motherboard if you want to install a new CPU or RAM module that isn’t compatible with your current board.
You may also need a new motherboard if you plan on overclocking your components because overclockable motherboards have more durable voltage regulator modules.
A third reason is to get new features such as one or more of the following:
- More and faster I/O, including USB 3.0.
- M.2 NVME support.
- The latest generation of PCI expansion slots.
- On-board Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Improved BIOS functionality.
- More RGB and fan headers.
Finally, replacing your old motherboard may be your only option if the current one has become defective.
All electronic components will eventually wear out, and motherboards are no different.
Any minor issue might cause the PC to malfunction and signal that an upgrade is necessary.
It would be best if you didn’t always wait for a component to break before considering replacing it.
With that brief explanation, let’s dig deeper into each reason and consider its nuances.
1. CPU Replacement
A new, faster CPU is probably the main reason for upgrading your motherboard.
If your system is slow and your CPU usage is over 90 percent when idle, it’s a clue that you should consider upgrading your CPU.
Your computer may also benefit from a CPU upgrade if it has an older one with a limited core count (e.g., two cores) or a lower clock rate (e.g., 2.5 GHz).
Before purchasing a new CPU, ensure that the motherboard has a suitable socket.
It’s time to upgrade if your motherboard doesn’t support the new CPU’s socket.
For example, you can’t install the newest 12th Gen Intel CPUs on motherboards with the LGA1200 socket as the new models require the LGA1700 socket.
Since motherboard sockets are frequently shared between CPU generations, a motherboard upgrade might be optional.
Therefore, you don’t need to purchase a new motherboard if the older and newer CPUs use the same CPU socket.
However, you might need to install BIOS updates for the CPU to work correctly.
Note: Before investing in a new CPU, rule out software issues as the potential cause of your slow PC.
2. RAM Upgrade
Upgrading to newer RAM versions requires a motherboard that can support the new RAM modules.
RAMs use the Double Data Rate (DDR) technology to transfer data between your permanent storage and your CPU.
So far, we’ve had five generations of this technology, and none of them are compatible.
In other words, your motherboard must support the exact DDR version if you want to enjoy the performance benefits of newer RAM generations.
If you want to upgrade your DDR3 RAM to DDR5, you also need to buy a new motherboard.
Of course, installing more RAM of the same generation is also an option when it comes to upgrading your system.
For instance, if you have 2 x 4GB DDR3 modules running in dual mode, you can swap them for 8GB DDR3 sticks to double your memory.
Your data transfer rate will still be limited to 2133 MT/s, but the increase in capacity will probably smooth out most glitches you experience with your current setup.
3. Faster Ports
Hardware designers always strive for more reliable connections and better ways to transfer data quickly.
That’s why we have many port and slot standards from USB to SATA and PCIe.
As a rule of thumb, transfer rates double every three years, but you can skip a generation of improvements without losing much.
Around five years is the maximum you should wait to upgrade your motherboard and get all the latest ports.
At the moment, the maximum speed of USB 3.0 is 5 GB/s, whereas the max speed of SATA III is 6 GB/s.
The newest USB versions are much faster, with USB 3.1 providing 10 GB/s and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 expanding to 20 GB/s.
Additionally, a Thunderbolt 4 port may be what you need if you want to add an external graphics card to your system or need considerably quicker connections for data transfer.
The bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 connectors is 40 GB/s, allowing for rapid data transfer to and from external storage.
4. New Features
You probably wouldn’t consider a motherboard the fanciest part of your computer with cool features.
However, as with everything computer-related, the world of motherboards has seen significant advancements.
To benefit from these advancements, you need to upgrade your system.
Changing your motherboard has a variety of advantages.
For example, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi aren’t available on every motherboard.
These features are essential in the modern world, even if it’s not the most critical motherboard component.
The standard Wi-Fi technology available at the moment is Wi-Fi 6.
It offers the most stable connection.
The most recent Bluetooth version is 5.2, and many consider it a vast improvement over 5.0 and even 5.1.
Its best feature is its capacity for parallel transactions, enabling you to connect several Bluetooth devices simultaneously and quickly.
With a motherboard upgrade, you can also use an M.2 NVME SSD, a tiny SSD the size of a gum stick that slots into your motherboard.
These SSDs are much faster than their older counterparts and offer significantly better reliability because they’re mounted directly on the motherboard, hence no cables.
5. Storage Slots
Most motherboards support a minimum of four SATA drives, although some go as high as eight.
A few go even higher, although they aren’t trendy.
If you need to connect more storage devices, you’ll need a specialized motherboard with more slots.
If you’re a creative professional, such as a photographer or video editor, who needs to work with large files, you can use a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) instead of upgrading your motherboard.
A NAS is essentially a standalone collection of hard drives bundled into one device that can be accessed via a network.
You can quickly get 20 TB of storage without messing around with your PC’s internals.
6. RGB Headers
Most modern components now have RGB lighting to enhance the appearance of a PC case.
These RGB components require RGB headers to light up.
While more modern motherboards include two RGB headers, each of which can give 12V power, older motherboards do not have them.
You can purchase an RGB controller with a dedicated remote if your motherboard lacks an RGB connector.
Connect your fans to the RGB controller and change the color of the fans using the remote.
The drawback is that you can’t control each fan since the controller delivers color information to all the connected fans.
However, you can change the colors using RGB headers on your motherboard.
7. New Case
If you want to give your PC a facelift by changing its case, the motherboard’s form factor is a crucial point to consider.
Large, bulky motherboards don’t fit into mini-cases.
Motherboards are available in three different sizes:
ATX boards are the regular size boards you see everywhere, while the other two sizes are less common.
You may use a smaller case with the micro or tiny boards, but you’ll get fewer PCIe slots, RAM slots, and interfaces.
Consider if the new case is the right size to fit your motherboard before finalizing your decision.
Note: You may run into trouble with screws when moving your motherboard to a new case because the screws may be incompatible. However, you can easily order new ones online. Remember that you don’t need to tighten all the screws to hold the motherboard in place as just a few will suffice.
The CPU in your computer is pre-configured at the factory to operate at a specific maximum speed.
Your CPU should operate without issues if you run it at that speed with adequate cooling.
However, some CPUs are unlocked, meaning you can increase their clock rate.
By selecting a faster clock rate or multiplier in the computer’s BIOS, you may make the CPU run at a more rapid pace by making it process more operations per second.
Experts call this process overclocking.
The potential of overclocking depends on the CPU and the motherboard.
Only some Intel and all more recent AMD Ryzen CPUs enable overclocking.
Intel supports overclocking on motherboards that begin with the letters Z or X before the numbers.
Overclocking is supported on AMD motherboards beginning with the letters B or X.
For instance, the B550 chipset enables AMD overclocking, but the A520 will not support overclocking.
9. SLI Or NVLink
You can upgrade your computer’s GPU to improve gaming and rendering experiences.
Sometimes, even the most powerful GPU can’t give you the needed performance, especially if you want to edit videos or do large-scale engineering simulations.
Fortunately, you can boost your computer’s GPU power by combining two Nvidia graphics cards using the SLI or NVLink technologies.
However, you may need a new motherboard with more than one x16 PCI Express slot.
Fortunately, these slots are backward compatible, so a motherboard with a PCI Express x16 2.0 slot will support a current PCI Express 3.0 graphics card.
SLI divides the workload into smaller parts and allows each GPU to render part of the frame.
You need two identical graphics cards and an SLI bridge for this, and the new RTX 3000 series doesn’t allow SLI, so you must use earlier models.
You can connect multiple top-tier Nvidia RTX graphics cards, such as the RTX 2070 Super, RTX 2080, RTX 2080 Super, and RTX 2080 Ti.
10. Defective Motherboard
Motherboards are usually highly reliable pieces of hardware, but failures and malfunctions are inevitable.
It’s usually not easy to identify a defective motherboard on the first attempt because you must first rule out other causes.
However, a telltale sign is that your computer won’t turn on at all or it won’t POST (Power On Self Test), the short beep you hear a few seconds after powering on the PC.
If your PC doesn’t turn on, check the power cables and the outlet to ensure it’s receiving electricity.
Also, check the small power supply switch and ensure it’s on.
If the power is fine, you can try reseating your RAM sticks and replacing your CMOS battery.
However, we recommend consulting a technician who can check whether your motherboard and other components are in working order.
Motherboards don’t have to stop functioning altogether, though.
Sometimes, one of the PCIe slots or RAM DIMMs dies without affecting the board’s other functions.
You should still consider replacing your motherboard in these cases as the device is highly unreliable and may cause unexpected damage to the other components in your system.
How Long Do Motherboards Last?
Despite having no moving components, motherboard designs are incredibly delicate.
You can expect a motherboard to last at least two and, at most, ten years.
Heat, moisture, and dust are usually the main reasons a motherboard dies.
Excessive heat can reduce the lifespan of the capacitors on your motherboard or damage the soldering, causing a short circuit that leads to other unpredictable issues.
Moisture in the air also damages your circuitry over time, but it can become a huge problem if you’re into extreme cooling.
When your PC temperature drops below its surroundings, the moisture in the air condenses into water droplets that wreak havoc on the circuits.
Water cooling is another way moisture can damage your PC.
Always inspect your pumps and tubes for leakage, especially if you have a custom loop.
Your motherboard can live much longer if you don’t put too much strain on it and don’t have high expectations.
Some motherboards that are more than 30 years old still function.
Tips For Upgrading Your Motherboard
If you decide it’s time to breathe new life into your PC by upgrading your motherboard, you should consider a few criteria before finalizing your purchase.
Specifically, look at the following items:
1. Processor Socket
Even different generations of products from the same manufacturer may be incompatible.
You need a motherboard that matches the exact CPU you intend to use.
The chipset is a critical part of the motherboard that relays communications between the CPU and the rest of your system.
Therefore, it has to match your CPU to speak its language.
Intel and AMD release different chipset versions that support different versions of DDR RAM and USB, among other things.
When buying a motherboard, check the chipset specs to see its maximum supported features and ensure upgradability.
3. Expansion Slots
An expansion slot is a placeholder on your motherboard that allows you to install extra hardware and increase your computer’s functionality.
A graphics card is the most common expansion card you can install on a motherboard.
Graphics cards are installed on a PCI Express slot with 16 pins.
PCIe slots also come in 8-pin and 4-pin varieties.
Most motherboards support at least two of each, but if you have specific requirements, you can usually find a board with the right number of slots.
4. Connectivity And I/O
Your new motherboard should have at least the following connectivity features if you want to future-proof it for the next five years or so:
- USB 3.1 or 3.2
- PCIe 4th gen
- Onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
With so many details to consider, choosing an actual motherboard can be confusing.
Here are our top recommendations to make your job easier:
A. Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro
The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro is one of the mid-range motherboards with acceptable features that provide good all-around coverage with little compromise.
It supports the latest LGA1700 socket for 12th Gen Alder Lake Intel CPUs.
There are four M.2 connectors and plenty of storage possibilities via the multiple USB 3.2 and USB 2.0 ports on this port.
A 2.5G Ethernet and Wi-Fi 6 are the only networking options on this board because the manufacturer wanted to keep costs down.
B. MSI MEG Z690I Unify
MSI MEG Z690I Unify is a slightly more expensive option that offers a wider range of features.
Similar to the previous option, it’s compatible with 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs.
There are three M.2 sockets, four SATA ports and Thunderbolt 4 connections, and integrated Wi-Fi 6E.
The company is especially proud of the motherboard’s cooling capabilities featuring two large heatsinks, an aluminum backplate, and an aluminum cover.
C. Asus ROG Strix B660-I Gaming WiFi
Asus ROG Strix B660-I Gaming WiFi is a reasonably-priced motherboard geared toward gamers.
Its DIY-friendly design makes it suitable for first-time PC builders who want to experience the joy of putting together a personalized rig.
The compact board has two M.2 ports, an integrated Wi-Fi 6, and a PCIe 5.0 slot.
If you want to save some money and don’t intend to overclock your Alder Lake processor, the ITX board to choose is the Asus ROG Strix B660-I Gaming WIFI.