Changing a motherboard is a daunting task and requires more advanced knowledge. By swapping a motherboard, you will have to disconnect and reconnect all the other hardware components. It’s no good to take the old motherboard out if you don’t know how to install a new one.
This guide will show you a step-by-step solution to replace your current motherboard with a new one safely and in a quick manner. You will find both how to remove and install a new motherboard.
You will also learn what preparations you need and how to avoid the most common mistakes to prevent damage to your hardware parts, so make sure not to skip any steps.
Preparations Before You Change a Motherboard
A few key things to note before you disassemble your PC are:
- Make sure that every important file on your computer is backed up on a separate storage device in case something goes wrong.
- Never disassemble your PC on a carpet or other similar surfaces that can cause a static electricity discharge.
- Take a picture of your motherboard while every cable is still plugged in, in case you forget during reassembly.
- Always keep track of the screws you take out.
- Use an anti-static wristband, if possible, when handling any delicate PC components.
How to Remove a Motherboard?
Before we start, please note that there are thousands of different motherboards, so the exact steps might vary slightly; however, you can apply all of these steps for most motherboards.
Detach External Cables From Your PC
The first thing is to shut down your PC and remove any connected cables from displays, peripherals, or the internet.
Open the Side Panels
Every computer case should have two side panels. You need to remove both before changing out the motherboard.
Remove any screws holding the side panel on the back side of your PC. After done, the side panels should slide off from the metal slide-on locks (If you aren’t sure how it’s done, we have a separate guide on opening the PC case).
An important note here is that you might want to clean your PC from dust before installing your new motherboard. We have a separate detailed guide on PC cleaning.
Detach All Cables From the Motherboard
Hold on, stop first. Ensure to ground yourself by touching your metal PC case! I learned that static electricity could be unfortunate after it fried my expensive brand new GPU.
Disconnect any cables connected to your motherboard, and move them aside. Keep them connected to your power supply if you aren’t sure where they should fit into your PSU.
Remove Your RAM
Remove any RAM sticks present in your motherboard by unlocking them from the top and bottom plastic holders and gently pull them out. If you face any significant resistance, double-check if both the top and the bottom RAM locks are opened.
Remove Your CPU Cooler and CPU
When swapping out motherboards, you need to remove the CPU and the CPU cooler. Start by unscrewing the four cooler screws or disabling the side levers of your cooler and remove the cooler.
After the cooler is removed, carefully remove your CPU chip by pulling it outward. Be extremely careful not to damage or bend the CPU pins when you remove them.
If you are unsure how to remove your CPU cooler, we have a separate detailed article.
After your CPU is removed, you need to clean the old thermal paste. To do so, please use a very soft microfiber cloth.
Then gently rub any old thermal paste off using a circular motion. You will then have to reapply the new thermal paste on top of your CPU before installing your CPU and its cooler onto the new motherboard.
Remove Your Video Card From the Motherboard
Ensure that any power cables are disconnected from your GPU, and then gently pull it out by holding it on the cooler. After the GPU is removed from the motherboard, please remove any additional hardware parts such as NVME SSDs, sound cards, etc., from the motherboard’s bottom slots.
Remove any fans that might obstruct the removal of your motherboard
If your case is smaller or you have custom cooler fans, they might physically block your motherboard from getting removed.
All you need to do to remove them is to unscrew them from the PC case and disconnect them from the motherboard’s fan power ports.
Remove All Screws Holding the Motherboard to Your PC Case
Motherboards are usually held by about four screws located around the corners, so remove any screws that hold them in place.
Never use power tools as they could damage the delicate silicone coating or ruin the screw mounts. Use a simple hand-held Philips-style screwdriver instead.
Remove the Old Motherboard From Your PC Case
If you’ve completed all the previous steps, it’s time to remove the old motherboard. It should have no connected components that you won’t wish to reuse.
Replace the Back Side I/O Panel With a New One
Every motherboard comes with an I/O back panel for all the ports. It’s a small flat metal piece with cutouts for different cable ports and is usually square in shape. You need to remove it since your new motherboard probably used a different kind and is not compatible with the old I/O metal cutout.
Some I/O panels are held by screws, others simply pop in via latches. So do whatever you need to remove the old I/O metal cutout.
After removing the old I/O panel, you need to install the new one corresponding to the motherboard that you are installing. Ensure that the direction of the new I/O panel is facing the correct way up. Bolt it back on or snap
How to Install a New Motherboard?
Installing a new motherboard is almost the exact same process but in reverse. However, there are a few changes, so ensure to read up. Installing every cable and part is actually much harder than just disassembling it.
Install the RAM Back to Your New Motherboard
Before you rush to bolt your motherboard back into place, just put it on top of the box it came with and install a few components first.
Start off by placing the RAM into the new motherboard slots. Ensure that they are facing the right direction and that the RAM type is compatible with your motherboard. They should snap firmly in place and shouldn’t have any play.
Please reference your motherboard manufacturer to check which slots the RAM sticks need to go. If you have two or one RAM stick and 4 or 6 possible RAM slots, putting the RAM in the wrong spot will result in your PC not booting. Save yourself the headache and find the proper information beforehand, available on your motherboard’s instruction manual.
Install the CPU to Your New Motherboard
Here is the proper way to install your CPU:
- All new motherboards come with a CPU plastic socket cover. To remove it, undo the metal side lever that holds the CPU in place and take the plastic part out.
- After removing the cover, take your CPU and inspect the two notches on their sides. They will indicate which way the CPU fits into the motherboard. Don’t just try to force it in place with pressure, as this will permanently damage the motherboards and CPU’s pins.
Gently place the CPU into the socket; you can lightly shake it once inside it to see if it’s snapped in.
Push the metal retention bracket and put the spring-loaded arm lock back in its place.
Install Your CPU Cooler on Top of the Motherboard
Before you put your CPU cooler on top, please add a new layer of thermal paste so that your CPU doesn’t reach the sun’s surface temperature!
- All CPU coolers have to be held in place with a metal brace on the back side of the motherboard.
- Put the screws inside the CPU cooler retention backplate, put it onto the motherboard with its four screws, and put the CPU cooler on top.
Gently tighten the screws of the cooler in a diagonal pattern, starting from the top left > bottom right > top right > bottom left. Never over-tighten them since it can damage the motherboard. Use a hand-held screwdriver to feel when the pressure is just right.
Put the New I/O Metal Shield on the Back Side of Your PC Case
This step is self-explanatory; just ensure it’s facing the right way up. And don’t panic if you don’t have a separate I/O shield; some motherboards have the I/O shield built-in and are not separate.
And yes, you can use some force here, as new I/O shields take a bit of oomph to snap in place.
Start Connecting All Your Old Components Back
Start with your GPU as it’s the easiest. Once it snaps in place, connect it to any external power cables from your PSU if applicable.
- This next step is where most people get wrong; you have to reconnect all the different power cables, hard drive cables, and CPU fan cables back to the motherboard.
- Your motherboard will have two larger 8 and 24 pin slots – they are for the PSU’s power cables
- The CPU fan power slot is usually right next to the CPU socket.
- The PCI-E slots are usually under the CPU, and the SATA ports are to the right or bottom side of the motherboard.
Please read your motherboard’s manual carefully to ensure that you know exactly where you are placing every cable. If your SSD or HDD is not correctly connected to both the motherboard and the PSU, it simply won’t work, and your PC won’t boot.
Before You Install the Side Panels, Test Your PC
This is the scary moment of truth! Before you go on to bolt your side panels back on your PC case, please check if the PC starts.
Your PC should boot up just fine if you have followed all the past steps diligently. If it doesn’t, don’t worry; double-check every single connection and cable to the motherboard. See if all cables are snapped in place and not loose and in the proper slots. Check if the fans on the case, CPU, PSU, and GPU are spinning.
Congratulations, you’ve now completed the most complex upgrade on any PC!
Test All Your PC’s Components and Install the Latest Drivers
After a successful PC boot and startup, you should check for any driver updates. A new motherboard needs different drivers than your old one, and compatibility is essential for stability and performance. Luckily for you, we already have an in-depth guide on how to update your drivers here.
Frequently Asked Questions
My Computer Won’t Boot After Installing a New Motherboard
Wait, after all this work, you put everything back up, and it won’t work? Don’t worry, and it’s most likely a loose cable.
The first thing to do is go through your new motherboard’s manual and double-check if every connecting cable is in the right slot. Sometimes SATA or 8-pin slots that aren’t correctly “clicked” in place won’t work.
If you still don’t get your PC to boot after this, start by trying out a different boot drive, then check if the GPU is giving a signal to your display.
The second most common reason why your PC won’t boot after a new motherboard is due to old drivers. You need to go into your PC’s BIOS and manually install the latest drivers to solve this issue. If you are not sure how to do this, we have a few separate articles on updating your BIOS.