Have you ever wondered if you can test a motherboard before inserting it into the PC case? It is absolutely possible and even recommended to do so. Additionally, you will have a hard time removing everything if the motherboard does not turn on after assembling everything inside the PC case.
To avoid this exact situation, most expert PC builders test the motherboard before installing them in the case.
So without further delay, let us see how you can test the motherboard without a CPU.
Why Is It Necessary to Test Motherboard Without PC Case?
It can be demotivating when you have connected all components in your setup, but it won’t turn on and you need to remove everything and try again. That is exactly why it is always recommended to test your components before assembling them all together.
Besides this, if you are doing it for the first time, you will also have a hard time connecting them inside the PC case.
Connecting Motherboard Without CPU Case
If you want to check a possible faulty motherboard, you might want to test it by turning it on right away. Follow these processes to test your motherboard without a CPU case.
Before You Begin
The first thing you want to do is place the motherboard on a non-conductive and anti-static surface. Since this is just a testing phase, you can simply put the motherboard above the wooden table.
Current can move freely on a conductive plane. This can damage the specific motherboard component that is in contact with the surface. So, a wooden table works best to restrict the current flow.
Connect Internal Components
Connect all your internal components, such as the processor chip, one RAM stick, and the graphics card, if you want to check the POST error in your monitor.
Since this is a testing phase, you can use a single stick of RAM to turn the motherboard on.
Connect Power Supply
The 24-pin and the 8-pin (sometimes 4-pin) cables to supply power to the motherboard and the processor respectively. Although you do not need any other power supply cables, without these two, the motherboard will not turn on.
However, if you are connecting the graphics card, you might need a different power cable for it as well.
Connect Error Code Speaker
Depending on the motherboard, it might come with a small speaker. This speaker goes into one of the motherboard headers with 4-pins, either named JFP2 or SPK1. If you cannot find this header, please refer to the motherboard’s user manual.
Insert POST Card
Since this is just a testing phase and you might not have a monitor connected, it is recommended that you get a POST (Power-On Self Test) Card. However, if you do have a monitor, you can connect the motherboard to it and get the POST error code displayed on your monitor.
Therefore, you can ignore this process if you already have a monitor.
The card goes inside the PCIe slot and displays an error message when there is a problem with the device.
When a computer turns on, before entering the BIOS, the computer runs the POST test. This test checks whether the internal component such as the CPU and RAM are in working condition.
To insert the POST card, align the card with the PCIe slot on your motherboard. Gently insert the card into the slot.
Connect System Fans
If you are not sure the PSU is supplying power to the board, you can check the system fans. If the fans are not spinning, it indicates that there is something wrong with the power supply or the motherboard itself.
Here’s how to connect the fans to the Motherboard:
- Search for the headers on the motherboard named SYS_FAN1, FAN, etc.
- Align the arrow from the fan cable to the 5V side of the header.
- Gently insert the cable into the header.
Jump Start the Motherboard
Once you connect everything, it is now time to turn on the motherboard. So, how do we turn on the motherboard without having the CPU case connected? Actually, it is pretty simple, and all we need is a screwdriver.
Using the screwdriver, you can short circuit the power switch located in the front panel header. However, if you short circuit wrong headers, you may even have a dead motherboard. So, it is advised to be very careful when you short the pins.
The steps mentioned below will guide you through the process of turning on the motherboard without a CPU case.
Locate the Front Panel Header
The front panel header on the motherboard connects to the CPU case’s power switch, LED reset switch, etc. To locate them on the motherboard, search for writings such as F_PANEL, JFP1, and PANEL. These headers have ten pins and are located near the board’s edge.
Locate Power Switch
Once you locate the header, check the numbers written under it. The pins on one side are even-numbered, and the other side is odd-numbered. This goes for most motherboard manufacturers, such as MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, etc.
Before moving further, ensure that you have identified the correct power switch header.
Short the Power Switch
After locating the power switch header, touch these two pins together using a screwdriver. The motherboard should turn on. Once it turns on, remove the screwdriver.
If the motherboard does not turn on, reseat all the internal components. Also, ensure that you secure the cables from the power supply into the motherboard and try again.
Things to Check When Testing the Motherboard
So what do you check when the motherboard turns on without a CPU case? Basically, you want to check is the POST error codes, beep codes, and LED lights. Below, we have mentioned what you need to check for once you turn on the motherboard without the case.
Check LED Lights
Once you jump-start the motherboard, the first thing you want to do is check for LED lights. The LED light on the motherboard usually means something is wrong with the connection. To know what the LED light means, check for any writing near the LED lights.
The latest motherboards will have a CPU, GPU, RAM, and BOOT LED lights that indicates an error with each component. If you have a CPU LED turn on during startup, the motherboard has an issue detecting or connecting with the processor. The same also goes for the GPU and RAM.
Listen to Beep Codes
Secondly, you want to hear if any sound comes from the motherboard. Remember the small speaker that you connected with previously? This speaker gives us certain beep sounds. Each sound represents a different error.
Below, we have listed all error beep codes with their meaning.
Single Beep: BIOS waiting for keyboard input 2 Beeps: GPU error 3 Beeps: Memory Issue 4 Beeps: Timer Failure 5 Beeps: Problem with processor 6 Beeps: Keyboard controller Failure 7 Beeps: Virtual Mode Exception 8 Beeps: Error with Display Memory 9 Beeps: ROM (Read Only Memory) error 10 Beeps: Cache error 11 Beeps: Physical Memory or video failure
Check POST Error Codes
If the motherboard turns on without any LED lights or beep codes, it is now time to check the POST card. If the motherboard runs into some sort of issue, the POST card displays an error code. Using these codes, you can identify errors in the motherboard.
Check System Fans
If the motherboard does not beep any error codes or if it does not light any LED, check the system fans. One particular reason we connected the system fans is to check whether the motherboard is dead or alive.
If the fans are not spinning, there is a chance that the motherboard is dead. Remove the cable that connects the fans to the motherboard, reinsert the cable and try turning the motherboard again.
What to Expect When Turning On the Motherboard?
Keeping in mind the components that you connected, the motherboard should not beep any error sounds, no LED should light up, and finally, all fans that you connected should be spinning at maximum RPM (Rotation Per Minute).
Finally, if you have connected the monitor to the motherboard, it should not give any POST error message.
What If the Motherboard Does Not Turn on?
If the motherboard itself does not turn on, change the PSU and jump-start the motherboard. If it still does not turn on, it is recommended to check the motherboard using a multimeter. Using this, you can check whether the connection in the board is not secured.
Before starting to assemble any component without a PC case, always use a non-conductive surface to place PC parts. Besides this, once you turn on the motherboard, check for LED lights and beep codes.
Finally, if the motherboard turns on, it is now time to assemble them into the PC case.