That is the question I see most in the Hardware Forums. Below is some tips to help you decide if
the components you are thinking of buying are compatible with one another. If this guide doesn't
help you, please start a new topic in the System Building and Upgrading Forum.
The Motherboard: There are several features that motherboard's have, after all it's
the "Mother Board", but below are the ones you must look at to help determine
compatibility with the rest of your system.
- Mobo matches the computer cases form factor (i.e. ATX, mATX, or eATX)
- CPU matches the mobo's socket and is compatible with the chipset (i.e. Socket 1156, P55 Chipset)
- Memory matches the supported speeds and type specified by the manufacturer of the mobo
(i.e. DDR3 1600mhz vs. DDR2 800mhz)
- Memory is dual channel or triple channel (i.e. 2 x 2gb = 4gb or 3 x 2gb = 6gb
- Power Connectors from the PSU match the plugs on the mobo
(i.e 24pin Main Power, and 4pin or 8pin CPU Power)
- Modern motherboards will have SATA ports for use with a SATA
Hard Drive(fastest/newest) but check for an IDE port if using
an IDE Hard Drive(slowest/oldest)
- The motherboard should have enough SATA or IDE ports for Optical
Drives, Hard Drives, etc. (Most have plenty)
- Does the motherboard have onboard video? If not, you need a dedicated
- The motherboard should have enough USB ports to support external
hardware like Printers, Cameras, Scanners. Furthermore, it should
have enough internal USB headers to support the computer case's
Front USB Ports
Core Processing Unit (CPU): ALWAYS check the mobo's CPU Support List at the manufacturers website
to confirm compatibility.
- Socket Type must match (.e. socket 775, 1156, 1366, AM2, AM2+, AM3)
- Is the processor listed on the motherboard's CPU Support List?
Random Access Memory (RAM): Like the CPU, manufacturers also provide a Memory Support List, but in
my experience, it is often lacking a lot of compatible Memory.
- Memory should match the listed speeds i.e. 1066, 1333, 1600, 2000* Overclocked (OC)
- Memory type should match the specified type the motherboard takes (i.e. DDR3 vs. DDR2)
- Buy the memory set compatible with the mobo's dual channel or triple channel layout
- Voltage should match or be very close (look for advertisements like "compatible with i5 CPU")
Note: A 32bit Operating System will only recognize about 3.5gb of RAM. A 64bit OS must be used if
you plan to utilize more than this.
Power Supply (PSU): It is always recommended to purchase a power supply that is 80 Plus Certified. This
means the PSU is 80% efficient which will provide clean and stable power to your components, even under
load. This will help provide a longer lasting computer.
- PSU's power connectors should match the motherboards power plugs (i.e 24pin vs. 20pin and 4pin vs. 8pin)
Note: When you see 20+4pin or 4+4pin this will be two separate plugs combined to make the bigger
plug if your motherboard requires the bigger plug.
- The PSU should have enough SATA and/or Molex connectors to power your hard drives, optical drives, lights, fans,
or anything requiring dedicated power.
- If using one or more video cards requiring dedicated power, the PSU should have the correct amount of PCI-E
connectors and each connector should match the video cards plug pin count. i.e. 4pin or 6pin
- The PSU should be plenty powerful enough to power the system. Unless you are building a "monster gaming rig"
with a multiple of video cards, lights, fans, and hard drives, most systems will do just fine with a 500 or 600 watt
Graphical Processing Unit (GPU): Also known as a Video or Graphics card, this is really only needed if you plan
on "gaming" with your computer. Google "(game name) system requirements" to find out what the minimum
and recommended requirements are for your favorite games.
- The interface of the card should match the interface slot on the motherboard (i.e. PCI-Express x16 2.0)
Note: PCI-E 2.0 cards are backwards compatible with PCI-E 1.0 slots, but they will only run at 1.0 speeds.
- If the card requires dedicated power, the PSU's PCI-E connectors should match your GPU's power plugs.
- The GPU should exceed the minimum requirements listed for your favorite games
- When using high end cards, the length of the card can be very long so consult the manufacturers website of the
card and the case to make sure the card can fit. More times than not, you have to "eye it up" as most case
manufacturers don't provide specifications regarding what length of card that will fit in the case.
- Must match the motherboard's form factor (i.e. EATX, ATX, mATX)
- Does the motherboard have enough internal USB headers to match the case's Front USB Ports?
- How important is ventilation? (i.e. how many fans)
- Will side air ducts conflict with video card or CPU cooler?
Hard Drive and Optical Drive:
- Some motherboards have a limitation on hard drive size with RAID support (i.e. 2TB)
Note: Most don't have to worry about this.
- Each one will have a SATA interface or IDE interface
- Does the mobo support each ones interface? (i.e. SATA or IDE cable and ports)
- Does the PSU support each interface? (i.e. SATA or Molex Power Connector)
- 64bit OS must be installed if you plan to utilize more than 3.5gb of RAM
- Modern motherboards will surely be compatible with the modern OS, but if you are here wondering about
drivers for your motherboard, simply consult the motherboard manufacturer's website