Motherboards: What to look for
No matter what kind of motherboard you want, there are some universals that everyone should look for. The first is good design and layout. Switches, slots and connectors should be easily accessible and well labelled.
The BIOS should give you detailed control over the way the board works. Issues like this can be hard to judge by yourself, but the reviews in PC Authority can advise you. For a selection of our current recommendations, see the A List in the magazine and the website.
Another important issue is support. Some manufacturers’ support sites are difficult to navigate or lacking in resources. Others don’t have a dedicated site for the UK. Even if you’re only a casual computer user, at some point your motherboard may need a BIOS update. It’s crucial to have confidence that your board will be supported for its whole lifespan.
If you’re a subscriber to PC Authority, you already have the Reliability and Service Awards 2008 in your armoury to see exactly how all the major motherboard makers rate for customer support. As a guide, Gigabyte won our Motherboard Award in part for its customer service, with Asus in close contention.
Motherboard Clinic Your motherboard questions are answered here: Q)I’ve installed my new motherboard and hooked everything up, but my PC says there’s no boot disk. What do I do now? A)
Boot into the motherboard’s BIOS (the manual will tell you how). Look under IDE or SATA in the BIOS for your hard disk. If it’s missing, turn off and try it on a different connector. Once the drive is detected, make sure that it’s enabled and selected as the first boot device.Q) I’ve changed my motherboard but now my PC won’t start up at all. Help!A)
Listen carefully for a number of beeps after you turn the computer on; then turn it off again. The motherboard’s manual will explain the meaning of the beeps (some use lights instead). Overheating is one possibility, perhaps from having used too little thermal paste; or it could be a case of dodgy RAM. If there are no beeps, the problem could be a loose connection: try unplugging and reconnecting internal components, especially the CPU, RAM and any IDE drives.Q) I’ve upgraded but why is my system now so slow?A)
In the BIOS, check that the CPU is set to run at full speed. There will probably be an option to ‘Load optimised settings’ that should do this for you. If your board has dual memory controllers, make sure you have two identical sticks of RAM, one on each. - Continued next page -