How to install a motherboard inside a PC case: A beginners guide

How to install a motherboard inside a PC case: A beginners guide

Picking the best motherboard may not be as exciting as choosing other core components of the build, but it’s an important part of the build. The motherboard is essentially a platform on which you install the components of your PC. It all starts with the motherboard as you begin installing all the components on it. Installing the motherboard inside a PC case itself isn’t as difficult as you think it is. There are a few important things to consider, but it’s a fairly straightforward process otherwise. In this guide, we’ll tell you how to install a motherboard inside a PC case.

Navigate this article:

Prerequisites

  • Core components: Before you even think of mounting the motherboard inside a PC case, it’s important to fetch all the core components of the build and install them on the board. This includes the CPU, RAM modules, and the M.2 SSD. It’s best to install these core components before mounting the board inside the case.
  • Tools: Unlike a lot of other components, installing a motherboard is not a tool-less operation, at least not yet. You’ll definitely need a Philips head screwdriver to put everything together.
  • A compatible PC case: Pick the right PC case based on the size of the motherboard you’re planning to use. A full-tower PC case, for instance, supports E-ATX, ATX, mATX, and miniITX motherboard. An SFF case, however, will only support a miniITX, or at times an mATX motherboard.
  • Motherboard manual: Not all motherboards are built the same, so you’ll definitely need a manual to figure power leads, headers for USB, fans, RGB lights, and more.

Installing core components on the board

Intel Core i5-12600K being installed on a Z690 motherboard

It’s best to install some of the core components of the build including the CPU, the RAM modules, and the M.2 SSD modules on the motherboard before mounting it inside the case. Even the biggest PC cases on the market have limited space, so it’s easier to install as many components as you can before dropping the board inside the case.

An XPG RAM module with a red-colored heat spreader being installed on a motherboard

The first step is to install a CPU, followed by the RAM modules and SSDs. You can check our ‘How to install RAM’ and ‘How to install M.2 SSD’ guides to know how to install those components. You can’t install all the components on the motherboard before dropping it inside the case, but the objective is to install as many as you can to avoid working with less space inside the chassis.

Installing motherboard inside the case

Now that you’re ready to drop the motherboard inside the chassis, it’s time to figure out the IO plate situation. A lot of high-end modern motherboards now have a pre-installed IO panel. However, you’ll have to manually install this piece if you’re using a relatively older or low-end motherboard. IO plates, if not already installed on the motherboard, are usually bundled inside the box. Be careful not to hurt yourself while dealing with IO plates because these metal plates tend to have very sharp edges. You can install the plate at the back of the PC case in the designated IO plate slot.

A motherboard IO plate

  • Once done, you need to hover the motherboard inside the case to figure out where the standoffs are located. Some PC cases will have pre-installed standoffs, but you may have to manually install them depending on your case.
  • The placement of these standoffs will depend on the size of the board itself. It’s also important to make sure your PC case is compatible and is big enough to accommodate the motherboard of your choice.

A motherboard standoff hole being highlighted

  • After locating the standoffs, place your motherboard inside the case and align the standoffs properly.
  • The next step is to screw the motherboard down. You’ll follow an ‘X’ pattern to do the screws, meaning you’ll work the screw that’s diagonally opposite to the one that you tightened first.
  • Be wary of the amount of force applied while screwing down the board. The main idea is to secure the board inside the case, not overtighten them.
  • You have successfully placed the motherboard inside the case now, but we still have a couple of things to do.

Port to connect the ATX cable on the motherboard

  • After that, you have to connect the main ATX power cable, and the CPU power leads. These two cables will make sure the board is able to supply power to the components.
  • Almost all cables and the corresponding ports and leads are marked with their names, so you shouldn’t have any issues figuring out which cable goes where. If not, you’ll have to refer to the motherboard manual to find appropriate leads.

As much as we’d love to help you figure out which cables go where on the board, it’s not an easy task since no two motherboards are the same. The ports and leads will likely be different on your motherboard from where it’s located on the Aorus Z690 Pro motherboard we’re using for this guide.

How to install a motherboard: Final Thoughts

If you followed all the steps carefully, then you’ve now installed your motherboard inside the case. Installing the board itself, as you can see, isn’t a difficult task. Installing all the components before and after mounting the motherboard is what takes up a lot of time. The next steps after dropping the motherboard inside the case involve installing the rest of the components. After that, turn the PC on to see everything works.

There’s also no shortage of motherboards on the market, unlike some other components. We encourage you to check out our collection of the best gaming motherboards or even the best motherboards for overclocking if you’re looking for some buying guides. Also, don’t forget to spend some time on cable management too as it helps a lot in keeping a track of all the cables. Good luck!

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.