The motherboard of any computer is the printed circuit board (PCB) that connects all other hardware to the processor. It plays such a crucial function on a computer that if it fails, it stops working. You can tell the motherboard is dead when your computer shuts down randomly and refuses to come up again. So, what causes the motherboard to fail in the first place?
Diagnosing motherboard failures is typically hard because they share many of the same symptoms as other components failing. However, the most common culprit for motherboard failure is overheating. Electric surge, water, and physical damage are common causes of motherboard failure.
You could take a few steps to ensure your motherboard does not fail. Even though a motherboard will fail anyway, due to age and unforeseen circumstances, it is less likely to fail when you take precautions against some of the most common causes of motherboard failure. This article elaborates on some common causes of motherboard failure and how to protect against it.
Common Causes of Motherboard Failure
Generally speaking, three main components make a computer work: the processor, storage (hard drive and RAM), and motherboard. These three parts work together for users to interact with the computer. But when the motherboard, which connects everything, fails, several components won’t interact with each other again.
However, there aren’t many early warning signs to indicate that a motherboard is about to fail. But the main thing you can do is to know what can cause a motherboard to fail and prevent it from happening.
One of the leading causes of a motherboard failing is overheating. The motherboard houses several components like the CPU and video card, which generate a lot of heat.
If the several components connected to the motherboard are not cooled consistently to disperse the heat, it will cause the motherboard to overheat, thereby damaging several sensitive components. This explains why performing tasks that require a lot of processes for a prolonged period could potentially damage your computer, mainly when it is not built to handle such tasks.
Meanwhile, you can prevent this by ensuring all the cooling fans are correctly working, and the computer is kept in a well-ventilated space.
Electrical Surge or Spike
Another common thing that can cause your motherboard to fail is an electrical surge or spike. An electrical surge can be caused by many things, such as lightning, problems with wiring, power-hungry appliances, or even power service outside. Although most electrical surges or spikes are short-lived, that burst of energy can cause many problems in the motherboard.
You can protect your computer motherboard from electrical surges by connecting it to a surge protector. Although sometimes, some electrical surges would bypass a surge protector. To protect yourself against such cases, ensure the power outlet you connect your computer to is earthen.
Dust and Debris
Dust and foreign debris getting into your computer can kill the motherboard. When too much dust and debris find their way into your computer, they clog the heatsink and fans of your computer causing heat buildup. In some cases, the dust and debris could cause a short circuit and damage the motherboard.
While it is hard to keep dust and debris out of the motherboard, as it needs to be well-ventilated, you can occasionally service the computer by cleaning the interior. Also, keeping the computer clean can help protect dust and debris from getting inside it in the first place.
Spilling water or any other type of liquid on a motherboard could cause it to fail easily. Generally, liquids are partial conductors, and when they get into the circuit board of a computer, it causes a short circuit. As you know, the motherboard houses several sensitive components, and having a current, no matter how little, flowing into the wrong terminal can cause damage.
To avoid this, you should not keep liquid near a computer because of the likelihood of a spill occurring. You should also not keep the computer in a humid environment as moisture could cause rust in the motherboard, further deteriorating it.
If there is physical damage to the motherboard, it could also cause it to fail. This physical damage could be caused by many things, including carelessness and improper handling. For example, suppose your laptop falls or something accidentally falls on your laptop or computer. In that case, it could cause a crack in the motherboard, components in the motherboard touch areas on the board it was not designed to, and so many things, creating short circuits or incomplete circulation.
A complete motherboard replacement is recommended in most cases, but it might be salvageable if the damage is not too severe.
Manufacturer Design Defect
Motherboards are produced in mass; as such, there are chances that manufacturing defects could occur. Most of the time, manufacturing defects arise from a faulty capacity, the bus architecture was not engineered correctly, or it could be cooling issues. While this is rare, it is not impossible. Manufacturers know this; hence, they give users a warranty depending on how long they expect the motherboard to last.
In case the motherboard gives out before the ideal time, the manufacturer would replace it at no extra cost.
Improperly Seated Memory Module
As we said earlier, the motherboard is a circuit board where other computer components are connected. However, if these components are not correctly installed, be they internal or external, it could create a short circuit condition which could damage the motherboard.
To avoid this, you should always check and double-check that everything is connected and well-seated, particularly when installing a new component on the motherboard, be it a new processor, RAM, hard drive, graphics card, etc.
Faulty CMOS Battery
The CMOS battery is not the most talked about component of any computer, but they play a vital role in the motherboard. This CMOS battery is the reason your computer remembers whatever configuration you’ve made on it, even when there is no battery in the computer.
While the CMOS battery is durable and lasts a long time, it can only last around 5 to 6 years in most cases. Hence, if not replaced, your computer will malfunction, drivers will be missing, and sometimes your computer won’t come on.
Incorrectly Connected Cables
It is critical that when connecting anything to the motherboard, you are sure it is connected to the correct terminal. Connecting the wrong cables to the wrong port could cause a short circuit, damaging the motherboard easily.
So, when working on building, repairing, or cleaning your computer, ensure you connect the right cables. Use the motherboard manual as a guide even when working with a pre-build OEM machine.
Normal Aging and Wear
Sometimes, your motherboard fails due to normal aging and wear. Eventually, your computer motherboard will fail as it has a finite lifespan. But in most cases, a motherboard will last you for decades. There is little you can do to avoid this from happening except to take care of it properly.
Motherboards differ from one another, and if your motherboard is damaged, you should take it to a professional for repairs or replacement, as the schematics of motherboards are generally not all that available to the public.
A damaged motherboard is probably the last thing you want to experience with your computer. Finding the replacement, mainly if it is a laptop, can be pretty tricky, and repair service could cost a lot of money depending on the type of motherboard and the nature of the damage. As such, taking note of the causes of a damaged motherboard would help you stay cautious and protect against it.