It is rather tricky and quite hard to determine a faulty motherboard. Up until you have eliminated all the other plausible problems that may be the ones causing your system to fail or perform intermittently.
The motherboard can cause a myriad of issues with the functioning of your computer, while sometimes other component issues can be misconstrued as initiated by the faulty motherboard.
Replacing your motherboard should be the last expedient measure to settle problems. Because almost every component of your system connected to and compatible with the model of the motherboard on that system.
The changing technology and fast-paced revamping the industry is going through makes it difficult to find a similar board with the same model you happen to have.
In case there’s anything changed in the structure or technology, i.e., size, shape, connectivity technology, etc. you’ll find yourself turning more than one component. Thus, eliminating all other software and hardware failures, probably causing problems before you opt to replace a motherboard.
Symptoms of a failing motherboard
Diagnosing a motherboard has always been hard and complicated since you have to eliminate each and every attached hardware device beforehand. Other than the failure itself there aren’t normally any real indications of the motherboard going down. You might get a hard drive or monitor failure signs prior to the complete blackout like lost files or blue screen, whereas in motherboard’s case it just ceases working abruptly.
To find the possible backdrop of the issue, a user or technician has to rule out a number of possible software and hardware plausible sources. There aren’t a lot of apparent signals for you to diagnose a motherboard failure, as it either functions or just don’t, there’s nothing in between. That being said, there are still some facets you can try to make sure the problem is with your motherboard and not any other hardware component.
Most of the time you get some indications or early warning signs as computer parts go faulty but the ominous signals are not always there to rely on. I’ve compiled some motherboard failing signs to look out for.
- Boot-up getting slower and slower each day
- The system doesn’t recognize peripherals or even when do the peripherals stop working after a split second.
- The monitor shows strange behavior and lines on the screen
- Computer won’t identify flash drives and other connected devices
- Power-On Self-Test (POST) fails
- Physical damage to the motherboard or burnt odor
- Capacitors leaking or bulging
Physical damage: First thing you’d need to do it thoroughly check the motherboard to look into any physical damage or sign of concern. If you are comfortable do it yourself or take the computer to a technician. Ground yourself to avoid electrifying the system and resultantly more damage.
For example, you need to look for a damaged, burned or swelled capacitor. The reason for leaking or swollen capacitors are probably aging or overheating.
A peculiar burning smell: The burning odor indicates a problem with the motherboard. An overheated component produces a strong burning smell, in case its really strong smell then you’ll have to look into it. Occasionally, installing a new component can cause overheating or failure if it’s not compatible. For instance, you’ve plugged in a new video card or RAM to the motherboard without checking compatibility, you’ll most probably face issues. Ensure to remove the component that you think is the reason behind the warming of the computer.
BIOS Menu at Startup: When the BIOS menu appears uncalled for and on its own. BIOS is the firmware serving you the setup menu of system booting and other settings. The abrupt appearance of the BIOS menu is symptomatic of an extensive hardware or software fallacy that can be a problem with your motherboard.
The BIOS is the initializing firmware that picks up all your hardware for your system, wherefore if the motherboard is not properly functioning or having a problem with some newly attached component, the system will show the BIOS menu when it tries to boot up. Suggesting a malfunctioning motherboard with its component faulty or altogether ceasing functioning.
Malfunctioning applications: Even if your computer is able to get through the boot process, the faulty motherboard may affect your applications to malfunction during operation. Slowing your system’s performance and its processor speed faltering, particular applications put stress on hardware components. Which may hamper or even shut down your processor altogether. Multitasking on such a system becomes more and more tedious and the computer unable to manage hardware components, leading to frequent application errors, lags, and shutdown.
Blue – Screen of Death: Commonly known as a ‘Windows Stop Error’, this terrifying blue screen of death signifies some software or hardware crash. It might not be always the case of a failing motherboard when you get the blue screen of death on your system. Very often it may be due to a failure of a hardware component or a driver error. Though when you do face the blue screen of death situation, you can take note of the error message and particularly the error code that looks something like this (0x00000x00000x000000x0000000). Now you can go to Google and search for the code to look if it is the motherboard that is failing or some other component breakdown.
System freezing issues: Your system is freezing many a time lately, begin with troubleshooting to know if it’s a software issue to be held responsible. Though, when you rule out all the software factors as a source, then next you need to examine all the hardware components. Which also conditions the likelihood of motherboard being the failing component.
Reasons why a motherboard fails
There can be multiple reasons for your motherboard to fail, however, you can attribute a couple of common miscreants. Amongst those usual culprits causing motherboard failure are physical impairment, overheat or random electric shocks to the system. A number of them are unavoidable and are likely to cause damage to your computer. We’ll be discussing the most common of the causes of motherboard or mainboard (as is referred sometimes) failures below.
Overheating: We all know heat is the archenemy of electronic devices. As well a computer needs to ward off the excessive heat generated inside the system due to high current flows. Whether it’s the fanning system or heat sinks they are of crucial nature for the proper working of computers.
Otherwise, the extra heat can warp your motherboard or other components attached to it. you need to clean the vent channels to dissipate heat suitably. Especially the laptop motherboards due to their sleek design are more prone to damage, and if your laptop gets hot more often clean the outlets.
Electric shocks & surges: The abrupt voltage changes and shock conditions can potentially affect the subtle motherboard circuits. The brusque current flows can be the result of erroneous wiring or power grid problems or even due to weather conditions.
The recurrent fluctuations of power supply can be detrimental to your motherboard. While in some cases the impairment is visible by outright destruction of the system, but in others, it may impair the motherboard over time. The majority of computer systems and power supply units can contain small power surges. While for bigger ones using a high-grade surge protector is recommended for that to never happen with your motherboard.
Incorrectly connected components: If the components installed on your motherboard are not correctly connected, they can cause malfunctioning or even make your system not power on. A most common mistake made in the installation of motherboard components are made in seating the RAM or graphics card that causes problems for you. Ensure to properly install them both for normal functioning.
Short Circuit: Jam-packed with capacitors and bonded connections that serve as the way for power and data to be shared with all the other parts connected to the motherboard.
In case you’ve built or assembled the computer system by someone, likely there’s a chance that it hasn’t been assembled accurately and a chance of short circuit is probable.
Also, the motherboard is the center of power supply and passes it to all the connected components, if it comes in contact with a metal or damaged loose wire it can cause irreparable damage to the motherboard. A spill of any liquid material especially thicker liquids can also cause short circuits instantly.
All in all, if the motherboard comes in contact accidentally it can potentially short circuit, frying the motherboard entirely.
Troubleshoot the failure issues of a motherboard
If Passes POST (Power-On Self-Test): Essentially POST is a diagnostic testing tool of the computer, that sequentially tests the system requirements and hardware components. Run by the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) to specify all the components i.e. keyboard, disk drive, RAM, CPU, and every other crucial component is properly working or not.
Issuing an error message if the BIOS detects any hardware component not functioning well. Displaying a message and coded beep sounds that can be used to determine the problem and troubleshoot it properly. Though the error message isn’t likely to be displayed on the screen because the POST is performed before the video card is initiated.
What to do if POST is successful and computer loads the operating system
In case your computer system passes the POST test and boots up. You need to first diagnose the problems through software troubleshooting and normal workings of the system.
Hard drive: Hard drive failure can cause some ominous signals, such as the files take longer to transfer, boot time notably increases, or the dreaded blue screens or errors appear very often. Also when hard drives go bad they produce a noisy whining. There are a number of diagnostic utilities available as well that you can utilize to see if your hard drive is having issues.
However, if any of the above mentioned is true for you then your hard drive is probably going down gradually and is the reason for those problems you face.
By and large, the indications of a faulty hard drive are:
- Whining sound
- Files get corrupt or worst get lost
- System freezes often
- System and applications crash are frequent
- Hard disk develops bad sectors
RAM: Although memory doesn’t go bad very often as it doesn’t have any moving parts. But if it does so there are most likely chances that it is causing errors and unstable system performance. If the RAM installed is incompatible with your system it is likely to cause destabilization and can potentially be misconstrued as a motherboard issue. It can cause sporadic system crashes, freezing, etc. To further troubleshoot the memory, run a diagnostic tool like Memtest86 or 86+ for testing.
Video (GPU): Your screen is behaving weirdly, you see artifacts appear on the screen or the strange pixilation of the screen is disturbing you, it is probably due to a faulty video or graphics card. All modern motherboards have integrated video cards that are not all the time adequate for your needs. So if you have added an extra graphics processing unit (GPU) into your system. It is conceivable that the card is not compatible or is damaged and causing the problems for you. Replace the card to see if the problem goes away or not.
Processor: The processor is the heart of any computer system and if it stops working the system’s failure in itself. In case you have an Intel processor installed, I’ll suggest using the Intel Processor Diagnostic Tool by Intel to verify your processor’s functionality. If you happen to have an AMD processor you can utilize the AMD System Monitor by AMD, which will show you all the statistics of CPU and GPU.
BIOS firmware: Very often updating the BIOS firmware gets away all the system problems and instabilities. To update your motherboard BIOS you have to check the website of the manufacturer to see if an update is available for your motherboard.
Power Supply Unit: An inadequate power supply or a failing one can cause instability. This power fluctuation and lack can potentially damage the motherboard and other components attached. As the delicate circuitry of the computer system is prone to power surges and also to lower supply than is required by the system. Make sure the power voltage is in line with the power required by your system. Use appropriate or recommended power supply by the manufacturer to avoid any damage to the system.
Reset all the hardware
If you happen to have a lot of hardware peripherals installed on your system. It is sometimes just a matter of resetting the connections by removing it and reconnecting it back. It can do wonders for you just this simple trick can save you a lot of time and sweat. Once you do the reset reboot your system to see if the problem is solved.
What to do if POST is NOT successful and the computer does not boot at all
Discharge yourself: Prior to performing any hardware troubleshooting ensure that you discharge your static electricity. You can use a static wrist band or ground yourself with a grounded metal wire. Beforehand working with your motherboard because the computer circuitry is very sensitive to even the minute static charge of a human body and can cause a malfunction in the circuitry of the motherboard.
Examine the motherboard physically: Power up your system. In the event that nothing shows up on the screen and also you don’t hear any short beep sound. These signal the dreaded failure of the motherboard. The beep sound indicates the progress of POST testing, that the system has passed the test. About half the time in case the screen shows nothing and with no beep sound heard the situation signifies a faulty motherboard or a dead one.
But still, you need to check each and every hardware for the possibility if it is indeed the motherboard or any other defective component. Examine the motherboard physically for any leaking or damaged capacitors. Look for any kind of physical damage to the motherboard and also to the attached components.
RAM & Video Card: Now we will move on to finding out defects if any with the RAM and video card if you have one. Detach the RAM and video or graphics card. During the POST testing if the system doesn’t find an RAM installed it produces somewhat alike POST success beep. While if the error is with the RAM itself the POST produces long and recurring beeps. Hearing this kind of continuous beeps after powering is indicative that it is essentially the RAM that is causing the problems and not the motherboard.
Replace RAM: Install the RAM in another slot, as almost all the systems at least have two RAM slots available. Certain systems don’t produce the prolonged beeps in case RAM isn’t installed. So in this step, we can rule out problems with the RAM itself or with the RAM slot.
You can also try another working RAM, make sure it is compatible with the motherboard. This way you can find if there are any memory issues.
System Speaker Check: The beeps we are looking eagerly for diagnoses is produced by a tiny speaker attached to the motherboard. Make sure the speaker is connected correctly as only then will it be able to produce the sound. To find the location of this speaker you can refer to the motherboard manual.
Power Supply Check: The power supply may be the reason behind the issue. It doesn’t necessarily mean that if the CPU fan is running or the LED lights are on, your power supply must be supplying the required voltage power to the motherboard. If you can get your hands on a spare one or borrow one from your friend, check it with your motherboard to see if power is the issue.
Clear CMOS: CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) reset. It is basically SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) that stores BIOS settings or values.
- Power off your computer and detach power outlet
- As mentioned above, ground yourself of any static charge
- Find a 2-pin CMOS jumper, mostly you’ll find it near the CMOS battery. And it can be labeled any of these i.e. CLEAR, CLR CMOS, CLR PWD, CLEAR CMOS, or maybe by other names.
- Now move the jumper to the CLEAR position that is if the jumper is set on the first and second pin, you plug it out straight upward and place it on second and third pins.
- Press the power button for 10-15 seconds to discharge any remaining power in the capacitors. This will clear the CMOS and make the BIOS reset.
- Now move back the 2-pin jumper to its previous position that is password jumper.
- Startup your computer and you’ll have access to retuned BIOS.
Replace CMOS Battery: You can also try to replace the BIOS battery if the above-mentioned method doesn’t work for you.
- Shut down your system, also remove the power cable
- Ensure to ground yourself beforehand
- Look for CMOS battery on the motherboard. It’s a coin cell battery, you can consult the motherboard manual to find its location
- Detach it from the motherboard socket
- Hold the power button for some 10-15 seconds to discharge the capacitors
- Wait for at least 10 minutes
- Now reconnect the battery to the motherboard
- Power up your system and you should be good to go.
Seek advice from a Professional
In case you have eliminated all the possibilities of any other hardware failure. And the motherboard is the main culprit for you, I’d recommend you take the system to a professional and allow him to find a solution for you. You can always choose to go for a new motherboard but remember the new one should be compatible with the old components you have such as processor, power supply unit, etc.
Daniel Levi is the Senior Editor at LaptopsGeek. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Arizona State University and boasts over 15 years of experience in laptop reviews. With his extensive knowledge and expertise, Daniel provides invaluable insights into the world of laptops, ensuring that LaptopsGeek readers stay informed about the latest advancements in technology.