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What Are the Most Common Causes of a Fried Motherboard?

A person can ground themselves while working on a computer, and thus avoid damaging a motherboard with static electricity, by first touching the metal frame of the computer's tower.
Excessive dust, moisture, heat, and power surges can all fry a motherboard.
A computer motherboard.
A faulty power supply can lead to problems with a motherboard.
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  • Written By: Melissa King
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2014
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Computer motherboards don't often malfunction through normal use, but when they do, it may be difficult to figure out why. In part, this is because there is often no visible physical damage. Common reasons for a fried motherboard can include static shock, power surges, excess heat, parts failure or general mishandling. Many other, more complicated technical problems can be the reason for failure as well.

Static electricity is probably the most common reason for a motherboard to be fried. When handling computer hardware, such as a motherboard, it is important for a person to discharge the static electricity that has been built up in the body. This charge, if transferred to the motherboard, may short-circuit its components, rendering it useless. A person can discharge static by touching a piece of metal before beginning work on the computer. Working on an anti-static mat or a hard floor is also helpful; operating a computer with a carpet underneath you can build up static charges and is not recommended.

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Power surges and damaged power supplies are also reasons for a fried motherboard. A power surge can occur during a storm, and a computer that is not plugged into a surge protector has a chance of being damaged. A surge protector will help shield the computer's parts from shock. Even if a motherboard is unharmed during a power surge, damaged power supplies can cause it to break down after a while. Power supplies that do not output the recommended wattage may also cause issues with the motherboard.

Overheating, dust, and dirt are also common reasons for a motherboard to fail. If the board has been placed in a computer case that is very small or poorly ventilated, it can easily become overheated. If the case has not been outfitted with a properly working fan, there is no way to move excess heat away from the parts. If the fan is clogged with dirt and rarely cleaned, it cannot properly cool the system. Dirt can also build up inside the computer case and cause problems, making regular cleanings very important.

Cheaper motherboards may have a tendency to fail more quickly than others, since faulty capacitors may cause problems on those that are not well made. This type of damage may actually be visible, such as when the capacitors are leaking or bulging. Improper handling can also cause problems with the motherboard. The board contains many small, fragile parts, and holding it the wrong way could bend or break those parts. A motherboard should always be carried and held by its edges in order to avoid contact with its components.

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anon311579
Post 6

@browncoat: I'm also assuming you're talking about a desktop PC. Laptops are a different story, though still not impossible to replace.

anon311578
Post 5

@browncoat: That's simply not true and only applies if you buy pre-built computers. Yes, if you bought an HP (or most any other pre-built), you're probably stuck with a proprietary case with limited options. If you build your own and buy a sensible case, this is not an issue at all.

I'd rather buy a $200 motherboard than buy a brand new $600-$800 pre-built (or even more expensive depending on how powerful you want it). Other than the minor annoyance of having to disconnect your components and remove the motherboard, then put a new one back in, buying a new mobo is by far the better route. Why get a new computer with brand new hard drive, dvd drive, etc. when you have perfectly good working parts that only need a new motherboard?

browncoat
Post 4

@indigomoth - To be honest, I don't think there's much point in getting a new motherboard if the old one has been fried. The motherboard is one of the more expensive and essential parts of the computer. Almost everything can be easily replaced, but the motherboard ties everything together and it needs to be just the right kind.

If you've lost yours for whatever reason, it's almost always going to be a good idea to get a whole new computer, rather than trying to replace it.

Motherboard failure absolutely sucks, as I well know. It's one of the reasons I backup my work whenever I can. It might be rare, especially these days, but it happens often enough that it's definitely worth planning for.

indigomoth
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - Another thing to consider, aside from the fact that you might end up looking over the motherboard price list is that you could be damaging yourself as well.

I read a study recently where they studied people who kept their laptops on their knees like that, and they found that men who do it are often increasing their own infertility. Excess heat can be a problem in that area. So, you aren't only potentially frying your motherboard, you might also be frying your own future children. Seems like a good reason to use a lap-desk.

lluviaporos
Post 2

It's not as a much of a problem now, because laptops are generally made to be as cool and well ventilated as possible, but it can still be a problem when people take the name literally and constantly hold their laptops on their laps.

The fan vents are often on the bottom or the sides of the computer because of aesthetics and blocking those fans with your legs can lead to heat building up.

This might not make a difference if you do it once or twice for short periods, but over a long period of time it can lead to the motherboard and other components being damaged. It's one of the first questions they'll ask you when you bring your laptop in to be serviced. Unfortunately, everyone does it, which is why they have been trying to make the fans more and more efficient.

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