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The motherboard

In the report of "Motherboard", we are going to discuss some basic information regarding
to the Motherboard which is the "Mother" of your personal computer. After all it is the
most essential part of the PC.
Prior to the advent of the microprocessor, a computer was usually built in a card-cage
case or mainframe with components connected by a bacplane consisting of a set of slots
themselves connected with wires! in very old designs the wires were discrete connections
between card connector pins, but printed-circuit boards soon became the standard
practice. "he central processing unit, memory and peripherals were housed on individual
printed circuit boards which plugged into the bacplane.
"hen it became economical to move an increasing number of peripheral functions onto
the motherboard #see above$. In the late %&'(s, motherboards began to include single ICs
#called )uper I*+ chips$ capable of supporting a set of low-speed peripherals, eyboard,
mouse, floppy dis drive, serial ports, and parallel ports. As of the late %&&(s, many
personal computer motherboards support a full range of audio, video, storage, and
networing functions without the need for any e-pansion cards at all! higher-end systems
for ./ gaming and computer graphics typically retain only the graphics card as a separate
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The motherboard
%. Introduction
0. 1istory
.. Motherboard-A brief overview
2. 3orm 3actor
4. PCI, A5P, I)A slots
6. CM+) battery
7. 8I+)
'. Parallel port
&. )erial port
%(. 9)8
%%. Chipsets
%0. Cloc :ate
%.. 89)

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The motherboard
"he PC;s main printed circuit board which houses the processor, memory and other

A motherboard is the central or primary circuit board maing up a comple- electronic
system, such as a modern computer. It is also nown as a mainboard, baseboard, system
board, planar board or, on Apple computers, a logic board.
Most motherboards produced today are designed for so-called I8M-compatible
computers, which held over &6< of the global personal computer maret in 0((4.
Motherboards for I8M-compatible computers are specifically covered in the PC
motherboard article.
A motherboard, lie a bacplane, provides the electrical connections by which the other
components of the system communicate, but unlie a bacplane also contains the central
processing unit and other subsystems such as real time cloc, and some peripheral
"he motherboard is the main circuit board inside the PC. It holds the CP9 and memory,
provides e-pansion slots for peripherals, and, whether directly or indirectly, connects to
every part of the PC.
"he essential motherboard mae-up includes the chipset #nown as the "glue logic"$,
some code in :+M and the various wired interconnections between the components
now as buses. "he chipset is fundamental, and controls how the motherboard interacts
with everything else in the system. A good chipset can be more important than the power
of CP9 or the amount of :AM. "he :+M code includes the 8I+), which has user-
changeable options for how the motherboard operates with integral and connected
devices. "he buses are the electrical wires that connect everything together.
Motherboard designs use many different buses to lin their various components. 3or
instance, wide, high-speed buses are difficult and e-pensive to produce. "he signals
travel at such a rate that even distances of =ust a few centimetres cause timing problems,
while the metal tracs on the circuit board act as miniature radio antennae, transmitting
electromagnetic noise that introduces interference with signals elsewhere in the system.
3or these reasons, design engineers try to eep the fastest buses confined to the smallest
area of the motherboard and use slower, more robust buses for other parts.
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The motherboard
A typical destop computer is built with the microprocessor, main memory, and other
essential components on the motherboard. +ther components such as e-ternal storage,
controllers for video display and sound, and peripheral devices are typically attached to
the motherboard via edge connectors and cables, although in modern computers it is
increasingly common to integrate these "peripherals" into the motherboard.

"he motherboard referred to interchangeably as systemboard or mainboard, is the
primary circuit board within a personal computer. Many other components connect
directly or indirectly to the motherboard. Motherboards usually contain one or more
CP9s, supporting circuitry -- usually integrated circuits #ICs$ providing the interface
between the CP9 memory and input*output peripheral circuits, main memory, and
facilities for initial setup of the computer immediately after power-on #often called boot
firmware or, in I8M PC compatible computers, a 8I+)$. In many portable and embedded
personal computers, the motherboard houses nearly all of the PC;s core components.
+ften a motherboard will also contain one or more peripheral buses and physical
connectors for e-pansion purposes. )ometimes a secondary daughter board is connected
with the motherboard to provide further e-pandability or to satisfy space constraints.
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The motherboard
Prior to the advent of the microprocessor, a computer was usually built in a card-cage
case or mainframe with components connected by a bacplane consisting of a set of slots
themselves connected with wires! in very old designs the wires were discrete connections
between card connector pins, but printed-circuit boards soon became the standard
practice. "he central processing unit, memory and peripherals were housed on individual
printed circuit boards which plugged into the bacplane.
/uring the late %&'(s and %&&(s, it became economical to move an increasing number of
peripheral functions onto the motherboard #see above$. In the late %&'(s, motherboards
began to include single ICs #called )uper I*+ chips$ capable of supporting a set of low-
speed peripherals, eyboard, mouse, floppy dis drive, serial ports, and parallel ports. As
of the late %&&(s, many personal computer motherboards support a full range of audio,
video, storage, and networing functions without the need for any e-pansion cards at all!
higher-end systems for ./ gaming and computer graphics typically retain only the
graphics card as a separate component.
"he early pioneers of motherboard manufacturing were Micronics, Myle-, AMI, /">,
1auppauge, +rchid "echnology, ?litegroup, /3I, and a number of "aiwan-based
Popular personal computers such as the Apple II and I8M PC had published schematic
diagrams and other documentation which permitted rapid reverse-engineering and third-
party replacement motherboards. 9sualy intended for building new computers
compatible with the e-emplars, many motherboards offered addtional performance or
other features and were used to upgrade the manufacturer;s original e@uipment.
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The motherboard
Motherboard A brief overview
An overview of the MOTHERBOARD
"he motherboard is the main circuit board inside the PC. It holds the CP9 and
memory, provides e-pansion slots for peripherals, and, whether directly or indirectly,
connects to every part of the PC.
"he essential motherboard mae-up includes the chipset, some code in :+M and the
various wired interconnections between the components now as buses.
"he chipset is fundamental, and controls how the motherboard interacts with everything
else in the system. A good chipset can be more important than the power of CP9 or the
amount of :AM.
"he :+M code includes the 8I+), which has user-changeable options for how the
motherboard operates with integral and connected devices. "he buses are the electrical
wires that connect everything together.
Motherboard designs use many different buses to lin their various components. 3or
instance, wide, high-speed buses are difficult and e-pensive to produce. "he signals
travel at such a rate that even distances of =ust a few centimeters cause timing problems,
while the metal tracs on the circuit board act as miniature radio antennae, transmitting
electromagnetic noise that introduces interference with signals elsewhere in the system.
3or these reasons, design engineers try to eep the fastest buses confined to the smallest
area of the motherboard and use slower, more robust buses for other parts.
1owever, the motherboard is perhaps the most fascinating and certainly most integral
component of the PC. ?very PC;s multimedia graphic and sound capabilities, type and
performance of CP9 and support for type and capacity of :AM are governed by their
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The motherboard
Motherboard A brief overview
Components n! f"n#tions:
"he motherboard of a typical destop consists of a large printed circuit board. It holds
electronic components and interconnects, as well as physical connectors #socets, slots,
and headers$ into which other computer components may be inserted or attached.
Most motherboards include, at a minimum,
)ocets #or slots$ in which one or more microprocessors #CP9s$ are installed.
)lots into which the system;s main memory is installed #typically in the form of
/IMM modules containing /:AM chips$ .
A chipset which forms an interface between the CP9;s front-side bus, main
memory, and peripheral buses.
Aon-volatile memory chips #usually 3lash :+M in modern motherboards$
containing the system;s firmware or 8I+) .
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The motherboard
A cloc generator which produces the system cloc signal to synchroniBe the
various components.
)lots for e-pansion cards #these interface to the system via the buses supported by
the chipset$ .
Motherboard A brief
Power connectors and circuits, which receive electrical power from the computer
power supply and distribute it to the CP9, chipset, main memory, and e-pansion
"he +cte Caguar D motherboard from %&&.. "his board has 6 I)A slots but few onboard
peripherals, as evidenced by the lac of e-ternal connectors.
Additionally, nearly all motherboards include logic and connectors to support commonly-
used input devices, such as P)*0 connectors for a mouse and eyboard. ?arly personal
computers such as the Apple II or I8M PC included only this minimal peripheral support
on the motherboard. +ccasionally video interface hardware was also integrated into the
motherboard! for e-ample on the Apple II, and rarely on I8M-comatible computers such
as the I8M PC Cr. Additional peripherals such as dis controllers and serial ports were
provided as e-pansion cards.
5iven the high thermal design power of high-speed computer CP9s and components,
modern motherboards nearly always include heat sins and mounting points for fans to
dissipate e-cess heat.
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The motherboard
$orm $#tor
A motherboard by itself is useless, but a computer has to have one to operate. "he
motherboard;s main =ob is to hold the computer;s microprocessor chip and let everything
else connect to it. ?verything that runs the computer or enhances its performance is either
part of the motherboard or plugs into it via a slot or port.
Photo courtesy Consumer Guide Products
A modern motherboard.
See more motherboard pictures.
"he shape and layout of a motherboard is called the form f#tor. "he form factor
affects where individual components go and the shape of the computer;s case. "here are
several specific form factors that most PC motherboards use so that they can all fit in
standard cases
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The motherboard
"he form factor is =ust one of the many standards that apply to motherboards.
)ome of the other standards include,
"he so#%et for the mi#ropro#essor determines what ind of Central
Processing 9nit #CP9$ the motherboard uses.
"he #hipset is part of the motherboard;s logic system and is usually made
of two parts -- the northbridge and the southbridge. "hese two "bridges"
connect the CP9 to other parts of the computer.
"he 8asic Input*+utput )ystem #8I+)$ chip controls the most basic
functions of the computer and performs a self-test every time you turn it
on. )ome systems feature dual 8I+), which provides a bacup in case one
fails or in case of error during updating.
"he re& time #&o#% #hip is a battery-operated chip that maintains basic
settings and the system time.
"he slots and ports found on a motherboard include,
Peripheral Component Interconnect #PCI$- connections for video, sound
and video capture cards, as well as networ cards
Accelerated 5raphics Port #A5P$ - dedicated port for video cards.
Integrated /rive ?lectronics #I/?$ - interfaces for the hard drives
9niversal )erial 8us or 3ireEire - e-ternal peripherals
Memory slots
)ome motherboards also incorporate newer technological advances,
:edundant Array of Independent /iscs #:AI/$ controllers allow the
computer to recogniBe multiple drives as one drive.
'CI E(press is a newer protocol that acts more lie a networ than a bus.
It can eliminate the need for other ports, including the A5P port.
:ather than relying on plug-in cards, some motherboards have on)*or!
sound, networing, video or other peripheral support.
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The motherboard
It hs Si( $orm $#tors+
,- 3ull-A"
.- 8aby-A"
/- FPG
0- 3ull-A"G
1- Mini A"G
2- AFG
$"&& AT
(12" wide x 13.8" deep) Matches the original I8M A" motherboard design, which
only fits into full siBe A" or tower cases only, not being produced much any more if any.
"his form factor is no longer produced because it cannot be placed into the
popular 8aby-A" chassis.
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The motherboard
B*y AT
"he 8aby A" #8A"$ format reduced the dimensions of the motherboard to a typical
&in wide by %(in long, and 8A" motherboards are generally characteriBed by their shape,
an A"-style eyboard connector soldered to the board and serial and parallel port
connectors which are attached using cables between the physical ports mounted on the
system case and corresponding connectors located on the motherboard
Eith the 8A" design the processor socet is located at the front of the motherboard, and
full-length e-pansion cards are intended to e-tend over it. "his means that removing the
processor re@uires the removal of some or all e-pansion cards first. Problems were
e-acerbated by the increasing speeds of Pentium-class processors. )ystem cooling relied
on the A" power supply blowing air out of the chassis enclosure and, due to the distance
between the power supply and the CP9, an additional chassis fan or active heatsin
became a necessity to maintain good airflow across the CP9. A" power supplies only
provide %0D and 4D outputs to the motherboard, re@uiring additional regulators on the
motherboard if ...D components #PCI cards or CP9s$ are used. )ometimes a second
heatsin was also re@uired on these voltage regulators and together the various additional
heat dissipation components caused serious obstruction for e-pansion slots.
(9.00" wide x 13.00" deep) /eveloped by Eestern /igital when maing
motherboards, which was duplicated by many other manufacturers and is no longer made
by Eestern /igital.
"he FPG motherboard riser card contains all of the e-pansion slots.
Placement of the video, parallel, two serial and P)*0 connections have changed
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The motherboard
$"&& ATX 4 Mini ATX
"he Intel Advanced*MF motherboard, launched in %&&6, was designed to solve
these issues and mared the beginning of a new era in motherboard design. Its siBe and
layout are completely different to the 8A" format, following a new scheme nown as
(12" wide x 9.6" deep) / Mini)ATX (11.2" wide x 8.2" deep- "he official
specifications were released by Intel in %&&4 and was revised to version 0.(% in 3ebruary
%&&7. "he A"G form factor is an advancement over previous A" style motherboards.
"herefore re@uires a new case design. A"G is not a abbreviation however is actually a
trademar which belongs to Intel.
Mini-A"G is simply a smaller version of a full-siBed A"G board. +n both designs,
parallel, serial, P)*0 eyboard and mouse ports are located on a double-height I*+
shield at the rear. 8eing soldered directly onto the board generally means no need
for cable interconnects to the on-board I*+ ports. A conse@uence of this, however,
is that the A"G needs a newly designed case, with correctly positioned cut-outs for
the ports, and neither A"G no Mini-A"G boards can be used in A"-style cases
(Supports motherboards with overall dimensions of 9.0" x 13." !maximum" to 8.0"
x 10.0" !minimum") Implemented in %&&' by Intel and is similar to the FPG form factor
however includes several new improvements.
)upport for the Pentium II
)upport for A5P
)upport for 9)8.
)upport for /IMM.
?asier Access to internal components
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The motherboard
PCI )F+"
Eor on PCI began at Intel;s Architecture Fab circa %&&(. PCI %.(, which was
merely a component level specification, was released on Cune 00, %&&0. PCI 0.(,
which was the first to establish standards for the connector and motherboard slot,
was released on April .(, %&&.. PCI 0.% was released on Cune %, %&&4.
Fater revisions of PCI added new features and performance improvements,
including a 66 M1B
... D standard and %.. M1B PCI-G, and the adaptation of PCI signaling to other
form factors. 8oth PCI- G %.(b and PCI-G 0.( are bacward compatible with some
PCI standards. Eith the introduction of the serial PCI ?-press standard in 0((2,
motherboard manufacturers have included progressively fewer PCI e-pansion slots
in favor of the new standard.
Although it is still common to see both interfaces implemented side-by-side,
traditional PCI slot. liely to slowly die out in coming years.
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The motherboard
PCI )F+"

A9"+ C+A3I59:A"I+A,
PCI provides two separate .0-bit or 62-bit address spaces corresponding to the
memory and I*+ port address spaces of the - '6 processor families. Addresses in
these address spaces are assigned by software. A third address space, called the PCI
Configuration )pace, which uses a fi-ed addressing scheme, allows software to
determine the amount of memory and I*+ address space needed by each device.
?ach device can re@uest up to si- areas of memory space or I*+ port space via its
configuration space registers.
In a typical system, the firmware #or operating system$ @ueries all PCI buses at
startup time to find out what devices are present and what system resources
#memory space, I*+ space, interrupt lines, etc.$ each needs. It then allocates the
resources and tells each device what its allocation is.
"he PCI configuration space also contains a small amount of device type
information, which helps an operating system choose device drivers for it, or at
least to have a dialogue with a user about the system configuration.
/evices can have an optional :+M that can contain e-ecutable code for -'6 or PA-
:I)C processors, an +pen 3irmware driver, or an ?3I driver. "his is typically
necessary for devices that may be used during system startup, before device drivers
are loaded by the operating system.
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The motherboard
/evices are re@uired to follow a protocol so that the interrupt lines can be shared.
"he PCI bus includes four interrupt lines, all of which are available to each device.
1owever, they are not wired in parallel as are the other traces. "he positions of the
interrupt lines rotate between slots, so what appears to one device as the IA"AI line
is IA"8I to the ne-t and IA"CI to the ne-t.
PCI )F+"
)ingle-function devices always use their IA"AI for interrupt signaling, so the
device load is spread fairly evenly across the four available interrupt lines. "his
alleviates a common problem with sharing interrupts.
E+:>IA5 +3 PCI )F+",
PCI slot is a one type of a bus. Aow a days it is most widely and commonly used in
the computer. PCI slots allow for all types of card, lie as sound, graphics,
interphace cards.
"here are a lot of increment comple- components in a computer. And all of these
parts need to communication with each other in a fast and efficient manner.
+therwise the amaBing speed and capabilities of each individual component is lost
in the whole.

A5' S3OT: A##e&erte! 6rphi#s port
"he A5P slot first appeared on -'6 compatible system boards based on )ocet 7
Pentium and )lot % Pentium II pro cessors. Intel introduced A5P support with the
)lot % chipset in mid-+ctober %&&7 and a flood of products followed from all the
ma=or system board vendors.

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The motherboard
A/DAA"A5?) +D?: PCI,
As computers became increasingly graphically-oriented, the graphics card became
far more important than other PCI devices, and, thus, the A5P slot was developed.
A5P )F+"

A5P slots are superior to PCI for graphics cards because they provide a dedicated
pathway between the slot and the processor, allowing for faster communication
between the two. In addition, A5P uses sideband addressing, meaning that
addressing for pacets is carried outside of the pacet, meaning that the entire
pacet does not need to be read to get addressing information. In addition, to load a
te-ture, a PCI graphics card must copy it from the system;s :AM into the card;s
An A5P card is capable of reading te-tures directly from system :AM using the
graphics ramping table. "he two main reasons graphics cards with the PCI interface
are produced is that first they can be used in nearly any PC, as very few modern
destop PCs do not have PCI slots - though some motherboards with built-in
graphics adaptors lac an A5P slot.
)econd, a user with an appropriate operating system can use several PCI graphics
cards #or several PCI graphics cards in combination with one A5P card$
simultaneously - to give many different Dideo outputs #for the use of many
"his cannot be done with A5P cards, as very few #if any$ motherboards are
e@uipped with more than one A5P slot.
E+:>IA5 +3 "1? A5P )F+",
As of late 0((7, few new motherboards feature A5P slots. Ao new motherboard
chipsets are e@uipped with A5P support, but motherboards continue to be produced
with older chipsets that have A5P support. PCI ?-press allows for higher data
transfer rates, has full support, and also supports other devices.
All new graphics processors are designed for PCI-?-press. "o create A5P graphics
cards, those Chips re@uire an additional PCI to A5P bridge chip to convert PCI
signals to and from A5P signals. "his incurs additional board costs due to the need
for the additional bridge chip and for a separate A5P-designed circuit board.
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The motherboard
I)A )F+"
I)A originated as an '-bit system in the I8M PC in %&'%.It was e-tended in %&'. as
the G" bus architecture. "he newer %6-bit standard, the I8M A" bus, was
introduced in %&'2. In %&'', the 5ang of Aine I8M PC compatible manufacturers
put forth the .0-bit ?I)A standard and in the process retroactively renamed the A"
bus to be "I)A" to avoid infringing I8M;s trademar on its PC*A" computer.
PCI slots were the first physically-incompatible e-pansion ports to directly s@ueeBe
I)A off of the motherboard. At first, motherboards were largely I)A, including a
few PCI slots. 8y the mid-%&&(s, the two slot types were roughly balanced, and
I)A slots soon were in the minority of consumer systems.
Microsoft;s PC &7 specification recommended that I)A slots be removed entirely,
though the system architecture still re@uired I)A to be present in some vestigial way
internally to handle the floppy drive, serial ports, etc.
I)A slots remained for a few more years, and towards the turn of the century it was
common to see systems with an Accelerated 5raphics Port #A5P$ sitting near the
central processing unit, an array of PCI slots, and one or two I)A slots near the end.
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The motherboard
I)A )F+"
'-8I" I)A )F+",
"he G" bus architecture is an eight-bit I)A bus used by Intel '('6 and Intel '(''
systems in the I8M PC and I8M PC G" in the %&'(s.
"he G" bus has four /MA channels, of which three are brought out to the
e-pansion slots. +f these three, two are normally allocated to machine functions.
%6-8I" I)A )F+",
"he A" bus architecture is an %6-bit version of the I)A bus first in the I8M PC*A".
9)? +3 "1? I)A )F+",
Apart from specialiBed industrial use, I)A is all but gone today. ?ven where
present, system manufacturers often shield customers from the term "I)A bus",
referring to it instead as the "legacy bus". "he PC*%(2 bus, used in industrial and
embedded applications, is a derivative of the I)A bus, utiliBing the same signal lines
with different connectors.
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The motherboard
)tarting with Eindows Dista, Microsoft is phasing out support for I)A cards in
Eindows. Dista still supports I)A-PnP for the time being, although it;s not enabled
by default. I)A was e-tended to become the A"A bus, used for A"A and more
recently )erial A"A hard diss.
CM+) 8A""?:H
Ehy does my computer need a batteryJ
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The motherboard
Most computers have a small battery. In many cases, the battery is soldered directly onto
the motherboard, but the battery is usually in some sort of holder so it is easy to replace.
Computers are not the only things that have a small battery lie this -- camcorders and
digital cameras often have them, too. Cust about any gadget that eeps trac of the time
will have a battery.
In your computer #as well as other gadgets$, the battery powers a chip called the Re&
Time C&o#% 8RTC- chip. "he :"C is essentially a @uartB watch that runs all the time,
whether or not the computer has power. "he battery powers this cloc. Ehen the
computer boots up, part of the process is to @uery the :"C to get the correct time and
date. A little @uartB cloc lie this might run for five to seven years off of a small battery.
"hen it is time to replace the battery.
"his does not e-plain why your computer would not boot, however. Hou would e-pect
the computer to boot fine but have an incorrect time and date. "he reason your computer
would not boot is because the :"C chip also contains 62 #or more$ bytes of random
access memory #:AM$. "he cloc uses %( bytes of this space, leaving 42 bytes for other
purposes. "he 8I+) stores all sorts of information in the CM+) :AM area, lie the
number of floppy and hard dis drives, the hard dis drive type, etc. If the CM+) :AM
loses power, the computer may not now anything about the hard dis configuration of
your machine, and therefore it cannot boot.
Many more modern computers are not @uite so dependent on the CM+) :AM. "hey
store the settings in non)vo&ti&e RAM that wors without any power at all. If the battery
goes dead, the cloc fails but the computer can still boot using the information in the
non-volatile :AM area
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The motherboard
9ht BIOS Does
"he 8I+) software has a number of different roles, but its most important role is to load
the operating system. Ehen you turn on your computer and the microprocessor tries to
e-ecute its first instruction, it has to get that instruction from somewhere. It cannot get it
from the operating system because the operating system is located on a hard dis, and the
microprocessor cannot get to it without some instructions that tell it how. "he 8I+)
provides those instr"#tions. )ome of the other common tass that the 8I+) performs
A power-on self-test #P+)"$ for all of the different hardware components
in the system to mae sure everything is woring properly
Activating other 8I+) chips on different cards installed in the computer -
3or e-ample, )C)I and graphics cards often have their own 8I+) chips.
Providing a set of low-level routines that the operating system uses to
interface to different hardware devices - It is these routines that give the
8I+) its name. "hey manage things lie the eyboard, the screen, and the
serial and parallel ports, especially when the computer is booting.
Managing a collection of settings for the hard diss, cloc, etc.
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The motherboard
"he 8I+) is special software that interfaces the ma=or hardware components of your
computer with the operating system. It is usually stored on a 3lash memory chip on the
motherboard, but sometimes the chip is another type of :+M.
BIOS "ses $&sh memory: type of ROM+
Ehen you turn on your computer, the 8I+) does several things. "his is its usual
%. Chec the CM+) )etup for custom settings
0. Foad the interrupt handlers and device drivers
.. InitialiBe registers and power management
2. Perform the power-on self-test #P+)"$
4. /isplay system settings
6. /etermine which devices are bootable
7. Initiate the bootstrap se@uence
"he first thing the 8I+) does is chec the information stored in a tiny #62 bytes$ amount
of :AM located on a #omp&ementry met& o(i!e semi#on!"#tor #CM+)$ chip. "he
CM+) )etup provides detailed information particular to your system and can be altered
as your system changes. "he 8I+) uses this information to modify or supplement its
default programming as needed. Ee will tal more about these settings later.
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The motherboard
Interr"pt hn!&ers are small pieces of software that act as translators between the
hardware components and the operating system. 3or e-ample, when you press a ey on
your eyboard, the signal is sent to the eyboard interrupt handler, which tells the CP9
what it is and passes it on to the operating system. "he !evi#e !rivers are other pieces of
software that identify the base hardware components such as eyboard, mouse, hard drive
and floppy drive. )ince the 8I+) is constantly intercepting signals to and from the
hardware, it is usually copied, or sh!owe!, into :AM to run faster.
'ARA33E3 'ORT:
In computing, a parallel port is a type of physical interface used in con=unction with a
cable to connect separate peripherals in a computer system.
+ver a parallel port, binary information is transferred in parallel, each bit in a
particular value is sent simultaneously as an electrical pulse across a separate wire, in
contrast to a serial port, which re@uires each bit to be sent in series over a single wire.
"he number of wires and the type of connector on a parallel port can vary.
3or the most part, the 9)8 interface has replaced the parallel port as of 0((6, most
modern printers are connected through a 9)8 connection, and often don;t even have a
parallel port connection. +n many modern computers, the parallel port is omitted for
cost savings, and is considered to be a legacy port.
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The motherboard
Parallel ports are most often used by microprocessors to communicate with
peripheral devices. "he most common ind of parallel port is a printer port, such as
a Centronics connector based port which transfers eight bits at a time. /is drives
are also connected via special parallel ports.
1owever, when people refer to a parallel port, they are usually referring to a printer
port, either on a printer or a PC. 8efore 9)8 connections became widespread on
mass-maret computers, many e-ternal devices, such as portable dis drives for
Microsoft windows and M)-/+) systems, used a pass-through connector so the
device could share a parallel port with a printer.
"he parallel port of an I8M PC-compatible computer is, by far, the most common
standard computer port that brings standard computer logic voltages directly out to
a set of pins.
It is much beloved by e-perimenters and engineers who often use it for ine-pensive
computer controlled pro=ects. "he standard logic voltage, 4 volts /C, is virtually
+n the other hand, the parallel port;s circuitry is in general @uite fragile! appropriate
care must be taen to avoid damaging it.

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The motherboard
A serial port is a serial communication physical interface through which
information transfers in or out one bit at a time #contrast parallel port$.
"hroughout most of the history of personal computers, data transfer through serial
ports connected the computer to devices such as terminals or modems.
>eyboards and other peripheral devices also connected in this way.


)oftware can control a multitude of software settings for serial connections used for
asynchronous start- stop communication, most commonly setting speed, parity, and
stop bits.
+ne of the simplifications made in such serial bus standards as ?thernet, 3ireEire,
and 9)8 is that many of those parameters have fi-ed values so that users can not
and need not change the configuration! the speed is either fi-ed or automatically
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The motherboard
"he data rate in bits per second is e@ual to the symbol rate in baud. Common bit
rates per second for asynchronous start*stop communication are .((, %0((, 02((,
&6((, %&0(( baud, etc.
)?:IAF P+:"
"he port speed and device speed must match, though some devices may
automatically detect the speed of the serial port. "hough the :) 0.0 standard is
formally limited to 0(,((( bits per second, serial ports on popular personal
computers allow settings up to %%4,0(( bits per second.
"he speed includes bits for framing and the effective data rate is lower than the bit
transmission rate.

3or e-ample for '-A-% encoding only '(< of the bits are available for data #for
every eight bits of data, two more framing bits are sent$.
)top bits are sent at the end of every byte transmitted in order to allow the receiving
signal hardware to resynchroniBe. ?lectronic devices usually use one stop bit.
+ccasionally, and especially if electromechanical devices are used such as printers,
one-and-one half or two stop bits are re@uired.
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The motherboard
9)8 P+:"
9)8 %.( Aovember %&&4.
9)8 %.(, :eleased in Canuary %0.
9)8 %.%, :eleased in )eptember %&&'.
9)8 0.(, :eleased in April 0(((. "he ma=or feature of this standard was the addition
of high-speed mode. "his is the current revision.
A 9)8 system has an asymmetric design, consisting of a host controller and
multiple daisy-chained devices.
Modern computers often have several host controllers, allowing a very large
number of 9)8 devices to be connected. computers would not need many 9)8
ports, and computers shipped at this time typically had only two.
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The motherboard
1owever, for economical and technical reasons, daisy chaining never became
widespread. "o reduce the necessity of 9)8 hubs, computers now come with a
large number of 9)8 ports, typically si-. 9)8 was designed to allow peripherals
to be connected without the need to plug e-pansion cards into the computer;s I)A,
?I)A, or PCI bus, and to improve plug-and-play capabilities by allowing devices
to be hot-swapped #connected or disconnected without powering down or
rebooting the computer$.
Ehen a device is first connected, the host enumerates and recogniBes it, and loads
the device driver is needs.
9)8 P+:"

9)8 can connect peripherals such as mice, eyboards, game pads and =oystics,
scanners, digital cameras, printers, e-ternal storage, networing components, etc.
3or many devices such as scanners and digital cameras, 9)8 has become the
standard connection method. 9)8 is also used e-tensively to connect non-
networed printers, replacing the parallel ports which were widely used! 9)8
simplifies connecting several printers to one computer.
As of 0((2 there were about % billion 9)8 devices in the world. As of 0((4, the
only large classes of peripherals that cannot use 9)8, because they need a higher
data rate than 9)8 can provide, are displays and monitors, and high-@uality
digital video components.
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The motherboard
"he chipset is the "glue" that connects the microprocessor to the rest of the motherboard
and therefore to the rest of the computer. +n a PC, it consists of two basic parts -- the
north*ri!6e and the so"th*ri!6e. All of the various components of the computer
communicate with the CP9 through the chipset.
Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper
The northbridge and southbridge
"he northbridge connects directly to the processor via the front side bus #3)8$. A
memory controller is located on the northbridge, which gives the CP9 fast access to the
memory. "he northbridge also connects to the A5P or PCI ?-press bus and to the
memory itself.
"he southbridge is slower than the northbridge, and information from the CP9 has to go
through the northbridge before reaching the southbridge. +ther busses connect the
southbridge to the PCI bus, the 9)8 ports and the I/? or )A"A hard dis connections.
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The motherboard
Chipset selection and CP9 selection go hand in hand, because manufacturers optimiBe
chipsets to wor with specific CP9s. "he chipset is an integrated part of the
motherboard, so it cannot be removed or upgraded. "his means that not only must the
motherboard;s socet fit the CP9, the motherboard;s chipset must wor optimally with
the CP9.
Ehat the Aorth 8ridge and )outh 8ridge /o,
All of the communication between components connected to a motherboard occurs
through the board;s core logic chipset, which is composed of two chipsthe north bridge
and the south bridge. "he north bridge chip resides near the top of the motherboard, ne-t
to the CP9 socet, and serves as a four-way intersection connecting the CP9, memory,
video card #A5P$ bus, and its partner, the south bridge chip. "he south bridge chip
resides at the bottom of the motherboard, and allows plugged-in devices such as networ
cards or modems to communicate with the CP9 and the memory. "he south bridge
handles most of a motherboard;s "value-added" featuressuch as the I/? controller,
9)8 controller, and onboard sound and ?thernet.
Aorthbridge ,
"he Aorthbridge, also nown as the memory #ontro&&er h"* #MCH$ in Intel systems
#AM/, DIA, )i) and others usually use ;northbridge;$, is traditionally one of the two
chips in the core logic chipset on a PC motherboard, the other being the )outhbridge.
)eparating the chipset into northbridge and southbridge is common, although there are
rare instances where these two chips have been combined onto one die when design
comple-ity and fabrication processes permit it.
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The motherboard
Intel i'%4?P Aorthbridge
"he northbridge typically handles communications between the CP9, :AM, A5P or PCI
?-press, and the )outhbridge. )ome northbridges also contain integrated video
controllers, which are also nown as a 5raphics and Memory Controller 1ub #5MC1$ in
Intel systems. 8ecause different processors and :AM re@uire different signalling, a
northbridge will typically wor with only one or two classes of CP9s and generally only
one type of :AM. "here are a few chipsets that support two types of :AM #generally
these are available when there is a shift to a new standard$. 3or e-ample, the northbridge
from the ADI/IA n3orce0 chipset will only wor with )ocet A processors combined
with //: )/:AM, the Intel i'74 chipset will only wor with systems using Pentium 2
processors or Celeron processors that have a cloc speed greater than %.. 51B and utiliBe
//: )/:AM, and the Intel i&%4g chipset only wors with the Intel Pentium 2 and the
Celeron, but it can use //: or //:0 memory.
"he Aorthbridge on a particular system;s motherboard is the most prominent factor in
dictating the number, speed, and type of CP9#s$ and the amount, speed, and type of
:AM that can be used. +ther factors such as voltage regulation and available number of
connectors also play a role. Dirtually all consumer-level chipsets support only one
processor series, with the ma-imum amount of :AM varying by processor type and
motherboard design. Pentium-era machines often had a limitation of %0' M8, while most
Pentium 2 machines have a limit of 2 58. )ince the Pentium Pro, the Intel architecture
can accommodate physical addresses larger than .0 bits, typically .6 bits, which gives up
to 62 58 of addressing, though motherboards that can support that much :AM are rare
because of other factors #operating system limitations and e-pense of :AM$.
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The motherboard
A northbridge typically will only wor with one or two different southbridge A)ICs! in
this respect, it affects some of the other features that a given system can have by limiting
which technologies are available on its southbridge partner.
"he north bridge hosts its own memory looup table #I*+ memory management unit$, a
mapping of the addresses and layout in main memory.
Re#ent !eve&opments:
"he memory controller, which handles communication between the CP9 and :AM, has
been moved onto the processor die in AM/62 processors. +ther CP9 designers, such as
Intel and I8M, have considered this change for their own product lines.
An e-ample of this change is ADI/IA;s n3orce. chipset for AM/62 systems that is a
single chip. It combines all of the features of a normal )outhbridge with an A5P port and
connects directly to the CP9.
North*ri!6e n! over #&o#%in6:
"he northbridge plays an important part in how far a computer can be over cloced, as its
fre@uency is used as a baseline for the CP9 to establish its own operating fre@uency. In
today;s machines, this chip is becoming increasingly hotter as computers become faster.
It is no longer unusual for the northbridge to use a heat sin or even some ind of active
"he So"th*ri!6e, also nown as the I4O Contro&&er H"* #IC1$ in Intel systems #AM/,
DIA, )i) and others usually use ;)outhbridge;$, is a chip that implements the "slower"
capabilities of the motherboard in a Aorthbridge * )outhbridge chipset computer
architecture. "he )outhbridge can usually be distinguished from the Aorthbridge by not
being directly connected to the CP9. :ather, the Aorthbridge ties the )outhbridge to the
8ecause the southbridge is further removed from the CP9, it is given responsibility for
the slower devices on a typical microcomputer. A particular southbridge will usually
wor with several different northbridges, but these two chips must be designed to wor
together! there is no industry-wide standard for interoperability between different core
logic chipset designs. "raditionally this interface between northbridge and southbridge
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The motherboard
was simply the PCI bus, but since this created a performance bottlenec, most current
chipsets use a different #often proprietary$ interface with higher performance.
"he functionality found on a contemporary southbridge includes,
PCI bus, "he PCI bus support includes the traditional PCI specification, but may
also include support for PCI-G and PCI ?-press.
I)A bus or FPC 8ridge, "hough the I)A support is rarely utiliBed, it has
interestingly managed to remain an integrated part of the modern southbridge.
"he FPC 8ridge provides a data and control path to the )uper I*+ #the normal
attachment for the eyboard, mouse, parallel port, serial port, I: port, and floppy
controller$ and 3E1 #firmware hub which provides access to 8I+) flash
)PI bus, "he )PI bus is a simple serial bus mostly used for firmware #e.g., 8I+)$
flash storage access.
)M8us, "he )M8us is used to communicate with other devices on the
motherboard #e.g. system fans$.
/MA controller, "he /MA controller allows I)A or FPC devices direct access to
main memory without needing help from the CP9.
Interrupt controller, "he interrupt controller provides a mechanism for attached
devices to get attention from the CP9.
I/? #)A"A or PA"A$ controller, "he I/? interface allows direct attachment of
system hard drives.
:eal "ime Cloc, "he real time cloc provides a persistent time account.
Power management #APM and ACPI$, "he APM or ACPI functions provide
methods and signaling to allow the computer to sleep or shut down to save power.
Aonvolatile 8I+) memory, "he system CM+), assisted by battery supplemental
power, creates a limited non-volatile storage area for system configuration data.
AC&7 or Intel 1igh /efinition Audio sound interface
8aseboard Management Controller
+ptionally, the southbridge will also include support for ?thernet, :AI/, 9)8, audio
codec, and 3ireEireK. :arely, the southbridge may also include support for the eyboard,
mouse, and serial ports, but normally these devices are attached through another device
referred to as the )uper I*+.

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The motherboard
"he #&o#% rte is the fundamental rate in #$#les per se#ond #measured in hertB$ at which
a computer performs its most basic operations such as adding two numbers or
transferring a value from one processor register to another. More generally, it is the
fre@uency of the cloc in any synchronous circuit. /ifferent chips on the motherboard
may have different cloc rates. 9sually when referring to a computer, the term "cloc
rate" is used to refer to the speed of the CP9.
CP9 manufacturers typically charge premium prices for CP9;s that operate at higher
cloc rates. 3or a given CP9, the cloc rates are determined at the end of the
manufacturing process through actual testing of each CP9. CP9;s that are tested as
complying with a given set of standards may be labeled with a higher cloc rate, e.g.,
%.4( 51B, while those that fail the standards of the higher cloc rate yet pass the
standards of a lesser cloc rate may be labeled with the lesser cloc rate, e.g., %... 51B,
and sold at a relatively lower price.+bviously, those looing to overcloc a CP9 would
be well-advised to purchase the highest cloc rate sold for that CP9, since it been tested
at the highest standards for that CP9.
3imits to #&o#% rte:
"he cloc rate of a CP9 is normally determined by the fre@uency of an oscillator crystal.
"he first commercial PC, the Altair ''(( , used an Intel '('( CP9 with a cloc rate of 0
M1B #0 million cycles*second$. "he original I8M PC had a cloc rate of 2.77 M1B
#2,77(,((( cycles*second$. In %&&4, Intel;s Pentium chip ran at %(( M1B #%(( million
cycles*second$, and in 0((0, an Intel Pentium 2 model was introduced as the first CP9
with a cloc rate of . 51B #three billion cycles*second corresponding to L... %(
seconds per cycle$.
Eith any particular CP9, replacing the crystal with another crystal that oscillates half as
fast #under clocing$ will mae the CP9 run at half the speed. It will also mae the CP9
produce roughly half as much waste heat.
)ome people try to speed up a CP9 by replacing the oscillator crystal with a faster crystal
#over clocing$. 1owever, those people will soon hit one or another of these 0 limits on
cloc rate,
After each cloc pulse, the wires inside the CP9 needs time to settle to its new
state. If the ne-t cloc pulse comes in too soon, while the wires are still settling
#before every wire has finished transitioning from ( to %, or from % to ($, the
results will be incorrect. Chip manufacturers publish a "ma-imum cloc rate"
specification, and they test chips before selling them to mae sure they meet that
specification, even when e-ecuting the most complicated instructions with the
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The motherboard

Cloc rate
data patterns that tae the longest to settle #testing at the temperature and voltage
that runs the slowest$.
"he energy used to charge a wire during the ( to % transition is wasted as heat
when that line is discharged during a % to ( transition. Ehen e-ecuting
complicated instructions that cause lots of transitions, higher cloc rates produce
more heat. If electricity is converted to heat faster than a particular computer
cooling system can get rid of it -- then the transistors may get hot enough to be
People continue to find new ways to design CP9s that settle a little @uicer or use
slightly less energy per transition, pushing bac those limits, producing new CP9s that
can run at slightly higher cloc rates. People also continue to find new ways to design
CP9s such that, although they may run at the same or a slower cloc rate as older CP9s,
get more done per cycle.
AM/ Athlon GP +verclocing 8I+) )etup on. 3ront side bus fre@uency #?-ternal cloc$
has increased from %.. M1B to %2' M1B, and cloc multiplier factor has changed from
%..4 to %6.4.
+verclocing is the process of forcing a computer component to run at a higher cloc
rate than it was designed for or was designated by the manufacturer, usually practiced by
personal computer enthusiasts in order to increase the performance of their computers.
)ome of them purchase low-end computer components which they then overcloc to
higher speeds, or overcloc high-end components to attain levels of performance beyond
the default factory settings. +thers overcloc outdated components to eep pace with
new system re@uirements, rather than purchasing new hardware products as e-pected by
the computer industry.
9sers who overcloc their components mainly focus their efforts on processors, video
cards, motherboard chipsets, and :andom Access Memory #:AM$. It is done through
manipulating the CP9 multiplier and the motherboard;s front side bus #3)8$ speed until a
ma-imum stable operating fre@uency is reached. Ehile the idea is simple, variation in the
electrical and physical characteristics of computing systems complicates the process.

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The motherboard
Cloc rate
CP9 multipliers, bus dividers, voltages, thermal loads, cooling techni@ues and several
other factors can affect it.
"here are several considerations when overclocing. "he first consideration is to ensure
that it is supplied with ade@uate power to operate at the new speed. 1owever, supplying
the power with improper settings or applying e-cessive voltage can permanently damage
a component. )ince tight tolerances are re@uired for overclocing, only more e-pensive
motherboardswith advanced settings that computer enthusiasts are liely to usehave
built-in overclocing capabilities. Motherboards with fewer settings, such as those found
in +riginal ?@uipment Manufacturer #+?M$ systems, lac such features in order to
eliminate the possibility of misconfiguration and cut down on the support costs and
warranty claims to the manufacturer.
1igh @uality heat sins are often made of copper.
All electronic circuits produce heat generated by the movement of electrons. As cloc
fre@uencies in digital circuits increase, the heat generated by over cloced components
also increases. /ue to increased heat produced by overcloced components, an effective
cooling system is necessary to avoid damaging the hardware. In addition, digital circuits
slow down at high temperatures due to changes in metalo-idesemiconductor field-
effect transistor #M+)3?"$ device characteristics. Eire resistance also increases slightly
at higher temperatures, contributing to decreased circuit performance.
8ecause most stoc cooling systems are designed for the amount of power produced
during non-overcloced use, overclocers typically turn to more effective cooling
solutions, such as powerful fans or heavy duty heat sins. )iBe, shape, and material all
influence the ability of a heatsin to dissipate heat. ?fficient heatsins are often made
entirely of thermally conductive copper, but these are usually e-pensive.

Aluminum is
more widely used material for heatsins, being cheaper than copper. Cast iron is the least
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The motherboard
e-pensive, but has poor thermal conductivity. Many good-@uality heatsins combine two
or more materials to ma-imiBe thermal conductivity while minimiBing cost.
Cloc rate
Interior of a water cooled computer, showing CP9 water bloc, tubing and pump
Eater cooling and passive li@uid coolant carrying waste heat to a radiator, which is
similar to an automobile engine;s cooling system, provide more effective cooling than
heatsin and fan combinations when properly implemented, because li@uid is denser than
air and therefore offers greater thermal transformation.
Fi@uid nitrogen may be used for cooling an overcloced system, when an e-treme
measure is needed.
Mes"rin6 effe#ts of over#&o#%in6:
As discussed above, stability and functional correctness may be compromised when
overclocing, and meaningful benchmar results depend on correct e-ecution of the
benchmar. 8ecause of this, benchmar scores may be @ualified with stability and
correctness notes #e.g. an overclocer may report a score, noting that the benchmar only
runs to completion % in 4 times, or that signs of incorrect e-ecution such as display
corruption are visible while running the benchmar$.
5iven only benchmar scores it may be difficult to =udge the difference overclocing
maes to the computing e-perience. 3or e-ample, some benchmars test only one aspect
of the system, such as memory bandwidth, without taing into consideration how higher
speeds in this aspect will improve the system performance as a whole. Apart from
demanding applications such as video encoding, high-demand databases and scientific
computing, memory bandwidth is typically not a bottlenec, so a great increase in
memory bandwidth may be unnoticeable to a user depending on the applications they
prefer to use. +ther benchmars, such as ./Mar attempt to replicate game conditions,
but because some tests involve non-deterministic physics, such as ragdoll motion, the
scene is slightly different each time and small differences in test score are overcome by
the noise floor.
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The motherboard
"he user can, in many cases, purchase a slower, cheaper component and
overcloc it to the speed of a more e-pensive component.
Cloc rate
3aster performance in games, encoding, video editing applications, and system
tass at no additional e-pense, but at increased cost for electrical power
consumption. Particularly for enthusiasts who regularly upgrade their hardware,
overclocing can increase the time before an upgrade is needed.
)ome systems have "bottlenecs", where small overclocing of a component can
help realiBe the full potential of another component to a greater percentage than
the limiting hardware is overcloced. 3or instance, many motherboards with
AM/ Athlon 62 processors limit the speed of four units of :AM to ... M1B.
1owever, the memory speed is computed by dividing the processor speed #which
is a base number times a CP9 multiplier, for instance %.' 51B is most liely
&-0(( M1B$ by a fi-ed integer such that, at stoc speeds, the :AM would run at
a cloc rate near ... M1B. Manipulating elements of how the processor speed is
set #usually lowering the multiplier$, one can often overcloc the processor a
small amount, around %((-0(( M1B #less than %(<$, and gain a :AM cloc rate
of 2(( M1B #0(< increase$, realiBing the full potential of the :AM.
+verclocing can be an engaging hobby in itself and supports many dedicated
online communities. "he PCMar website is one such site that hosts a
leaderboard for the most powerful computers to be benchmared using the
A new overclocer with proper research and precaution or a guiding hand can
gain useful nowledge and hands-on e-perience about their system and pc
systems in general.
Many of the disadvantages of overclocing can be mitigated or reduced in severity by
silled overclocers. 1owever, novice overclocers may mae mistaes while
overclocing which can introduce avoidable drawbacs and which are more liely to
damage the overcloced components #as well as other components they might affect$.
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The motherboard
In#orre#t&y performe! over#&o#%in6:
Increasing the operation fre@uency of a component will increase its thermal
output in a linear fashion, while an increase in voltage causes a @uadratic
increase. +verly aggressive voltage settings or improper cooling may cause chip
temperatures to rise so @uicly that irreversible damage is caused to the chip
causing immediate failure or significantly reducing its lifetime.
More common than hardware failure is functional incorrectness. Although the
hardware is not permanently damaged, this is inconvenient and can lead to
instability and data loss. In rare, e-treme cases entire file system failure may
occur, causing the loss of all data.
Eith poor placement of fans, turbulence and vortices may be created in the
computer case, resulting in reduced cooling effectiveness and increased noise. In
addition, improper fan mounting may cause rattling or vibration.
Improper installation of e-otic cooling solutions lie li@uid or phase-change
cooling may result in failure of the cooling system, which may result in water
damage or damage to the processor due to the sudden loss of cooling.
)ometimes products claim to be intended specifically for overclocing and may
be =ust decoration. Aovice buyers should be aware of the mareting hype
surrounding some products. ?-amples include heat spreaders and heat sins
designed for chips which do not generate enough heat to benefit from these
devices. #Memory chips, for e-ample$
"he utility of overclocing is limited for a few reasons,
Personal computers are mostly used for tass which are not computationally
demanding, or which are performance-limited by bottlenecs outside of the local
machine. 3or e-ample, web browsing does not re@uire a very fast computer, and
the limiting factor will almost certainly be the speed of the internet connection of
either the user or the server. +verclocing a processor will also do little to help
speed up application loading times as the limiting factor is reading data off of the
hard drive. +ther general office tass such as word processing and sending email
are more dependent on the efficiency of the user than on the speed of the
hardware. It is generally accepted that, even for computationally-heavy tass,
speed increases of less than ten percent are difficult to discern. 3or e-ample,
when playing video games, it is difficult to discern an increase from 6( to 66
frames per second #3P)$ without the aid of an on-screen frame counter. In such
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The motherboard
cases it does however usually allow the possible usage of higher image @uality#so
called eye candy$ settings. "he difference can also be between playable and
unacceptable depending on the situation.
A bus is simply a circuit that connects one part of the motherboard to another. "he more
data a bus can handle at one time, the faster it allows information to travel. "he spee! of
the bus, measured in megahertB #M1B$, refers to how much data can move across the bus
Busses connect different parts of the motherboard
to one another
8us speed usually refers to the speed of the front si!e *"s #3)8$, which connects the
CP9 to the northbridge. 3)8 speeds can range from 66 M1B to over '(( M1B. )ince the
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The motherboard
CP9 reaches the memory controller though the northbridge, 3)8 speed can dramatically
affect a computer;s performance.
1ere are some of the other busses found on a motherboard,
"he *#% si!e *"s connects the CP9 with the level 0 #F0$ cache, also
nown as secondary or e-ternal cache. "he processor determines the speed
of the bac side bus.
"he memory *"s connects the northbridge to the memory.
"he IDE or ATA bus connects the southbridge to the dis drives.
The AGP bus connects the video card to the memory and the CPU. The
speed of the AGP bus is usuay !! "H#.
The PCI bus connects PC$ sots to the southbrid%e. &n most systems' the
speed of the PC$ bus is (( "H#. Aso compatibe with PC$ is PCI Express'
which is much faster than PC$ but is sti compatibe with current software and
operatin% systems. PC$ )*press is ikey to repace both PC$ and AGP
The faster a computer+s bus speed' the faster it wi operate ,, to a point. A fast bus speed
cannot make up for a sow processor or chipset.
5eneral purpose buses include the DM?, 3uture8us, Multibus, )C)I, etc. and are
designed to facilitate connecting a wide range of devices to a machine with high
bandwidth and low latency, relative to cost. "he versatility of these buses limit their
performance to some e-tent, however.
Most buses are bacplane devices -- that is, the physical implementation is a circuit board
with parallel connectors into which other boards are plugged perpendicularly.
)ome buses, such as )C)I, are cable based -- devices in separate chassis are connected
together by cables that carry the bus signals.
Another variation is the front-plane bus in which ribbon cable connects circuit boards
mounted in a chassis #usually in addition to a bacplane bus$ -- an e-ample is the
Ma-8us digital video bus, or the Apple*C)PI Muic:ing multiprocessor interconnect.
8uses generally are distinguished into two control mechanisms, )ynchronous and
Most general purpose bus designs are asynchronous because asynchrony is more fle-ible
in accomodating a wider range of devices. Asynchronous bus designs also adapt more
readily to technological advances.
In a synchronous bus design, there is an assumption of a basic cloc rate and increasing
that rate can cause older devices to fail to operate properly. In an asynchronous design,
older devices may simply reduce performance.
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1owever, an asynchronous protocol is usually more comple-, re@uiring both more
hardware and more overhead for each transaction. )ynchronous buses can operate with
lower latency and higher bandwidth for a given number of signals.
"hus, synchronous buses are usually developed for applications in which ma-imum
performance is re@uired and the usage is constrained to devices with a narrow range of
timing characteristics.
3rom this we can deduce that the two types of buses have different applications for which

they are best.
Modern systems often employ both types of buses. "he CP9 connects to a synchronous
memory bus containing the cache, main memory, and a bus adapter. In some cases, the
CP9 and Cache are connected by a dedicated synchronous lin, and the cache controller
connects to the memory bus.
"he advantage of this approach is that the path from the CP9 to memory can have the
optimum performance, and this is the path that most affects overall performance. "he bus
adapter provides a connection to an asynchronous bus that is constrained to matching the
characteristics of the synchronous bus.
9sually, in such architectures, the synchronous bus is a custom design that is found only
on the CP9 board itself, and possibly on memory e-pansion daughter cards, although
systems have been designed in the past with such buses on custom bacplanes to
facilitate memory e-pansion. In many such applications, the synchronous control scheme
is even further simplified by the fact that there are only two potential bus masters.
"ransfer modes,
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8uses may also support multiple transfer modes. 3or e-ample, a bloc transfer that
begins with the start address and then sends a se@uence of data values can occur faster
because the arbitration and address portion of the protocol tae place =ust once for the
)ome bus designs also multiple- the address and data lines. "here are two instances
where this is useful -- reducing cost, and increasing bandwidth.
A very low cost bus might always transfer an address and then the data over the same
lines. "hus the two transfers cannot be overlapped in time, and buffering of the address is
re@uired at each end, but the bus itself can have half the number of wires. "o reduce cost
even further, the width of the bus can be reduced so that the address and data are
transmitted in pieces. "his can be taen to the limit of a single signal path with the
control protocol embedded #a traditional serial data lin$.
+n the other hand, increased bandwidth can be the goal in multiple-ing address and data.
3or e-ample, in a bloc transfer, following the initial address, the address and data lines
might both be employed to transfer twice as much data per cycle.
+ne problem with multiple-ing the address lines with data values, is that they must then
pass though an e-tra set of steering logic gates that direct the signals to the appropriate
places at each end of the transmission. "his both increases bus latency and the cost of the
Another transfer mode that is found on high performance buses is a split transfer, which
is usually associated with a read. 8ecause memory latency may be high, the bus can be
tied up for several cycles while waiting for the data to return from a read re@uest. In a
split cycle, the read is re@uested and then the bus is released. +ther transactions can then
use the bus. Ehen the value has been fetched, a memory controller becomes a bus master
and transfers the data to the re@uester.
+ften in a split transfer system, the memory controller is designed to buffer multiple
re@uests, so that reads may be pipelined over the bus. "he split transfer is especially
useful in multiprocessor systems. "he overall result is to increase the effective bandwidth
of the bus by the factor F*" where F is the memory latency and " is the bus cycle time.
3ront side bus,
In personal computers, the $ront Si!e B"s #$SB$ is the data transfer bus that carries
information between the CP9 and the Aorthbridge of the Motherboard.
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)ome computers also have a *#% si!e *"s which connects the CP9 to a memory cache.
"his bus and the cache memory connected to it are faster than accessing the system :AM
via the front side bus.
"he bandwidth or ma-imum theoretical throughput of the front side bus is determined by
the product of the width of its data path, its cloc fre@uency #cycles per second$ and the
number of data transfers it performs per cycle or cloc tic. 3or e-ample, a .0-bit #2-
byte$ wide 3)8 operating at a fre@uency of %(( M1B that performs 2 transfers per tic
has a bandwidth of %6(( megabytes per second #M8*s$.
Aotice that many manufacturers publish the "speed" of the 3)8 in mega transfers per
second #M"*s$, not the 3)8 cloc speed #in megahertB #M1B$$. "he M"*s rating is
affected by how many transfers are performed each cloc cycle. 3or e-ample, if a
motherboard has a 3)8 cloced at 066 MH< and performs 2 transfers per cloc tic, the

3)8 is rated at %(66 M"*s. "his is what some manufacturers publish as the "speed" of the
History n! C"rrent "s6e:
"he front side bus has been a part of computer architecture since applications first started
using more memory than a CP9 could reasonably hold.
Most modern front side buses serve as a bacbone between the CP9 and a chipset. "he
chipset #usually a combination of a Aorthbridge and a )outhbridge$ is the connection
point for all other buses in the system. 8uses lie the PCI, A5P, and memory buses all
connect to the chipset in order for data to flow between the connected devices. "hese
secondary system buses usually run at speeds derived from the front side bus speed.
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Re&te! Component Spee!s:
"he fre@uency at which a processor #CP9$ operates is determined by applying a cloc
multiplier to the front side bus #3)8$ speed. 3or e-ample, a processor running at 44(
M1B might be using a %(( M1B 3)8. "his means there is an internal cloc multiplier
setting #also called bus*core ratio$ of 4.4. "hat is, the CP9 is set to run at 4.4 times the
fre@uency of the front side bus, %(( M1B N 4.4 O 44( M1B. 8y varying either the 3)8 or
the multiplier, different CP9 speeds can be achieved.
)etting a 3)8 speed is related directly to the speed grade of memory a system must use.
"he memory bus connects the northbridge and :AM, =ust as the front side bus connects
the CP9 and northbridge. +ften, these two buses must operate at the same fre@uency.
Increasing the front-side bus to %7( M1B in most cases also means running the memory
at %7( M1B.
In newer systems, it is possible to see memory ratios of "2,4" and the lie. "he memory
will run 4*2 times as fast as the 3)8 in this situation, meaning a %.. M1B bus can run
with the memory at %66 M1B. "his is often referred to as an ;asynchronous; system. It is
important to realiBe that due to differences in CP9 and system architecture, overall
system performance can vary in une-pected ways with different 3)8-to-memory ratios.
In comple- image, audio, video, gaming, and scientific applications where the data set is
large, 3)8 speed becomes a ma=or performance issue. A slow 3)8 will cause the CP9 to
spend significant amounts of time waiting for data to arrive from system memory.
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A!!ress *"s:
An !!ress *"s is a computer bus, used by CP9s or /MA-capable units for
communicating the physical addresses of computer memory elements*locations that the
re@uesting unit wants to access #read*write$.
"he width of an address bus, along with the siBe of addressable memory elements,
determines how much memory can be accessed. 3or e-ample, a %6-bit wide address bus
#commonly used in the '-bit processors of the %&7(s and early %&'(s$ reaches across 0

O 64,4.6 O 62 >i memory locations, whereas a .0-bit address bus can address 0
2,0&2,&67,0&6 O 2 5i locations.
In most microcomputers such addressable "locations" are '-bit b$tes. In such case the
above e-amples translate to 62 ibibytes #>i8$ and 2 gibibytes #5i8$ respectively.
1istorically, there were also some e-amples of computers, which were able to address
only areas of a larger siBe #words$, such as %6, .0, .6 bits long.
Control bus,
A #ontro& *"s is part of a computer bus, used by CP9s for communicating with other
devices within the computer. Ehile the address bus carries the information on which
device the CP9 is communicating with and the data bus carries the actual data being
processed, the control bus carries commands from the CP9 and returns status signals
from the devices, for e-ample if the data is being read or written to the device the
appropriate line #read or write$ will be active #logic Bero$.
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www+howst"ffw or%s+#om
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