Motherboards, also known as mainboards or just plain “Boards” fit into a computer case. They provide components with the ability to communicate and work together and they usually contain certain additional features.
These boards need to be connected via cables with various components such as memory modules, hard disks, optical drives, and so on – only then a computer can work.
In general, not all boards fit into any case, but they do have to comply with special standards which ensure that the board is compatible with the mainboard slots.
Do All Motherboards Fit In Any Case?
But what types of motherboards are there? Are there any specifications for them? What should you pay attention to before buying a motherboard? Let’s try and find out.
Simple answer: No. Not every motherboard is compatible with every PC case. Depending on your needs, motherboards are available in many shapes and sizes. Your PC case must also be big enough to fit the motherboard, so having a small form factor PC case won’t work.
First of all, we need to distinguish between the following types: Micro-ATX (mATX), ATX and Extended ATX (eATX) motherboards. There are also Mini-ITX boards but they do not have any standards and it is possible to buy cases that only fit these smaller boards.
Let’s review each type in turn.
The mATX motherboard is very popular among computer gamers because it has almost all the advantages of a full size board, but at a fraction of the price. This board occupies only one third of the volume occupied by an ATX model and therefore can be placed into more compact cases, so they usually come with smaller power supplies.
These boards may contain less expansion ports than an ATX board, but the difference is barely noticeable. The mATX motherboard has two standard sizes: 244x244mm (standard) and 244x268mm (extended).
The ATX board is the largest size of all standard motherboards which allows users to easily fit them into even the most spacious computer cases currently available on the market. This board contains more expansion slots than other types and therefore it provides for excellent possibilities for upgrades in the future by installing additional components such as graphics cards or sound cards. The dimensions of this model are 305x305mm.
eATX is a wider version of the ATX motherboard with dimensions of 12″ x 13″ (30.5cm x 33cm). eATX boards are typically used in servers or big workstations where they have enough space to fit additional expansion cards.
The size of the Mini-ITX motherboard has standard dimensions of 244x244mm, but it is also possible to buy these boards in sizes of 170x170mm and 170x175mm.
It is worth mentioning that today there are also motherboards that adhere to standards for other form factors such as BTX or SSI CEB.
However, these models don’t come into wide use that often because their requirements for high components reliability still aren’t met very well on the market.
Also, apart from smaller dimensions (BTX 12″ x 9.6″ (W) 29.5cm x 24.4cm, SSI CEB 10.6″ x 13″, 27cm x 33 cm), these models are very similar to the ATX form factor in terms of their functionality and therefore will be of interest mostly to advanced users or system integrators who build custom cases for their customers.
Now let’s try and find out how exactly you can tell which board type will fit into any particular case you have in mind, as well as what factors need to be taken into consideration before purchasing a motherboard that is compatible both with your current computer case and future plans concerning upgrades on it.
You can also read some tips for choosing mini-itx motherboards.
The first thing you need to do is find out the dimensions of your existing case.
They are usually indicated on either the front panel or by stickers on the sides and top of the chassis.
These dimensions should be clearly visible (not stuck in small text somewhere in a manual you don’t have anymore, for example).
If you can’t see these numbers anywhere, take a ruler and measure the width, depth, and height of your computer case.
The resulting numbers will very likely help you determine which motherboard size will fit into it without any problems:
- ATX cases: 240x280mm (width x depth) mm; 170-180mm (height)
- mATX cases: 200x244mm (width x depth) mm; 150-160mm (height)
- eATX cases: 305x305mm, 12″x13″ (width x depth) mm; 200-210mm (height)
You can also measure the dimensions of a motherboard you have in mind to see if it will fit into your current case just by looking at the size of its socket.
For example, an ATX board will always have a standard opening for a standard ATX power supply because all such units are designed to be compatible with these boards.
In turn, mATX motherboards have smaller sockets for their power supplies and therefore only small units will fit inside them.
eATX boards usually come with power supplies that are a little larger than standard but smaller than extended, with dimensions of 12″x10.4″, 31cm x 26.5 cm or 30″ x 10.4″, 76.2cm x 26.5 cm (these numbers may vary depending on the manufacturer).
As far as computer cases are concerned, there are different types of motherboard stand-offs with different heights and sizes from which you will have to choose.
To sum up, it is possible to fit all motherboard types in any computer case, but using the wrong components could result in instability, especially if you are planning on overclocking or installing additional cooling units.
It is therefore worth taking some time to check the specifications of both your motherboard and computer case before purchasing one.
Since it is quite difficult to determine which motherboards will fit into specific cases just by looking at images on websites, manufacturers’ manuals or search results, you are likely to have to look through a couple of different options before finding a unit that will fit your case’s motherboard stand-offs.