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How to Buy Used Motherboards

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How to Buy Used Motherboards
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How to Buy Used Motherboards

The heart of a computer lies in its motherboard. This one item ties all of the various processors, hard drives, monitors, and everything else together, allowing a computer to function properly. As the main printed circuit board in a computer system, the motherboard holds a majority of the electronic components crucial to the function of the overall computer system. This includes the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the computer memory, as well as connecting all of the other peripherals of the computer system as a whole.

When buying a motherboard to build a computer or replace a damaged motherboard, shoppers can save money by buying a used part. Used motherboards often feature the same functionality as their newer counterparts. Used motherboards come in the same form factors and can accommodate all of the available CPU brands and memory types. When buying used motherboards, shoppers can find them at local computer shops, online at various computer part websites, or at online marketplaces like eBay.

Types of Motherboards

When shopping for used motherboards, shoppers must first know the type of motherboard that they need. The following table details some of the more common motherboard types, which a socket number or letter or combination of the two usually indicates.

Motherboard Types

Description

Socket A Motherboard

Manufactured for AMD and Durons processors; also known as a Socket 464 motherboard; has 462 pins and a bus speed of 100 to 200 MHz

Socket 370 Motherboard

For Intel P-III, VIA Cyrix III, VIA C3, and Celeron processors; comes in a PGA package with 370 pins; bus speed of 66 to 133 MHz

Socket 378 Motherboard

For the Intel Pentium 4, 4EE, and M processors; has 478 pins and comes in a PGA package; bus speed of 100 to 200 MHz

Socket T Motherboard

Known as the LGA 775; meant for the Intel Core 2 Duo Quad and Xeon processors; includes 775 pins and a bus speed of 1600 MHz

Socket 939 Motherboard

Meant for the AMD family of processors; comes in a PGA package with 939 pins; bus speed of 200 to 1000 MHz

Socket AM3 Motherboard

For the AMD Phenom II and Athlon II processors; has 941 pins and comes in a PGA package; bus speed ranges from 200 to 3200 MHz

Socket H Motherboard

Known as the LGA 1156: for Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors; 1156 pins and comes in Large Grid Array (LGA) packaging

Socket G2 Motherboard

Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors; 988 pins; bus speed of 2.5 GTs and 4.8 GTs;

Shoppers replacing a damaged motherboard should see which motherboard they currently have. This way, they can replace the damaged motherboard with a similar one.

Motherboard Condition

When buying a used motherboard, get as much information about its condition as possible. Sellers often state that the motherboards they sell are untested, pulled from a working system, or tested. The sections below give more information on the various motherboard conditions.

Untested Motherboards

When dealing with an untested motherboard, shoppers should realize that the board has not received any kind of testing to see if it even works. Shoppers need to remain aware that even if they return the board, they more than likely have to pay shipping to return it.

Working Pulls

Working pulls mean that the motherboard was pulled from a computer that worked at the time it was pulled. Look for a good feedback rating from sellers who list motherboards as from a working pull source. This helps ensure that other shoppers were satisfied with the seller's product condition.

Tested Motherboards

As with working pulls above, the seller's feedback rating goes a long way toward determining if shoppers want to buy a seller's tested motherboard. Even with tested motherboards, some clear distinctions need to be made. The table below contains some of the different ways of testing a motherboard.

Test Types

Description

Post Testing Motherboard

Post testing tests the motherboard up until the point before booting to the operating system; can catch most, but not all problems

Built-Out Testing Motherboard

Tests the motherboard using a functioning computer; the most thorough testing method; can test ports and on-board audio

Even with all of the various tests, problem motherboards can still get through. For the most part, using a seller who has a good return policy should guarantee a working motherboard a majority of the time.

Other Motherboard Factors

More goes into the makings of a motherboard than the number of pins or its various bus speeds. Motherboards fit certain forms, which help determine its dimensions, the power supply it uses, the location of any mounting holes, or the number of ports available on the computer's back panel. In addition to this, when buying used motherboards, shoppers need to keep in mind the capacitors, CPUs, memory, and video cards that their computer uses or that they desire for their computer. The following sections contain some of the other factors that go into motherboard construction.

Form Factor

Form factor helps ensure that motherboards remain the same size across computers, creating an industry standard. The table below contains some of the more common form factors, such as ATX and BTX.

Form Factors

Max. Size

Description

ATX Motherboard

305 x 244 mm

The most popular form factor for commodity motherboards; created by Intel in 1995

microATX Motherboard

244 x 244 mm

Shorter than the ATX form factor; has fewer slots; allows for a smaller power supply; compatible with most ATX cases

Mini-ATX Motherboard

150 x 150 mm

Slightly smaller than microATX; generates less heat; has better application capability

BTX Motherboard

325 x 267 mm

Successor to ATX; layout has better cooling capabilities; not compatible with an ATX case; processor placed close to fan

MicroBTX Motherboard

264 x 267 mm

Smaller version of a standard BTX board; supports up to four expansion slots

When choosing a used motherboard to purchase, shoppers should check to see which form factors that their computer can accept. ATX and BTX cases provide different configurations, with one not fitting the other.

Capacitors

If possible, before buying a used motherboard, check the board's capacitors. Shoppers should look for leaking or bulging capacitors, as they eventually cause the motherboard to fail. When purchasing online, carefully examine any photos provided, looking for the above-listed problems.

CPUs

Before purchasing a used motherboard, shoppers should check the CPU support list for the motherboard in question at the motherboard manufacturer's website. While some board manufacturers keep their support lists up to date, others do not. Some even hide this information in the BIOS update notes. One way to discern what CPUs the motherboard supports includes reading the board's user manual.

Front Side Bus Speed

When checking for compatible CPUs, make sure that the motherboard's front side bus speed is the same as the CPUs or faster. Some boards allow overclocking, which gives computer users the ability to increase a motherboard's speed, allowing for the use of more powerful CPUs. If computer users remain unsure as to how to set the front side bus speed, they should check the motherboard's manual.

BIOS

When purchasing a motherboard, computer users should make sure to update the BIOS or buy a motherboard with an updated BIOS that allows them to use the CPU that they choose. If unsure of which version of BIOS the used motherboard contains, look in the item listing or ask the seller to clarify.

Memory

Memory provides another area of concern when purchasing used motherboards. Shoppers can try finding a manufacturer's memory compatibility list, but these often contain few entries. One thing that manufacturers do offer includes memory configurators that tell customers what memory works with a given motherboard.

Video Cards

The primary factor in determining if a video card works with a particular motherboard deals with the signalling voltage that a card uses. Many older video cards use a higher signalling voltage than the newer cards available, and shoppers should make sure that the used motherboard they want to purchase proves compatible with any video card that they also buy. Remember, just because a video card fits in the slot does not make it the right type for a particular motherboard.

Find Motherboards on eBay

Buying computer products online offers many advantages compared to the time and effort it takes to look around at local shops. For those shoppers who want a convenient, secure, and cost-effective experience, just visit the eBay marketplace. Once there, do an easy search for products by entering keywords into the search box on any eBay page. Use terms like "used Toshiba motherboard" or "used Intel socket 478 motherboard", for example, to begin your search. After viewing the list of results, shoppers can narrow the listings down. Just click on the categories options to display the listings that describe the particular item of interest, such as a used motherboard.

Other valuable resources on eBay include the search tips page, specific eBay shops, and seller feedback ratings. The ratings provide information about how the seller has performed to date as rated by past shoppers. When making a purchase, shoppers should read over the product listing to make sure it matches their requirements. Speak to the seller directly if necessary by clicking the Ask a Question link on the seller’s listing page.

Conclusion

Purchasing a used motherboard can save shoppers money, especially when replacing an existing motherboard that no longer works or as part of a system built from the ground up. When buying motherboards, shoppers need to keep in mind the form factor of the motherboard; otherwise the board might not fit in the computer case. In addition, shoppers should pay attention to the type of motherboard they plan to purchase and whether it has been tested or not.

Shoppers should likewise make sure that any capacitors on a motherboard do not show signs of wear, such as leaking or bulging. Shoppers should use compatible CPUs as well, because this ensures that the computer operates properly after installing the motherboard. Always make sure that the motherboard includes the latest BIOS downloaded, and check the compatibility of any video cards used. Shoppers should also make sure to ask the seller any questions they have about used motherboards on eBay.

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