At this point, your have your processor, heat sink and fan and your memory installed onto your motherboard. In most cases you are now ready to install your motherboard into the case. In some cases, however, it is necessary to do a little configuration on your motherboard beforehand. It is easier to do this with the motherboard sitting outside of the case.
The settings that may need to be configured are:
- CPU Speed
- Bus Speed
- CPU Voltage Setting
Most motherboards in use today make use of the CMOS settings to configure these options. In this case, you can skip this step because you will need to wait until your new PC is powered up in order to configure these options. If, though, you are using an older motherboard in which these settings are controlled via the use of jumpers, then we need to tackle this here.
Configuring a Board Which Uses Jumpers
You need to have the manual for your board available. If you do not have the manual, log on to the manufacturer’s web site and see if you can find this info there. You can also try their tech support via phone. In some cases, too, some of the jumper settings are printed onto the surface of the motherboard. If you don’t have any of this info, you are just out of luck. Unfortunately, you must have some form of documentation available simply because motherboards have so many settings to adjust. If you’re dealing with an older board, you may need to spend some time trying to identify the manufacturer so that you can see if they do support it. You can many times use the BIOS ID numbers to identify the board online.
Motherboard manuals come in two main formats. Some are friendly for hardware buffs by listing a separate jumper or DIP switch for CPU core voltage, I/O voltage, multiplier, and system bus speed. They then tell you the settings for each of these. This format is better because of the increased control. Other manuals list the settings next to a list of commonly used CPU’s, showing the common settings for each. While this format is easier for the end user for easy setup, it is tougher if you like increased control of the settings, for overclocking for example. The best manuals do both: list the jumper settings individually as well as provide a list of processors and the jumper settings for each.
When playing with the board, be careful with it. Avoid placing the board on the static bag it came in, as this can cause an electro-static shock to build up, which may very well fry the motherboard. Always place the board on a flat surface, wooden desks work best, not carpet or anything like that. And always ground yourself before handling the board. When handling the board, handle it by the edges only when at all possible.
Now, here is the basic procedure for motherboard configuration:
- Read the Manual. Always. Read the listings for settings and locate all jumpers on the motherboard itself and what settings they control.
- Set the voltage settings. Most older chips use one single voltage. The newer chips we use today use a split voltage. Most of these motherboards provide jumpers for the core voltage and I/O voltage. Set them to match your intended CPU. If you are using an older chip with one voltage, just set both voltages to be the same. Your best bet to choose the correct voltage is to see what is printed on the CPU itself. Most CPUs will have “core voltage” printed somewhere on it. That is your voltage. Some jumpered boards are designed to detect the voltage automatically and then use the correct voltage. In this case, you will not have to worry about it.
- Set the processor speed. This is not usually done with a single jumper. It is, instead, done by setting the system bus speed and a multiplier. The multiplier is the number which when multiplied by the system bus speed gives the processor speed. There is a separate jumper for each of these settings. Configure these to match the intended CPU. If you know what you’re doing and would like to overclock the chip a tad, set these jumpers a little differently. Generally, though, I would recommend actually getting the system working before trying to overclock it. If your manual lists settings by CPU, just do what it says. You can sometimes infer from the manual which switches control voltage, multiplier, etc. Generally, if your board is jumper-controlled, you will need to consult the manual for the proper jumper arrangement, use the motherboard layout in the manual to find the jumper on the board itself, and use either your finger or tweezers to adjust the jumper to look like the diagram in your manual. When the jumpers in question look like they should in the diagrams, then you’re set. And, again, if your CPU settings are NOT jumper-controlled, you will be taking care of all this later on.
Some old boards make use of a jumper to set the cache size and type. Set this now, if need be. If you have internal cache, which most do, you won’t need to bother. Likewise, some boards give you the ability to use either AT or ATX power supplies. Depending on which type you will be using, you may need to set a jumper to tell the board what type of power to use.
If your board supports the asynchronous SDRAM clock speed, as most boards with Via chipsets do, you need to set the jumpers properly for this as well. This capability allows you to run the memory at a different clock speed than the rest of the system. This comes in handy, for example, when you want to use older memory yet run the rest of the system at the higher bus speed. You can set the system bus speed at 100MHz and then set the memory to run at 66MHz or 75MHz, for example. The instructions for properly setting this up are in your board’s manual.
If you’ve done that, most of the configuring is done. Now you want to double-check the other settings that were set by the manufacturer to make sure they are correct. Make sure the CMOS-clear jumper is set to normal so that you can change the BIOS settings later. Make sure the battery jumper is set to onboard battery instead of external battery. If you have a jumper enabling FLASH BIOS, make sure this is disabled. Also, check to see if all jumpers enabling or disabling onboard controllers are set correctly. All these settings are usually set correctly by default, but you need to make sure. Keep in mind that many boards control these feature via their CMOS and you will be setting them after the PC is up and running, not now with jumpers.
Double-Check all of your own work. Better safe than sorry.