Problems regarding the motherboard of the PC can be daunting and are mostly dreaded because of multiple reasons. First being the large sum of money the part costs, and second, the difficulty to diagnose faults. The question of exactly how to check the motherboard is working or not can be unclear. That’s because the symptoms of a faulty motherboard can get really confusing with the similar symptoms of other components’ problems.
Troubleshooting and testing a motherboard is severely important for obvious reasons. It’s the most important part of your computer, one on which all the other parts depend, and failure of which can cause the entire system to die. In all possible sense, a motherboard is the heart and soul of your PC. Even if it isn’t dead completely, you still need to keep testing and checking it from time to time and try to resolve the minor issues it might have. There is a comprehensive list of ways and methods mentioned below regarding how to test the motherboard for faults.
How to Test Motherboard
Below we have described different ways to test a motherboard:
How to Test Motherboard With a Multimeter
A multimeter is highly convenient if you want to test your motherboard at home, it can help you test all the circuits of a motherboard and can detect if something is wrong. For troubleshooting and testing a motherboard, a multimeter is a great instrument. Let’s delve deeper into the details of how exactly to test a motherboard with a multimeter.
Testing for the DC Voltages
First of all, ensure that the 20-pin ATX is connected and that the computer is connected to power. The multimeter should be set at 20V DC. Probe the back of the connector using the black probe of the multimeter and make sure that it is in contact with pin 15, 16, or 17.
Through the red probe, test pins 9 (purple, VSB) and 14 (green, PS_On). Pin 9 has to be at 5 V-any different reading confirms a fault, pin 14 has to be between 3 V to 5 V. After that, turn the PC on; if the readings come down to zero, all is good, and if the readings are different, you have a problem.
Now use the red probe to check pin 8 (grey, Power_Ok); the reading should be above 2.5 V, indicating that it’s fine to start the computer. Then press reset and see if the readings drop to 0 and then go up to reach the normal level again; if they do, everything’s fine, and if they don’t, there is a fault.
Testing for Short Circuits
Short circuits are a common reason for motherboard failure; they can happen when there is a surge of electricity. Luckily, you can test motherboards for short circuits at home through a multimeter. Below are the steps for how to do that.
Power off the computer completely, wait for a couple of minutes to make sure that it has no current at all and has cooled down.
Take out the multimeter and set it to the lowest setting, which will be around 200 Ohm. Bring the meter to zero, for that bring the leads of the probes into contact with each other, then bring the leads into contact with the PC’s metal frame to ensure that the reading is zero.
Most computers are powered through an ATX power source; the ATX current can keep the motherboard powered even after the computer is turned off.
Open up the computer to find the motherboard and then carefully remove the ATX connector from it. Keep the black probe on the frame of the computer and use the red probe to check the volts of the PC’s AC round pin and the black wire pins, which should be on the DC connector. All readings should come as zero.
Now, while keeping the black probe on the metal frame with the red probe, test all the colored pins on the DC connector. All the readings should be 50 or above; readings lower than that indicates a problem.
To be completely sure about the possible faults, death the motherboard completely from the CPU. Then use the ATX pin chart guide and find the pin numbers on the motherboard, keep the black probe on the metal frame and use the red one to test the pins. The pins 3, 5, 7, 13, 15, 16, and 17 on the connector should give the readings 0; otherwise, the connector has a fault.
A multimeter can read the exact voltage, resistance, and electric current of the motherboard so you can know what is wrong with your motherboard if there is something wrong at all. You need to follow the above steps to check for voltage and for short circuits in your motherboard, and you can test your motherboard at home yourself
Here’s a video on how to use a multimeter:
Motherboard Test Softwares
Another easy way to test and troubleshoot the motherboard is using softwares. Fortunately, there is an extensive list of computer monitoring software which can monitor different components of a computer and give you the details about each one of them, including the motherboard. Below are a few promising softwares that can be used to test the motherboard.
Hot CPU Tester
Hot CPU Tester is the system’s stability tester. It tests the CPU and motherboard, analyzing the chipset and all the components of the motherboard for any defects and errors. It is easy to use and is a widely used reliable system health tester.
CPU-Z is free software that can detect all the details about the main components of your computer, including CPU, RAM, graphics card, and motherboard. Then it displays all that information for you on your screen. About the mainboard, it will show you its model, information about the chipset, and your BIOs like the version, date, and model. It can also show you the details about RAM, like its amount installed and its frequency and timing. This program is available for Windows PCs and Android.
HWinfo is a pretty comprehensive tool that will give you a detailed analysis of the hardware components of your system. It will give you a detailed report about CPU, memory, RAM, graphics card, video adapter, monitor, drives, network, ports, and motherboard. About the motherboard, it will show you the brand and model, open and used slots, chipset information, the supported USB version, along with a list of ACPI devices.
This tool is great to test your PC with a detailed analysis that it will present about your computer’s hardware and software. It will also fix some possible problems your system might be facing and will enhance your PC’s performance. It has plenty of comprehensive features and gives the greatest detail, not just about the motherboard but its parts as well.
PC Doctor is not a program, though, rather a system diagnostic test kit and one which offers great reliability. It is used to analyze computer hardware issues, including a faulty motherboard. The kit comes packed with different tools to check different components of the system, although it is an excellent solution but a pretty expensive one.
How to Test Motherboard Without CPU
While testing the motherboard without CPU is possible to some extent, there are certain limitations to that. You can power a motherboard without a CPU but keep in mind that while testing it, the motherboard is not going to make it through POST (power-on self-test). However, you can test it in certain aspects, like lightning; when the motherboard powers on, LED lights should brighten, confirming that the lighting is fine. The cooling department can also be checked, making sure that the case fans also turn on after powering up, indicating the faultless cooling system.
Although it still leaves a lot to be certain about whether your motherboard will power up your PC after being put together or not. If your motherboard comes with an onboard speaker, then it should emit beeps and monotones once it’s powered up; those are also a good sign. This indicates that it is trying to connect to a CPU. If the motherboard is powered without RAM, then you should hear those beep codes. Other than that, you can not test its performance entirely in other departments like audio quality, overclocking, and storage. For that, you have to connect it to a CPU.
How to Test a Used Motherboard
First of all, while buying a used motherboard, make sure that it supports the RAM you have or intend to buy; look for that in the motherboard’s manual. Motherboards have a lot of connectors on their surface to attach components to them, so you need to check these. Most of the connectors are in the form of pins; make sure that they aren’t bent, even if you can easily unbend them, that still hints at the possibility of the motherboard being hit and damaged.
Check the I/O connectors at the edge of the motherboard for damage, whether there are any damaged or broken. These are used to connect ethernet cables and other USBs. Also, check if there is the M.2 SSD screw included in the motherboard. This screw keeps the drive fixed on the motherboard and prevents the SSD from falling out.
Make sure the RAM slots and the area around them is undamaged. The CPU socket should be present and intact. Make sure that you can install the drivers to ensure that the motherboard can perform property. To confirm that the cooling system works correctly, make sure that the cooling solution connectors are unbroken.
How to Test Motherboard Outside of the Case
To test the motherboard outside of the case, firstly, make sure that the components that can be tested externally are installed. Those include CPU, graphics card, CPU cooler with thermal paste, and RAM. Connect the PSU to the motherboard and then plug its main power cable into the wall and power on both PSU and the wall.
To see if the BIOS is working fine, connect the monitor cable to the graphics card or into the HDMI/DVI/DP port on the motherboard. To confirm that all the components are detected, connect the mouse, monitor, and keyboard to the USB ports on the motherboard. After that, turn on the motherboard, the lights should illuminate, and the cooling fan should come into action, and if you see something on the screen, it means things are good.
To check whether the CPU and RAM are being detected, enter the BIOS of the motherboard and see on the screen if they are mentioned confirming that both are working, hence the motherboard.
How to Test a New Motherboard
To test the new motherboard, to guarantee that it’s working properly before you install it in the CPU, check the memory slots. Use a memory stick card and test each memory slot to ensure all are working fine. Then press the power button on it to ensure you can get it started, turn it off again. Check the fan headers by connecting a fan to each one of them and confirming all of them are working. Then, check the graphics card slots, put the graphics card in PCI-e slot 1, connect the video cable (HDMI, DVI, or any else), and turn the motherboard on. Repeat that with all the slots ensuring all are good.
You don’t need to wait for your PC’s screen to go blank completely as a result of a failed motherboard. You can test the motherboard beforehand and diagnose the faults and potentially fix some of them as well. In this article, those ways are listed along with detailed explanations; go through it and choose the method you think is easier for you to test your motherboard.
Matt is a PC Geek from his early age and love to play games from the days of Halo. Gaming has always been an important part of his life because it allows to connect, create and share with the world. He decided to turn the hobby into a blog where he can share his knowledge regarding the best components required to build an awesome PC.