New motherboards often have new features or standards that may be incompatible with older components. When you select a replacement motherboard, make sure that it supports the CPU, RAM, video adapter, and other adapter cards. The socket and chipset on the motherboard must be compatible with the CPU. The motherboard must also accommodate the existing heat sink and fan assembly when reusing the CPU. Pay particular attention to the number and type of expansion slots. Make sure that they match the existing adapter cards and allow for new cards that will be used. The existing power supply must have connections that fit the new motherboard. Finally, the new motherboard must physically fit into the current computer case.

Different motherboards use different chipsets. A chipset consists of integrated circuits that control the communication between the CPU and the other components. The chipset establishes how much memory can be added to a motherboard and the type of connectors on the motherboard. When building a computer, choose a chipset that provides the capabilities that you need. For example, you can purchase a motherboard with a chipset that enables multiple USB ports, eSATA connections, surround sound, and video.

Motherboards have different types of CPU sockets and CPU slots. This socket or slot provides the connection point and the electrical interface for the CPU. The CPU package must match the motherboard socket type or CPU slot type. A CPU package contains the CPU, connection points, and materials that surround the CPU and dissipate heat.

Data travels from one part of a computer to another through a collection of wires known as the bus. The bus has two parts. The data portion of the bus, known as the data bus, carries data between the computer components. The address portion, known as the address bus, carries the memory addresses of the locations where data is read or written by the CPU.

The bus size determines how much data can be transmitted at one time. A 32-bit bus transmits 32 bits of data at one time from the processor to RAM or to other motherboard components, while a 64-bit bus transmits 64 bits of data at one time. The speed at which data travels through the bus is determined by the clock speed, measured in MHz or GHz.

PCI expansion slots connect to a parallel bus, which sends multiple bits over multiple wires simultaneously. PCI expansion slots are being replaced with PCIe expansion slots that connect to a serial bus, which sends one bit at a time at a faster rate. When building a computer, choose a motherboard that has slots to meet your current and future needs. For example, if you are building a computer for advanced gaming that needs dual graphics cards, you might choose a motherboard with dual PCIe x16 slots.