I’m a Former Sysadmin and Here’s How to Check Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility

sys vs CPU fan

I’m a Former Sysadmin and Here’s How to Check Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility

Key Points

  • To determine motherboard and PC case compatibility, you need to identify the form factor of your motherboard and the supported form factors of your case.
  • You can use a measuring tape or ruler to measure the dimensions of your motherboard if you don’t have the documentation.
  • Larger cases are generally intended for ATX motherboards, while smaller cases are designed for micro-ATX or mini-ITX motherboards.

How do you check motherboard and PC compatibility? Building your PC is like assembling a piece of furniture from IKEA, albeit without the handy kit and instructions to get you started. There are a multitude of cases and motherboard form factors out on the market. This only serves to muddy the waters of how things work.

Today’s guide will teach you the quickest way to determine if your motherboard and case will work together. Thankfully, the actual process is a simple one. You don’t need a lot in terms of components or tools, as you’ll see. So, strap in my dear reader, and join a former sysadmin in troubleshooting one of the easiest problems you’ll find with any set of hardware.

What You’ll Need

Before you get started, you’ll need a few odds and ends. This isn’t anything major, but it should be a standard part of your kit at this point for assembling or troubleshooting computer components. My personal recommendations for this guide are as follows:

  • Case
  • Motherboard
  • Screwdriver
  • Anti-static wrist strap
  • Additional hardware components

Now let’s get started.

How to Check Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility Guide

Now, we aren’t going to go into complete detail about how to fully assemble your PC on your own. Instead, today’s guide is intended to make sure you’ve got the right motherboard for the right case.

Identify Your Motherboard’s Form Factor

Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility
Motherboards come in many different form factors, like this micro-ATX.

On the off chance that you don’t have a box or any sort of documentation for your motherboard, you’ll still need to identify the form factor. This is the first and most crucial step in determining motherboard and PC case compatibility. If you do have your manual or box, then you’re in luck. It should just be listed in the included documentation or the box itself.

However, if you don’t, then it’s still alright. If you’ve got a measuring tape or ruler handy, you can figure this out in no time at all. Just keep this table of measurements handy and you’ll be good to go.

Form FactorPhysical Dimensions
ATX12 x 9.6 inches
Extended ATX12 x 13 inches
Micro-ATX9.6 x 9.6 inches
Mini-ITX6.7 x 6.7 inches

There are certainly other form factors to keep in mind, but those are usually intended for embedded systems. If you’re building something like a workstation or gaming PC, just keep those four in mind and you’ll be fine.

Identify Your Case’s Supported Form Factors

Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility
Like motherboards, PC cases come in a variety of different form factors intended for a variety of use cases.

If you somehow don’t have any documentation or a box at the very least for your case, then things can be a bit confusing. To further add to the confusion, some cases come with additional riser screw locations to accommodate multiple different motherboards. This is most common in larger cases, where an ATX motherboard might be intended.

There isn’t a simple solution like counting the riser screws. Your best bet will be to either check the documentation or specs for your motherboard through the manufacturer. That said, there are a few general rules of thumb you can use. Larger cases are generally going to be intended for ATX motherboards.

Smaller cases can be a little more confusing, but the size discrepancies between micro-ATX and mini-ITX are quite substantial. At any rate, you need to identify your case’s model and double-check with the manufacturer’s specs to determine what you need.

Install Riser Screws

Closeup of new modern empty computer case
Your riser screw locations will be marked on any modern PC case.

If you’ve verified motherboard and PC case compatibility, then you’re ready to install your motherboard. You’ll want to carefully thread in the riser screws for your motherboard’s form factor, which should be available in your manual or through the online manual provided by any manufacturer. Every motherboard’s form factor has specific locations for the screws.

You’ll want the riser screws in place to prevent any sort of damage to your motherboard while it is operating. Riser screws prevent a list of maladies that aren’t really in the domain of this guide. Some cases will come with them pre-installed, which certainly helps with the installation process.

At any rate, just install them, as it only takes a few moments.

Slide Motherboard Into Place

new cpu is being mounted unto the motherboard. Installing Memory Ram slots, microprocessor and motherboard
The motherboard should slot tidily over the riser screws to prepare for mounting.

Now that we know our motherboard and PC case compatibility is guaranteed, you’ll want to slide your motherboard into the case. The mounting holes on the motherboard itself should directly correspond with the riser screws on your case.

If that isn’t the case, then you need to go back and double-check that you have the right case for your motherboard. A mini-ITX motherboard isn’t going to work inside of a micro-ATX motherboard unless explicitly stated. So, triple-check things before moving through the whole installation process. It’ll save you time and money.

Install Motherboard Mounting Screws

Screw driver in the screw. A screwdriver in the form of an asterisk. Repair and disassembly of electronics. Macro photography of the electronic Board.
Take care not to get the screws too tight when mounting your motherboard to the case.

Once you’ve got your motherboard and riser screws in place, it’s time to install your motherboard. This is a fairly simple process, you’ll just need a steady hand and a screwdriver. Make sure to tighten the motherboard mounting screws so they are tight, but don’t over-torque them. This could lead to damage and compromise the integrity of your motherboard. Get it snug, but make it easy to remove them.

Once your motherboard is secured, you can move on to the next step.

Connect Motherboard to PSU

Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility
All motherboards are going to require power from the PSU to function.

You’ll want to connect your power supply unit to your case and get ready to hook up the power connector to the motherboard itself. These are very clearly marked and should be simple to click in place. It does require an amount of force to install successfully, but just apply steady and gradual pressure until the connector snaps into place.

During this process, and all other components being installed, you’ll want to be properly grounded. My favorite solution for this is an anti-static wrist strap. It helps prevent static electricity from discharging and damaging any components. They are affordable, so there isn’t an excuse to avoid them.

Install Components

Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility
With the motherboard properly installed, you’re ready to install components.

Once the power supply cable is plugged in, you’re ready to install all of your components. This isn’t a full guide to building a PC from scratch. I’m assuming you at least have some degree of knowledge on how to assemble everything. If you don’t, most cabling should be marked, like your case fans, USB headers, and so forth.

Your GPU is going to end up in whichever is the highest bandwidth PCI-Express lane you have available. RAM goes in the DIMM slots, the processor goes in the CPU socket, and you should have a full list of the installation process in your motherboard’s documentation.

Simply put, you should be able to build your entire computer after checking the motherboard and PC compatibility.

Test for Functionality

Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility
With everything connected and in its proper place, you’re ready to test and see if your PC functions.

Once you’ve got everything properly installed, seated, and connected, power on your PC. With any luck, it should go to POST and you can verify that everything is working as intended. From here, you can check your motherboard’s BIOS to make sure it sees every component, like your hard drives and RAM.

After verifying functionality, you can move on to installing the operating system and any specialized drivers you might need for a graphics processor.

How to Check Motherboard and PC Case Compatibility Summary

1. Determine your motherboard’s form factor.
2. Figure out which motherboard form factors your PC case supports.
3. Install your riser or standoff screws in their intended location.
4. Line up your motherboard over the riser screws.
5. Mount your motherboard to the case while being careful not to overtighten screws.
6. Connect your motherboard to your power supply.
7. Assemble the rest of your components and make proper connections.
8. Test and verify the functionality of all components.

Closing Thoughts

In my previous life as a sysadmin, we always made sure to have documentation on hand to determine motherboard and PC case compatibility. That said, figuring it out on your own isn’t too much of a problem. Just about every PC component is going to have clearly labeled markings or will have detail-rich literature to help provide the answers you’re seeking.

Thankfully, even if you don’t know what you’re working with, you can figure it out pretty quickly. Hopefully, this guide has you well on your way to enjoying your new PC.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does every case work with every motherboard?

No, it will really depend on the intended form factor for your PC. A micro-ATX case might not have support for a mini-ITX, just as a general example.

Are Extended ATX motherboards common?

Not for most desktops that home users are going to build. If you’re looking to build your own personalized workstation, you might see them. However, that degree of connectivity typically isn’t needed for a gaming PC.

Do you need riser screws for your motherboard?

You do, and that is more of a hard requirement than a recommendation. Your PC might function just fine without the riser screws, but there is always a risk of damaging components or completely bricking your system.

Is building a PC easy?

If you have the patience it isn’t a difficult task.

Do you need special tools to build a PC?

The only hard requirements that I recommend are a standard Phillips head screwdriver and an anti-static wrist strap.

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