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How to Check Power Supply and Motherboard Compatibility

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How to Check Power Supply and Motherboard Compatibility

Key Points

  • Knowing which power supply works with a motherboard is crucial for building or upgrading a PC.
  • ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX are the three main types of motherboards.
  • Calculators like Cooler Master’s tool can help determine the power requirements for your system.
  • Consider the size and compatibility of the PC case when checking power supply and motherboard compatibility.

If you are building or upgrading a PC, knowing which power supply works with a motherboard is key. It’s also an area that trips up many newcomers. In this guide, we will tell you how to check a power supply to ensure it’s compatible with a motherboard. Having the right information can speed up your next build or upgrade considerably.

How Do I Check Power Supply and Motherboard Compatibility?

There are a variety of ways you can check power supply and motherboard compatibility. That’s due in part to the sheer amount of information on the web, along with tools like PC Part Picker. This handy site allows you to hone in on the perfect components for any PC based on your requirements. While these types of sites automate your search, there are other ways to determine if a PSU is compatible with a motherboard.

Step 1. Identify Your Motherboard

The first step to figuring out which power supply works with a motherboard is knowing the type of motherboard you’re dealing with. ATX is the most popular standard with motherboards, but it is far from the only option.

ATX or Advanced Technology EXtended motherboards are the largest type of motherboard, followed by the Micro-ATX motherboards. These boards have been around since the late 90s and are shorter than the full-sized ATX. They don’t have as many PCIe slots but they are cheaper than an ATX board.

M-ATX motherboards are used in PCs with a smaller form factor, but there’s one board that’s even smaller. Mini-ITX motherboards are the newest of the three styles and a popular option with builders and techies across the board.

You can check the motherboard using built-in tools if you have a Windows-based PC. Go to the Search Bar, type System Information, and then choose the corresponding section. Your motherboard information is listed under the BaseBoard Product section. You can use this information to help find the motherboard inside your PC case.

power.supply.motherboard.compatibility
There’s a wealth of information about your PC available through System Information.

Step 2. Check Your Power Requirements

Understanding the type of motherboard you have or are looking to purchase is half the battle. You have to make sure the PSU is compatible with your motherboard and has enough power to suit your needs. The best way to deal with this is through calculators, which can help you figure out how much juice you’ll need.

Cooler Master’s tool is a great example, but you have to know what components are inside your PC beforehand. You can use the System Information tool to help you find this information. Once you have the data, simply enter it into the boxes to understand how much power your system requires.

These tools consider the power requirements for RAM, graphics cards, and drives that require power. They don’t always take headroom into account, however. While you don’t want to buy a power supply rated too far above your needs, a little extra power allows you to upgrade without purchasing another PSU down the line.                                                 

Step 3. Ensure Case Compatibility

The last thing to seriously think about when checking power supply and motherboard compatibility is the case that enshrouds those components. If you’re replacing an existing PSU, things are straightforward.

sys vs CPU fan
When upgrading your PSU, first make sure your case is big enough to accommodate it.

If it’s a straight swap, you can buy the same power supply and hook it back up. If you’re upgrading, you must ensure the case has enough room to accommodate a larger PSU. Given the nature of these components, it’s relatively simple to find measurements for PSUs and PC cases.  

This is also where cable length and modular PSUs come into play. It “shouldn’t” be an issue with an existing build. If you’re putting together a new PC, the distance between the PSU and the components it needs to power can complicate things.

The Wrap-Up

You can use Google or pull up your system specs to get a better idea of compatibility with a site like PC parts picker. A little firsthand knowledge about your system will go a long way, however, and is the best way to ensure there aren’t any issues. If you’re working on a build with a new PSU and motherboard, check out our list of the best PC cases for cable management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is replacing a bad motherboard worth it?

That generally depends on the age of the PC and the cost of a new motherboard.

Are power supplies easy to replace inside a PC?

It depends on your skill level and the build. If you’ve never worked on a PC, it’s a job better left to professionals in most cases.

How much headroom should a power supply have?

While there’s no magic number, most people stick between 10-20%.

How much is a new motherboard?

Motherboard costs can vary wildly, so you can pay anywhere from $200 to more than $1,000, depending on your needs.

What is a modular PSU?

Modular power supplies have one or more detachable cables.

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