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What is the difference between chipset and motherboard? Can I use chipset instead of the motherboard? Any disadvantage in using chipset?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

A motherboard is the complete printed circuit board (PCB) that holds all the other components. The CPU and any expansion cards plug into it, and it has the connections for ports such as USB and PS/2. If you look inside a desktop computer, it's about one square foot in size and should be the largest PCB in there.

All components of the computer are connected to the motherboard, either by

  1. being directly integrated into the PCB assembly,
  2. plugging physically into a slot or socket mounted on the PCB, or
  3. plugging into a cable connector or header pins mounted on the PCB.

The chipset usually refers to a particular set of components which are directly integrated to the motherboard. For specific details you should briefly read the Wikipedia article on chipsets, but usually the chipset consists of two chips, known as the northbridge and the southbridge. The northbridge is generally responsible for core system interconnects (memory, CPU) while the southbridge manages connections between other components such as PCI cards and USB devices.

In a more generic sense, chipset can also refer to a specific device controller chip that is (normally) connected to the PCI bus (ie the southbridge), depending on the context. For example, the SATA controller chip is sometimes referred to as the SATA chipset, whether it's integrated into the motherboard or on an add-on PCI(e) card. In the same way, one can talk about a RAID chipset or USB chipset or network chipset.

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you beat me to the punch, so i folded what i was working on into your answer. hope you don't mind. :) – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 5:08
What is a square foot? Did you mean flat foot? – kinokijuf Jan 24 '12 at 15:38
@kinokijuf A square foot is a unit of measurement for area. 1 square foot is equal to 0.0989 square meters. – Stephen Jennings Jan 24 '12 at 17:59
I don’t know anyone who uses such units. – kinokijuf Jan 24 '12 at 18:42
@kinokijuf: A square foot is a very common unit of area used in the United States, but of course it's using the Imperial measurement system. I am open to adding an alternative if it makes my answer clearer; how would you suggest something that size is best described? – Stephen Jennings Jan 25 '12 at 6:45

The chipset is a few chips found on the motherboard. It does not replace the motherboard.

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