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My motherboard has recently decided to fry itself and I am now in a quandry. I do not know whether to buy a direct replacement motherboard or buy another one that all of my current components would fit (Processor,RAM, PSU etc). My question is, how can I easily gaurantee that my current components fit a new motherboard without googling?

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You can't unless you buy exactly the same model motherboard that broke. – Nifle Sep 30 '10 at 8:07
Why "without googling"? :S – RJFalconer Sep 30 '10 at 8:28

It's easiest to just find manual for motherboard which you have and read its specifications. If you can't do that, here's how to do it manually.

The "hard" way I do it is to check every component. It isn't very difficult. First you'll need to make a list of components in your computer. You'll need to list optical disk drives, hard disk drives, expansion cards, RAM type, processor type, PSU type and any fancy stuff such as fan speed controllers and similar.

Once you know which components you have, you'll need to identify their connectors. Biggest problem there are going to be CPU and RAM. The rest will be easier to identify. For RAM, you'll need to look for any inscriptions on the modules such as DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or similar. Once you find them, you'll know what type of RAM your new motherboard needs to support. frequency is also important, but it's probably not going to be a show stopper. If you can't identify RAM by inscriptions, you'll need to visually identify it. It's a bit more difficult, but Wikipedia comes to rescue here. The picture I linked contains information on how to identify type of RAM by position of its notch.

Next part would be to identify the processor. Here you'll need to read its model number and manufacturer because there's no other easy way to get to it.

Next on the list is video card. It's either going to be AGP for older computers or some type of PCI-E 16x for newer. On the second picture the PCI-E slot is second from the top. Notice how it starts from most left part of the motherboard while AGP is moved a bit to the right.

After that come optical disk drives and hard disk drives. It's very easy to identify them on a home computer. If they have a wide connector, they are using PATA connection. If they have narrow connectors, they are using SATA. It's common to have computers with SATA HDDs and PATA ODDs and most new motherboards have PATA ports or at least two devices.

Next is power supply. If it has a big connector with 24 pins, it's using ATX 2.x. If it has a connector with 20 pins, it's using ATX 1.x. Next part is to check how many processor power ports it has. Some have 8 (looks like two 4 pin together), some have 4 and some have none.

That's pretty much it. Fans have standard connectors which should work on all motherboards.

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CPU must be the same socket. (LGA 1156/Socket H, Socket AM3, etc)

Motherboard must state it supports that ram speed and per-slot capacity. (DDR2 PC8500, DDR3 PC12800, etc)

PSU will work fine unless you bought it 5 years+ ago.

Graphics slot must be correct type and sufficient speed. (PCI, AGP, PCIe)

It may however be a good time to consider a replacement system, depending on how old your existing components are. Especially as some of them may also be damaged.

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