Your motherboard determines how much you can upgrade your PC. It also determines what upgrades will and won’t work in your PC. Here’s how to tell what motherboard you have, possibly without even opening your computer.
You can check which motherboard you have by running a WMI command in Windows, dmidecode in Linux, or looking for visual cues on the motherboard itself.
What is a motherboard?
Your motherboard is the foundation of your PC. It’s the main printed circuit board bolted into your computer’s chassis, where your CPU, RAM, and all of your expansion cards plug in. It’s also sometimes called the mainboard. Both names are because it’s central to the computer. Everything plugs into it, and everything flows through it.
Your motherboard is what determines the very nature of your computer. It determines what kind of memory your computer uses, whether it uses an Intel or an AMD CPU, what generation of CPU, what kind of expansion slots you have, and how many expansion slots you have.
There are standards for motherboard size and form factor. That means you can replace any motherboard that follows the standards with another motherboard of the same standard. This means many motherboards are interchangeable. You can turn an old computer into a new one by replacing the motherboard, though how much money you save by doing so depends on how many parts you are able to reuse. A motherboard swap usually also involves a new CPU–what’s the point otherwise–and new memory. It also usually requires a new Windows license, since Microsoft usually ties your Windows license to the motherboard.
But before you talk any upgrades at all, whether you’re talking more RAM, a newer CPU, or a whole new motherboard, it helps to know what motherboard you have. Here’s how to check.
How to check what motherboard you have
There are many ways to check what motherboard you have. Some of them do not even require you to open the computer case. Which way is easiest depends on whether the motherboard is loose or already in the computer. But generally you can check the make and model of your motherboard in just a few minutes.
Check what motherboard you have visually
Most motherboards, especially major name brand motherboards like ASUS or gigabyte, will silk screen the model number on the motherboard itself. They may even include their logo or name, though that varies. Look for some kind of name painted on the surface of the board itself, usually between the expansion slots. If you’re lucky, the full make and model are right there.
If the brand is not on the motherboard itself, check on the metal heat sinks. Frequently they will engrave the brand name on one of the heat sinks.
If you are a little less lucky, you may only have a model number. A search for that model number with your favorite search engine will usually turn up the rest of the details.
If the board is loose or the PC doesn’t work, this is the easiest way to tell what motherboard you have.
What to do when there are no identifying marks
Motherboards from lesser known brands may not necessarily have a make and model printed on them, unfortunately. Older motherboards can be the same way. For some reason, many motherboard manufacturers in the past were hesitant to put their names on their boards. In some cases the quality was so bad this was understandable, but even really good boards sometimes didn’t have the makers name on them.
In those cases, there will still usually be some identifying numbers on the board somewhere, frequently on the edge near the last expansion slot. When you don’t have anything else to go by, do a search on whatever numbers you can find on the board. This will frequently take you to the manufacturers site, a regulatory website, or if nothing else, and enthusiast site that has identified many obscure motherboards. Frequently there is information available about even very obscure and old motherboards. Some details can still be unknown, but at the very least, information about the board usually has been preserved, sometimes even with the original manual.
How to check what motherboard you have with Windows
If your system will boot Windows, you can check your motherboard in a few seconds without even installing any additional software. Windows has a component called WMI that will tell you a lot of things about your system, usually including the details about your motherboard.
Click the Windows logo in the lower left part of the screen, or hit the Windows key on keyboard. Then type CMD and hit enter or press okay. A command prompt will appear. Type or paste the following command into the command prompt and then press enter.
wmic baseboard get product,Manufacturer,version,serialnumber
Windows will then tell you the make and model of your motherboard, and sometimes even the revision. A Google search on the details will usually turn up a manual that will give you all the information you need to know about the motherboard, including the type and quantity of expansion slots, what kind of memory it uses and how many memory slots it has, and what CPUs it is compatible with.
Check your motherboard with the CPU-Z utility
If you don’t like command lines but don’t mind installing a utility, you can install the free utility CPU-Z to find out all sorts of details about your system, including your motherboard. Simply install and run CPU-Z, and then click on the tab labeled main board in the user interface. This is usually the third tab from the left.
This tab will tell you the manufacturer and model of the motherboard, what revision of the motherboard you have, and a little bit about the motherboard chipset. It will also tell you the brand, version, and date of the system BIOS.
Clicking on the memory tab will tell you what type of memory you have, as well as how much. You can then click the SPD tab to see how many memory slots you have, and if any of them are empty.
You can use a very similar trick to check what available PCI Express slots you have as well.
How to check what motherboard you have with Linux
To check your motherboard in Linux, you need to open a console, then either become root or use the sudo command to execute the command dmidecode -t 2
This will give you very similar details to what users of other operating systems can get, including the manufacturer, product name, version, and usually the serial number.
If you prefer a GUI tool, you can install the CPU-X utility in Linux, which is meant to be similar to the CPU-Z utility in Windows. To get the details of your motherboard, click the motherboard tab to get the make and model, then click the memory tab to get the details on how much memory you have, and any empty slots you may have.