THE REAR PANEL
EVERY MOTHERBOARD OFFERS A VARIETY OF CONNECTORS AND PORTS AT THE REAR. HOWEVER, IT’S RARE THAT ANY TWO BOARDS OFFER THE SAME SELECTION OF SOCKETS, SO IT’S WORTH INVESTIGATING WHAT’S THERE
01. BIOS buttons
If you like to tinker with your BIOS, you could accidentally get into a situation where the computer can’t start up. Enthusiast boards often offer handy buttons that reset your system to default settings or recover a backed-up configuration. Without these, the only way to undo a configuration error might be to open up the PC and press a button on the motherboard—or set a jumper.
02. Wireless antenna connectors
If your board has builtin Wi-Fi, the backplate should include two screw-in antenna connectors. A small aerial unit is normally included in the box, and this will work fine for the average home. If you want the very best reception, you can replace this with any antenna assembly that uses the standard 3.5mm TS-9 connector.
03. Video Connectors If you’re using a PCI-E graphics card then you can normally ignore these—the card will have its own ports. However, for integrated CPU graphics, you’ll want an HDMI or DisplayPort output socket. It’s possible to run video over a USB Type-C connector, but that’s unusual in desktop boards. Older DVI or VGA connectors can also be useful for projectors or other legacy displays. 04. Audio jacks
Most motherboards have built-in audio hardware—the number of sockets at the back determines whether you’re limited to basic stereo or whether you can take advantage of
5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. An S/PDIF connector lets you connect your PC to an AV receiver or other digital-compatible destination, for the best possible sound quality.
05. USB ports There’s a confusing range of USB standards currently in use. Many boards offer a mixture of ports rated at 5Gbits/ sec and 10Gbits/ sec, while some go up to 20Gbits/sec.
Different speeds are sometimes indicated by differently colored ports, but there’s no consistency to this. You’ll likely see a mix of Type-A and Type-C sockets too, but this isn’t a big deal—with a cheap converter plug or cable you can connect any USB device to any socket.
06. Network ports Most motherboards offer one Gigabit Ethernet port; some have two, which can be aggregated to create a 2Gbits/sec link. Native multi-Gigabit Ethernet is also becoming common: the ASRock Z690 Aqua (pictured) has one 2.5GbE connector and one 10GbE port. If your board doesn’t have the connector you want, you can buy a USB 2.5GbE or 5GbE adapter quite cheaply. 10GbE can be added via a PCI-E card.
07. Legacy ports (notpictured)
Other connectors you might see include a nine-pin serial port (see above), a round six-pin PS/2 connector for a keyboard or mouse, a 25-pin parallel port for old printers, and a flat eSATA connector— from the days when SATA was the fastest way to connect an external drive. If you don’t recognize these connectors, you don’t need them. They won’t do any harm, but they do take up space that could be used for more modern connectors.