What are Motherboard Standoffs?

Atif Liaqat | Last Updated On January 3rd, 2023

Building your own PC is a fun little activity that will also save you some money in the long-run. For gamers, building their own PC is one of their favorite activities, second only to playing video games after building it.

So when you are getting started with your first PC build, the motherboard, (or as we like to call it, “the mobo”) can seem like the most intimidating component that you will have to work with. Fixing the motherboard (see also how to buy a desktop motherboard) inside the case involves setting up the motherboard standoff screws before you mount the mobo onto the case. Beginners may have no idea on what are motherboard standoffs, to give you a brief introduction:

Motherboard standoffs are small screws that are used to install the motherboard into the PC case while making sure that the motherboard doesn’t come into direct contact with the case’s metallic body. 

This is the most important feature of standoff screws. I hope you’re more interested in the how’s and why’s of these standoffs. So in the upcoming sections I’ll go into detail on topics such as:

  • Why do I need standoff screws?
  • Are standoff screws conductive?
  • What are the compatibility issues I should be concerned about?

So, I hope you’re ready to learn more about these. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What are Motherboard Standoffs and Why do I need standoff screws?

Background of computer motherboard standoffs and screws

Building a PC might sound complicated for many beginners, but it’s the best way to get started in your PC gaming journey. For most entry-level gamers, I do not recommend getting a prebuilt, especially if you are going to use it yourself. A prebuilt is a great option as a gift for somebody who doesn’t care about the internal hardware or price, somebody who just wants to start gaming right off the bat. So if you are going to use this PC yourself, I highly suggest you buy all the individual parts and build it on your own. It’s a great activity that will teach you a lot about PCs.

So if you’ve already decided not to get a prebuilt, it is important to know exactly how to build your own PC. There are various guides on getting started with building your first PC, but in all of these guides, you have to deal with the motherboard standoffs.

So the standoff screws are provided by the PC case. Sometimes they are pre-installed, but in most cases you will have to install them by yourself. As I’ve mentioned previously, these standoff screws are used to mount the motherboard, but why exactly do you need them?

The reason for using these standoff screws relate to the safety of the electronic components. The standoff screws provide the motherboard with some “height” between the PCB; of the motherboard, and that of the metallic surface; of the PC case. Similar to how columns in a house provide support to the first floor and make sure that it doesn’t come falling down to the ground.

If the standoffs (for whatever reason) fail, and the motherboard PCB comes into direct contact with the case’s metallic surface, while the power is on, the metallic surface will provide a point of direct contact between all the paths of the PCB. When all the PCB paths are directly connected, without any resistance, there can be a short-circuit, similar to how the two terminals of a car battery when connected together by a metal rod start catching fire and burning up. The same thing happens on the motherboard PCB but, on a smaller scale and this can easily damage the motherboard, along with the CPU and GPU if you’re “unlucky” enough..

Surely enough, the PSU has some protective features to overcome this but that doesn’t mean you could just goof around with the motherboard. Depending on the situation, some components could get damaged beyond repair even before the PSU could act. So, it’s more of a “prevention is better than a cure” situation here.

Are standoff screws conductive?

Most conventional standoff screws are usually built from Brass, this is a somewhat conductive material but not as much as something like Copper, which is used in most electronic components.

Now the other reason why most people worry about the conductivity of Brass is because they think that the motherboard standoffs are what helps “ground” the motherboard. Electrical grounding (or earthing) requires an entirely different post on it’s own, but the basic function is to avoid electrocution by diverting the leaking current into the earth. (yes, the actual earth)

 What are the compatibility issues I should be concerned about?

Computer repair, installation motherboard, a tweezers holding a screw

When selecting a motherboard or a PC case, the first thing that you should consider is the form factor. You have to make sure that you won’t end up with something like a Mini-ITX case and an E-ATX motherboard, especially when ordering stuff online. It’s an honest mistake that most newbies make, one that I hope you will be able to avoid.

So for beginners, what I recommend is that you pick out the motherboard first, as it is the most important component of your build (at least more important than the PC case). After that, take note of the form factor and buy a case that corresponds to it. Most of the conventional PC cases you might come across, have ATX and smaller form factors (Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX). So you won’t have much of an issue if you get an ATX or Micro-ATX motherboard.

For a more detailed guide on selecting motherboards, check out any of our motherboard articles such as the “best motherboard for mining in 2023”.

Also in terms of the form factor, make sure that the holes in the motherboard, where the standoffs are supposed to go, directly line up with the holes in the PC case. You might run into instances where the case doesn’t have a standoff for each and every hole in the motherboard, that’s okay, as long as you have enough standoffs adjacent to it, which will provide enough strength.

This is just some basic info, and I suggest you learn more about fixing the motherboard in a more in-depth guide, for now, knowing the form factors and the purpose of these standoffs will help you to size up components very easily.

So now we know that the motherboard standoffs are used as a base, on which to install the motherboard into the PC case. It provides much needed stability and protection from the PC case so that you can secure it in place along with the motherboard screws.

You might also be interested in this article that we have about the best gaming PC under $700.


Building your own PC is not easy, but it is a very rewarding activity. Fixing the motherboard is one of it’s more daunting tasks that require you to properly set up the standoff screws. Knowing their purpose and how to set them up properly will ensure that the motherboard is secured in place without any electrical faults or structural issues. Knowledge of these standoffs will also help you make future decisions in sizing up the motherboard and finding the most optimal PC case for your desired PC build.

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