When to upgrade your motherboard?

Mehak Sohail | Last Updated On December 19th, 2021

Upgrading the motherboard is one of those projects where you need to take into account a lot of other factors. It is not as fun as upgrading a GPU and not as easy as setting up a new SSD. There’s a lot of stuff to take into consideration, and most often, you might not have to upgrade at all. So when to upgrade the motherboard?

As long as it is not broken, you should upgrade the motherboard if you want to move on to a better CPU, because of socket compatibility issues.

CPU aside, there are a host of other reasons as well. In the upcoming sections I’ll go dive into the nitty gritty of these reasons so we could get a better idea of the motherboard and when we should consider going for an upgrade.

In the following sections I’ll go into detail on the

  • Socket compatibility
  • Ports and form factor
  • PCIe slots
  • RAM
  • Chipsets and overclocking

So with that out of the way, let’s get started.

Do it for the CPU Socket

CPU socket

Now the main reason why anybody would want to upgrade the motherboard is because they are getting a new CPU. Everybody knows that you need a compatible motherboard socket to make sure that the CPU will work on the desired motherboard. If you want to test out your motherboard without a CPU, we have a guide here.

Even though most Ryzen processors do not face this issue with their AM4 socket, things are not that much simple with Intel. Various generations of the Intel Core processors require different CPU sockets. For example the new 10th and 11th generation Intel Core processors require the LGA 1200 socket, whereas the older, 4th generation CPUs are only compatible with LGA 1150 sockets.

Now if you are thinking about upgrading to a better CPU, there can be two choices: either you can upgrade to a better CPU in the same socket (provided that you already don’t have the most powerful CPU in that particular generation) or you can get a more advanced CPU with a different socket. In the former case: upgrading to a newer motherboard is not a crucial step, but depending on the chipset, you might want to. In the latter case: you will need to get a new motherboard otherwise, your new CPU will not work.

In order to help you make a better decision in this kind of scenario, I’ve listed out the most widely used CPU sockets along with their compatible CPUs.

LGA 1150: For the fourth generation Intel Core series CPUs. These include older entries such as the Intel Core i7-4790K and Intel Core i5-4690K. As of March 2020, these sockets are considered obsolete and Intel has discontinued them. If you are using one of these CPUs I’d highly recommend an upgrade.

LGA 1151: The successor to the LGA 1150 socket. This line supports 6th-9th generation Intel Core processors such as Intel Core i9-9900K, Intel Core i7-9700K and the Intel Core i5-9600K. Even though Intel has already released their 10th gen and 11th gen Core processors, the LGA 1151 sockets are still a viable option. If you cannot afford a 10th/11th generation CPU (at least, try to get an Intel Core i3-10100F) along with a corresponding motherboard, then an LGA 1151 compatible CPU is going to be your last resort.

LGA 1200: For the 10th and 11th generation Intel Core Processors. As of right now, this is your best bet. The previously recommended Intel Core i3-10100F is a great option for budget PCs along with the Intel Core i5-10400 for a mid range build. You can go higher with an Intel Core i7-11700K but it’s going to cost you.

AM4: For all Ryzen CPUs. This socket makes things look so much simpler as all Ryzen CPUs are compatible with this socket. But you need to take the other specs of the CPU into consideration as well. So just picking out any AM4 compatible socket won’t be the most optimal solution. A couple recommendations would be: Ryzen 5 2600 and Ryzen 5 5600G (for budget and mid-range)

Now you’ve got a solid idea about the CPU sockets along with a few recommendations. In the next section we will get into the more obvious but oftentimes overlooked reasons for getting a motherboard.

Do it for the Ports

Ports on the motherboard of personall computer closeup

When getting a new motherboard, there are some subtle features that you need to consider, such as how many SATA ports, M.2 slots and extra PCIe slots (see also what does a PCIe slot look like) you are going to get. If you seem to run out of these ports, for whatever reason, it might be time to go for an upgrade.

Storage: In most modern motherboards you have enough SATA ports (see also how to check how many SATA ports you have here) for your 3.5” HDDs and 2.5” SATA SSDs. Higher storage isn’t something that many gamers would consider. (unless they are doing a Call of Duty marathon) Higher storage is useful for video editors and other content creators, but most gamers usually make do with the four or six SATA ports readily available to them. If you ever feel the need to use more SATA compatible devices or add more M.2 SSDs, then getting a better motherboard will be a good option.

Check this article to know how to add more SATA ports.

PCIe: Speaking of ports, you might need to consider the PCIe slots as well. Especially if you have a more recent CPU such as an 11th generation Intel Core processor. These new CPUs provide support for PCIe 4.0 while also being backwards compatible. It is always a good idea to upgrade to a motherboard that supports a faster PCIe version. But take note: while you’re at it, make sure that the GPU and CPU also support PCIe 4.0 as well.

Form Factor: Maybe you want to downsize to a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX case. (I would question your motives there, but you are definitely free to try whatever you please) If that is the case, you would want to make sure that the motherboard fits this new case, and if not, you might need to get one with a different form-factor.

DIMM slots: Speaking of Mini-ITX, most of these smaller form factor motherboards do not have 4 DIMM slots. So, another reason why you should upgrade is to make sure that you have the usual 4 DIMM slots instead of two. I won’t get into the performance dynamic of 4 RAM sticks vs 2 better RAM sticks right now, but if you want to make your build cooler and more versatile, 4 DIMM slots is the way to go.

Do it for the chipset

CPU socket compatibility aside, the chipset is the other main reason why people choose to upgrade their motherboards. Most entry level chipsets like the A520 for AMD and H310 for Intel come with cheaper motherboards, but they lack some of the more high-end features most gamers would expect, such as overclocking, multi-GPU support, PCIe 4.0 and many more.

So if you already have a motherboard with these entry level chipsets, I’d recommend going for an upgrade, especially if you want to utilize the full potential of your CPU and GPU.

For AMD users: Depending on what calibre your CPU and GPU are currently at, I’d recommend going for a B550 chipset (for mid-range) or the X570 (for high-end). Both these chipsets offer overclocking but the X570 can support PCIe 4.0. So if you have a new GPU that supports PCIe 4.0, definitely go for an X570 because it’s so much better in the long-run. I’d recommend the GIGABYTE X570 AORUS Pro as a good motherboard to get you started anew.

For Intel users: The mid range options such as the B460 does not support any form of overclocking, RAM or CPU. Therefore, if you are upgrading from the entry level H310, I’d recommend going directly to the high end Z590. If you’re looking for some solid recommendations, check out my article of the best motherboards for i5 11600K.

Along with the chipset I’d like to give a brief shout-out to VRMs, (Voltage Regulator Modules) the real MVPs of the show. These are the electronic components that make sure the motherboard gets a stable flow of power without any minor fluctuations or surges. VRMs are usually denoted as 14+2, 8+2.etc.. The first number represents the number of VRMs dedicated to the CPU while the other number represents the number of VRMs dedicated to the RAM.

These are like the PSU, in that they get the power from the PSU and restrict the voltage so that the motherboard can do its job.

When to upgrade the motherboard?

A motherboard has a ton of pieces attached to it, so there’s a lot of reasons why somebody would want to upgrade their motherboard. If you’ve made it this far, you now have a clear idea about CPU sockets, chipsets, VRMs and ports. So if your motherboard is not broken and you haven’t run out of ports, the only reason to upgrade the motherboard is when you are upgrading the CPU to a different socket or if you are hoping to get started with overclocking. If that is the case I’d suggest you take the time out to find out about the CPU specs, GPU specs, RAM specs and make sure that these support overclocking as well.


Upgrading the PC is always a fun challenge. However, the motherboard is one of the more difficult decisions you will ever have to make as it can primarily affect your CPU. So making sure that the CPU socket supports your desired CPU and that the new chipset offers overclocking with higher VRMs is an important spec that you need to look out for.

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