Do Laptops Have Motherboards? Laptop Anatomy 101

Head to any computer store, and you’ll have no doubt seen a shelf stacked with rows and rows of PC motherboards, offering improved functionality between all components and introducing better connectivity across your setup.

You will not however see a laptop motherboard amongst the display though. Why is that? Laptops do have a motherboard don’t they?

Just like PCs, when you open up a laptop you will find it contains a motherboard. In fact as laptops have many components directly built onto the printed circuit board (PCB) each model tends to have a custom designed motherboard to fit their chassis. This means that the motherboard in one laptop can’t necessarily be used in a different machine thus leaving little to no options to upgrade, and goes some way to explaining the difficulty in sourcing a replacement.

A laptop motherboard
Image by RED_SPY on Canva Pro

Are all laptop motherboards the same?

Laptop motherboards are often custom-designed for a model or specific line of laptops and are not all the same. Even across the same brand, you may find the motherboard varies from one model to the next.

This is because laptop motherboards have a good chunk of their components hardwired onto them and are designed in such a way as to slot into a plastic or aluminium body and be as compact and portable as possible.

You will still be able to switch out basic things like the RAM and HDD/SSD however everything else is likely to be physically attached with no way of removing it.

A replacement motherboard for a laptop will not be as easy to come by as the modular units used to custom build PCs.

Can you build a laptop using a PC motherboard?

PC motherboards are far too bulky to be used in a laptop.

Remember, a PC motherboard is unlikely to have major components built into it (e.g. fans to cool down your processor) so even if it did somehow manage to fit inside of a laptop chassis, once you start adding all of those components, it will very quickly outgrow the available space.

Remember, laptops are all about running as cool as possible which the components on a PC motherboards are very rarely able to achieve without the help of a tower full of fans.

Laptop motherboards and PC motherboards really are products designed for completely different purposes.

A laptop chassis opened up to expose the motherboard.
Image by Изображения пользователя Алёна on Canva Pro

Can you build a laptop using a laptop motherboard?

You aren’t going to be able to pick up a brand new laptop motherboard easily. There just isn’t the supply demand required for laptop manufacturers to sell them as a standalone product. It is very rare that they will sell them as a spare part too.

This is because it is ridiculously difficult to remove a laptop motherboard as the bulk of components are physically soldered in place. 

However, let’s say you do somehow manage to pick up a laptop motherboard. Can you then build a laptop from it? 

Theoretically yes, however you will also need the exact same laptop chassis that the laptop motherboard came from plus all of the components that are compatible with that particular board. 

One would also argue that you aren’t really building a laptop when you use a laptop motherboard but rather reconstructing one. 

After all, you don’t really have a choice in many of the components beyond the HDD and RAM. You can’t customize the processor. You can’t customize the graphics card and even basic connectivity such as the number of USB slots cannot be customized. 

Can you change the motherboard in a laptop?

Assuming that you are switching motherboards that are exactly the same, then you can change the motherboard in a laptop. Although, of course, your laptop is going to be exactly the same spec which kind of defeats the purpose of making the switch in the first place. 

Do bear in mind that it can often be tricky to track down replacement laptop motherboards. Because they have been designed for specific laptop models, not very many of them are made. When laptop models are discontinued, the motherboards are often discontinued alongside it. Since people are very rarely scavenging old laptops for parts, very few of these used motherboards ever hit the market.

Basically, if you have an issue with the motherboard on your laptop, then your best bet is to purchase a brand-new laptop. It is too much hassle to swap out the motherboard, and you will be dealing with old tech anyway.

Round up

Laptops have motherboards that are custom-designed to fit the chassis of each specific model. As a result there is very little cross-compatibility  between different brands or models of laptops and means that you will find it very difficult to custom-build your own laptop.

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