Motherboards, together with the CPU, PSU, and RAM, are essential components of a computer. Without a motherboard, you would have no way to unify all your components and use them. Every single component, including the I/O, power button, and power supply, is connected to the motherboard. It allows them to work together and communicate. So, how long does a motherboard last?
Motherboards have an average lifespan of around 10 to 20 years. There are a lot of factors that go into the lifespan of a component. How much you use them, the temperatures and the voltages all play a major role in the motherboard’s lifespan. If you use your computer for a few hours every day, the motherboard will probably last you for 10 years or even longer.
Continue reading if you are interested in motherboards, how long they last, how often they should last in the first place, what affects their longevity, and more.
How Long Does a Motherboard Last?
As you have read above, motherboards usually last 10 to 20 years, but that is only a rough estimate. If you take good care of your computer by cleaning the dust, changing the thermal paste, making sure that the temperatures are not too high, and so on, then you can expect it to last even longer. You will likely replace the motherboard because it is old and obsolete before that.
However, there is always a possibility that a motherboard does not even last you a week. This happens if the motherboard has a manufacturing defect or it got damaged in shipping. If that is the case, then you can easily RMA it and get a new one, provided that the board is covered under warranty.
The chance of this happening to you is slim, so you really should not worry about it unless it happens to you. In that case, you will have to contact the store you got it from and have it replaced.
It goes without saying that if you spill something onto your motherboard or nearby component or if it gets damaged due to static discharge, the motherboard will die instantly irrelevant to the age of the component. You can prevent it by being extremely careful and being grounded whenever you work around your computer. An anti-static wrist strap will prevent static discharge.
If your motherboard blows a capacitor, you can probably have a skilled electrician replace it and continue using the motherboard. Again, you really should not do this unless the motherboard is out of warranty and you can’t afford to replace it at the moment.
There is also the question of how long a motherboard should last in the first place. Technology improves very fast, so frequent upgrades are common among all people that rely on computers, phones, and other devices. Computers are somewhat similar to cars in that regard.
While your 20-year-old Toyota Camry can probably last you for another 20 years easily with regular maintenance, you probably want to get something newer that is more comfortable, drives better are safer, and has new features.
The same goes for motherboards and other computer parts. You can find the answer to this question below.
How Long Should a Motherboard Last?
This is a completely different question from the previous one. Even if your motherboard can last for a decade or two, do you really want to use it for that long? Even high-end motherboards that were the best available when you bought them will probably become almost completely irrelevant after 7-8 years.
Your high-end computer from today will struggle to run games at 30 FPS on very low settings 6-10 years from now. If you are a computer enthusiast and want to have the latest and greatest available, upgrading every 2 to 3 years is probably the best. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to change your motherboard, though.
If you can find a CPU that is significantly more powerful than your current one and it is compatible with your motherboard, then you do not have to change it. The socket type and BIOS support dictate this compatibility. Note that even if your new CPU is compatible, it may be limited by a low-end motherboard in terms of maximum voltages and overclocking, but it will work nonetheless.
When it comes to significant generational leaps, such as the recent jump from PCIe 3.0 to PCIe 4.0, you will have to upgrade your motherboard to get the benefits of the new technology.
Also, when a new generation of RAM and a new processor socket come out, you will have to change your motherboard to use the new parts. Whether that new technology will interest you is entirely up to you.
On average, people use the same motherboard for 5 to 6 years and only do minor upgrades to their system or none at all. If you only need a computer for basic tasks, like web browsing, MS Office, conference calls, and similar, then you can probably use the motherboard as long as it works. Once it dies or makes your computer unstable, then you can think of upgrades.
If you use your computer for work, then you will be fine with upgrades every other generation. That essentially means getting a new motherboard and other parts every 4 to 5 years. That is ideal for most people as it strikes a nice balance between performance and value.
You can upgrade your system and buy a new motherboard every other year for the latest generation, but you will not see significant differences in both new technology and performance. On average, computer parts only get around 10-20% faster each year, so you can see why an 80% performance increase makes more sense than a 40% increase.
Remember that you should buy a motherboard after you picked all the components you want to use, not the other way around. The motherboard is only there to let all the different parts communicate to get stuff done. Buying a motherboard first will limit your choice of CPU, RAM, and other parts. Also, pay attention to the number of fan headers. You want to get as many as you need.
How Does a Motherboard Affect Performance?
The motherboard does not have a direct impact on performance. You could call it a “passive” component of some sorts that only serves to connect everything else. However, some features and differences will affect your motherboard choice. There is a reason why a single manufacturer makes 10-15 different models of a single chipset (Look at the new B550 motherboards for example).
The number of RAM slots, SATA ports, PCIe slots, M.2 SSD support, and even the number of fan headers is only some of the things that go into your motherboard purchase decision. You do not have to get anything fancy or expensive if you only want to do some basic work. Buy the motherboard based on the features that you need, for example, the number of RAM slots.
However, if you are an enthusiast, the motherboard you get affects many other things. The chipset you get affects both the performance and whether you will be able to do any overclocking on it. For example, if you are on AMD, you should get the A320 chipset only if you do not plan to do any overclocking and are buying a low-end CPU.
But if you are planning to overclock, you will need an AM4 socket motherboard for unlocked CPUs. Those would be the B450, B550, X470, and similar. On Intel, only “Z” (those that start with the letter Z) motherboards support overclocking on unlocked CPUs.
Another important factor to overclocking is the number and quality of VRMs. “VRM” is short for voltage regulator module. As the name suggests, they regulate the voltage that the CPU needs. In layman’s terms, those are the black boxes surrounding the CPU socket. You will notice that high-end motherboards designed for more powerful CPUs will have more VRMs than low-end ones.
You could say that the only thing that directly affects the performance of a motherboard are those VRMs because they allow you to reach higher overclock speeds. But the features that your motherboard supports are the main factor.
It is a good idea to buy a slightly more expensive motherboard than you need at the moment if you plan to use it for more than three years. For example, having four RAM slots instead of two is great as games generally require more and more RAM every year.
It is a simple yet good upgrade that you can and should do down the line as RAM memory tends to get cheaper over time. You may not need 32 GB of RAM right now, but you might need it in two years. It is easier to add more RAM than buy a new motherboard because of that.
The same goes for M.2 SSDs. Even if you do not plan to buy it now, NVMe SSDs will go down in price and you will regret not buying a motherboard with an M.2 slot. Similarly, getting a PCIe 4.0 motherboard rather than PCIe 3.0 is good if you want to get a new graphics card in the upcoming years.
Factors That Affect Motherboard Longevity
Many things can make your motherboard die prematurely. They can either kill it outright or significantly reduce its lifespan. This is why some manufacturers have started marketing their motherboards as resistant and durable pieces of tech that can last longer. Some examples are Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable and Asus’ TUF lineups.
You probably never thought about this, but the humidity of the room where your computer is located can have a significant impact on its lifespan. Water is a mortal enemy to your computer parts, especially your motherboard and power supply. If you live in an area with high humidity, then your motherboard will probably last less long than in places where the air is bone-dry.
You can’t really do much about this, save for getting a dehumidifier and perhaps getting some plants that absorb all the humidity in the air. Unless you live on a tropical island where the air humidity level is always 100%, this is not a huge concern.
Similar to moisture, getting even a drop of water can instantly short out your motherboard. Avoid spills and drinking water around the computer if you do not want your motherboard to die prematurely. This happens because water contains minerals that conduct electricity. Unless you are drinking distilled water, do not get liquids anywhere near your motherboard and other PC parts.
Just like any other piece of tech, heat plays a major role in the motherboard’s longevity. Your computer generates tons of heat as it works, so having proper cooling is a must. Unlike water, high temperatures will not kill your motherboard immediately, but they will cause it to degrade faster. The only way to mitigate this is to have good airflow, which means a well-designed case and high-quality case fans.
Constant changes in voltage caused by a malfunctioning power supply or general fluctuations cause the capacitors and other parts of the motherboard to wear out faster. If an electric discharge happens, there is a high chance that your motherboard will die instantly. For example, if your power supply decides to suddenly blow up one day, it will most likely bring the motherboard along for the ride.
You can prevent this by getting a high-quality power supply and a good, durable motherboard. The better the capacitors, the longer the lifespan of both components. Even if your motherboard can last for ten years, perhaps your power supply won’t be able to do the same. As a general rule of thumb, you should get a new power supply every five to six years.
This is an obvious one – if something or someone hits your motherboard hard enough, it will stop working immediately. Your motherboard can get damaged during shipment. Similarly, if you bought a pre-built system and it was not packaged well, there is a small chance that your graphics card will get loose and break the PCIe slot.
You can prevent physical damage by keeping your computer in a place where it can’t be accidentally bumped. When it comes to shipping, the best thing that you can do is to take out every single component and put it back into its original packaging. Unfortunately, most people throw away the packaging, so you will have to get creative with other materials to protect the components.
Usage and Degradation
Your motherboard, just like everything else, ages over time. The more you use it, the faster it degrades. A motherboard in its original packaging will still age and degrade, but not significantly. Electric devices degrade due to the electricity that passes through them. If your computer is always on, the motherboard will degrade a bit faster compared to turning it off when you go to bed.
You obviously bought the motherboard to use it, so you can’t do much about this step. The only thing that you can do is that you do not leave your computer on when it is not in use. You will save electricity and increase the computer’s longevity by turning it off.
A motherboard can last for around 10 years or more, but it will probably be obsolete by then. You probably won’t buy a new motherboard just because you feel like you need a new one. You will get a new one if your current motherboard stopped working all of a sudden or if you want to buy a new CPU that does not fit into your current motherboard.
Motherboards typically outlive their usefulness, which means that you are unlikely to replace it because it stopped working but because it got old. If you are an enthusiast, this means every two to three years to get all the latest bells and whistles and have the best performance available. Most other people will only upgrade their computer every five years or so, which includes the motherboard.
As a general rule of thumb, you should get a motherboard that has more features that you need at the moment of purchase because you might want to get an M.2 SSD or more RAM sticks in the future. This will make it cheaper than having to buy a new motherboard just because you want to upgrade your RAM. The same goes for PCIe 4.0, fan headers, SATA ports, and other tech.
A motherboard will most likely last you for as long as you need it. The main reason why people change their motherboard is that they want more features or a new processor. Make sure that the motherboard you are getting will be usable three to four years from now to get the most out of it. All in all, you will probably replace your motherboard every four to six years if you are an average user.