Custom PC building is an adventure on its own. From the hunt for specific components from various vendors to all the research and stories you hear from people both in person and on the internet for an optimal setup, one thing is clear. It’s not a quest for the faint-hearted.
For those who are not at all tech-savvy, building your first PC can be quite a challenge. Especially if you don’t know what to do with the components and if reading the manual just isn’t helping.
One such peculiar component is the standoff. What are motherboard standoffs? Where do you install them? Should you install them? What happens if you don’t and how do you install them?
The point to note when custom building is that even the smallest of the components is significant to the overall build.
Also Read: Does Motherboard Come with Cables?
What Are Motherboard Standoffs?
Whenever you’re building a PC or even just testing out a motherboard, you have to be aware that there are electrical connections at the bottom of the board just as there are some at the top.
These connections, mostly soldered points, will have current passing through them during operation.
While the manufacturer has usually done their part to isolate the different circuits, as users, we too have to play our part to avoid shorting the motherboard.
This is where motherboard standoffs come in. As the name implies, motherboard standoffs are used to keep the bottom side of the motherboard OFF from any surface, especially the case.
Since motherboard cases are mostly metallic, a standoff is used to raise the board off from the metal case so that none of the conductive parts at the bottom of the board can get shorted out – which would happen if multiple conductive lanes end up touching the board.
Standoffs Look a Little Like a Screw
Motherboard standoffs look very peculiar. On one end, they have threads, just like a regular screw. This site is used for mounting the standoff onto another surface such as a PC case.
The other end of the standoff has a hole that is threaded on the inside. This is the end at which the motherboard can be screwed onto the standoff once the latter has been mounted on a case.
The standoffs come in many different shapes and sizes. The thing with having standoffs is that they help you keep your board raised from any surface which it is supposed to be mounted on.
Issues of Attaching the Motherboard Directly to the Chassis
This can result in several issues. The first issue is short circuits. Electrical circuits on a motherboard are complex and carry not only power but also data to various parts of the board.
The board itself is made of numerous tiny and very sensitive components, most of which are very sensitive to the fluctuations in current.
As such, you will need to ensure that circuits that are meant to be kept apart are kept apart properly.
Mounting the board directly on a metallic case can end up connecting all the different circuits at the bottom of the board to a single point resulting in a short. This can, of course, lead to damages and can be a potential fire hazard as well.
They Come With the Case
We have seen that motherboard standoffs play a huge role in ensuring that a motherboard is protected from shorts.
When you build a custom PC and are purchasing a case for your board, you will often get the standoffs as part of the package.
Some cases go a step further and come with pre-installed motherboard standoffs. These are usually prepared for a certain board form factor and if you have a smaller board then you have to manually screw in ones that will match your board.
You can also purchase some online in situations your case didn’t ship with the standoffs in the same package.
Do Motherboards Come with Standoffs?
Many people believe that motherboards come shipped with standoffs. This is not the case mostly.
Most motherboards do not get shipped with their screws.
They come with PC Chassis. However, in case if you are building an uber customized PC without a commercial PC chassis, then they are relatively inexpensive and you can get a couple of them for a few dollars.
Using Motherboard Standoffs on a Case
Since these components come between the case and the board, it is important to install them correctly.
When assembling your PC, after doing all the necessary things like grounding yourself and installing the I/O Panel Shield at the back of the chassis, you will then need to screw in your standoffs.
A point to note is that there might be several holes that coincide with the mounting holes for different motherboard form factors that the case you have supports.
Hence, before installing the standoffs, ensure that you have matched the holes on your board to those on the case and identified the specific holes that will be needed to mount your board form factor.
For example, if your motherboard has an ATX form factor chances are that your PC chassis will have the corresponding standoff holes for ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards. However, here you will need to ensure that you place the standoffs only at ATX dimensions.
Also Read: What is motherboard form factor?
The trick is to connect as many standoffs as possible for good support.
Also, ensure that you tighten it just enough. Overtightening the standoffs can break them or damage the mounting hole on the case.
Installing the Motherboard
With the standoffs correctly and firmly mounted on the case, the board can now be added.
To do this, simply align the board with the standoffs in a way that you can access the screw holes of the standoffs through the holes from the top of the board.
This will let you fasten the board to the standoffs with the appropriate screws and tools.
Once aligned, you can start screwing the board to the standoffs. It is important to use the correct screws to avoid cases where a poorly secured board falls out of place.
In this case, also, ensure you don’t overtighten the screws.
Are Standoffs Necessary?
Motherboard standoffs come in two popular flavors, metallic and plastic. Despite being constructed from different materials, they serve the same purpose for the most part.
They keep the electrical circuits of the board away from the conductive metal that makes up the case.
With the space below the motherboard kept free, it is possible to have a good amount of airflow at the bottom of the board. This can contribute to cooling the board during operations as air can flow much more easily.
Standoffs also fasten the board to the case. This ensures that all the components that are connected to the board can be mounted firmly if the job is done well.
Keep the Space Underneath the Motherboard Clear
With the motherboard mounted and elevated on standoffs, it leaves up some space below it where you may be tempted to route your cables.
However, the space left underneath should be left empty for avoiding any damage to the MOBO as well as to promote good airflow
When building a computer, one of the few things that most beginners can overlook is the importance of motherboard standoffs. In this article we talked about what are motherboard standoffs.
Basically, these are NOT an option for a pc, but a necessity. They serve an important role in ensuring that the motherboard doesn’t contact the case and end up shorting out.
Motherboard standoffs will often come with the case that you buy for your board. With a compatible case, you will find matching mounting holes for your board’s form factor.
The holes will dictate where the standoffs can be placed and it is usually at a location that is close to the I/O Shield so that your ports can be easily accessed outside the case.
The installation itself is fairly easy and you just have to follow the manual that comes with the case and you will be just fine. Just remember not to screw the motherboard on top too tightly.
It is worth mentioning that you should always take care when handling electrical equipment during pc builds. A misplaced standoff can also touch the conductors of the board during operations and short it out.