If you want to upgrade or replace a motherboard, you need motherboard standoffs. Although small, they keep all your components safe. So, what are standoffs, and what should you know about them?
Motherboard standoffs are metal or plastic pieces that prevent contact between the motherboard and computer case. By separating circuits from metallic surfaces, hardware connected to the motherboard does not short out. Standoffs and screws are usually pre-installed on cases, with different sizes for various form factors.
What Are Motherboard Standoffs?
Motherboard standoffs are small metal or plastic pieces that separate the motherboard and computer case, preventing hardware from shorting out. They have threads to mount the case and an anchor to screw on the motherboard.
Different motherboard form factors (e.g., ATX, mATX, mini-ITX) require unique screws and standoffs. Luckily, screws and standoffs typically fit into any motherboard or case brand if the form factor is the same.
Why Do You Need Motherboard Standoffs?
Standoffs are necessary to avoid motherboard and other hardware short-outs. Motherboards connect many components via electrical circuits, and standoffs create space between circuits and metallic surfaces. This gap also helps cool the motherboard with the extra airflow.
A computer without standoffs will eventually fail to boot due to a motherboard or CPU short circuit. So, it is safest to install all screws and standoffs compatible with the motherboard and case form factor.
Buying Motherboard Standoffs
Motherboard standoffs are usually pre-installed when buying a new computer case, but they do not come with motherboards. You need to identify the form factor of the motherboard and case before buying standoffs. Motherboard sizes include ATX (12 x 9.6 inches), micro ATX (9.6 x 9.6 inches), and mini ITX (6.7 x 6.7 inches).
After determining the case size, you can purchase compatible standoffs at a local hardware store or Amazon. Brass and plastic standoffs function similarly, so buy them based on your preference. Regardless, you can reuse screws and standoffs if you buy a new motherboard with the same form factor.
How to Install Motherboard Standoffs
Different standoffs require specific tools, such as a hex screwdriver for brass standoffs. Or, you may need to push or snap standoffs into place. To install motherboard standoffs, follow these simple steps:
- Place the motherboard on top of the case tray.
- Align the standoffs with the mounting holes and screw them tightly into place. If the screws do not fit, look for compatible ones.
How to Remove Motherboard Standoffs
If you misplace standoff screws or want to replace the motherboard, you need to remove the motherboard standoffs. Clamp the standoffs on one side with a small wrench or pliers with a rubber grip. Next, unscrew the standoff with a screwdriver on the other side. Do not turn the screws the wrong way, or you will overtighten and damage the case.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Standoffs Come with Motherboards?
Standoffs do not typically come with motherboards, but they come pre-installed in computer cases. Standoff size depends on the case form factor, so you can expect compatible standoffs and screws included with a computer case.
What Size Are Motherboard Standoffs?
Motherboard standoffs typically fit 6-32 or M3 (metric 3 mm) screws. However, their size depends on the motherboard and case form factor – with the cross-section fitting a 10 x 10 mm area around the standoff hole.
What Size Are M.2 Standoffs?
All M.2 standoffs have a diameter of 3.15 mm, but they differ in length. They are available in sizes of:
- 3 mm
- 8 mm
- 9 mm
- 10 mm
- 11 mm
- 12 mm
- 14 mm
Can You Install a Motherboard Without Standoffs?
You cannot install a motherboard in a case without standoffs. Otherwise, the motherboard circuits will touch the metal casing and short circuit other connected components.
How Many Motherboard Standoffs Do I Need?
You need enough standoffs to elevate the motherboard from the case, typically nine standoffs for ATX-sized cases and motherboards. In other cases, you should attach as many standoffs in the case as there are mounting holes.
Are All Motherboard Standoffs the Same?
Motherboard standoffs have standard threads and sizes, but they differ in length and material. Cases and motherboards with different form factors (e.g., ATX, mATX, mini-ITX) have mounting holes that require specifically sized standoffs. However, it does not matter if you use brass, nylon, or plastic standoffs because they work similarly.
Can Standoffs Cause a Short?
Standoffs can cause a short if they are not installed in the mounting holes, which are thoroughly insulated. If placed anywhere else, especially in contact with the metal case, other hardware may short-circuit.
Motherboard standoffs prevent your computer from shorting out when properly installed. Different case and motherboard form factors require specific standoffs, but they typically come with new cases. Only install standoffs and screws on mounting holes, or else you may damage your motherboard and CPU.
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