Those out of the blue computer crashes! The very thought of it may give you the darkest nightmare, but most of us have experienced it at least once in our life. From the distortion of screen images to abrupt read/write errors – a computer breakdown may take various forms. And the worst part? You can never see it coming. Ask a technician and he will put the blame on the motherboard – the central unit that, like a mother, shelters all electronic components and help them stay connected to one another and work in harmony. It facilitates communication between the central processing unit (CPU) and the memory, and enables other peripherals such as hard drive and optical drive to stay connected to these two core units. What happens when your mother – the manager of your home – falls sick? You have a noisy, messy, dysfunctional home. The same happens with your computer when the motherboard gets damaged. And what exactly are the factors that affect its health? Along with a number of environmental factors, electromagnetic interference (EMI) is one of the major reasons leading to motherboard failure. You can understand how important it is to use EMI shielding and other protective measures to keep the motherboard, the main printed circuit board (PCB) in a computing system, in good health. Without it, a computer cannot function at all. For this reason, it’s vital that the motherboard is protected from elements like heat and moisture, and of course electromagnetic interference. Here are a few techniques that are used to protect a motherboard:
Cases are the outer ‘shell’ of the computer, which provides the first layer of protection to innumerable electronic chips residing on the motherboard. They protect these components from environmental elements like dirt and moisture. They are typically made of plastic or metal, and are attached directly to the motherboard with the help of screws. Held securely in place, the case prevents the unit from moving around. As a result, components remain connected to one another while sitting securely in their respective places. Cases may vary in shapes, sizes, and colors.
The complexity of a motherboard poses significant design challenges to computer manufacturers. Shielding techniques are introduced at the board level to overcome these design challenges. These shielding solutions help to isolate the motherboard components from the other parts of a computer, so that none of them get damaged by electromagnetic waves emitted by these components. This helps to avoid crosstalk among different components and as a result the computer can perform its functions smoothly. Different types of shielding solutions can be used to suit individual application.
When a CPU works, it generates a huge amount of heat. This accumulated heat can cause damage to the motherboard, and subsequently to the entire computer system. Proper ventilation is needed to let this heat escape. CPUs are, therefore, equipped with a heat sink and a fan. They help to cool the processor and prevent it from getting overheated. CPUs generally produce heat ranging between 70 and 90 degrees Celsius. It should never exceed a temperature of 95C, as a temperature higher than this may permanently damage the CPU and the adjoining motherboard. Cases come complete with one additional fan that is supposed to run constantly to disperse and ultimately remove the heat that is generated by all the components. If these fans stop working, the motherboard and the CPU would shut down, causing permanent damage to the computer system.
Do you know what the greatest enemy of a motherboard is? Exposure to liquid. A single contact with any watery substance and your motherboard will be gone forever. What is worse? You cannot even repair the damage that liquids cause. Although some advanced series of motherboards use Conformal Coating to prevent any direct contact with liquid, it may not give you 100 percent protection. However, as far as accidental exposure to water and other liquids are concerned, they still may prove more effective than a motherboard without the coating. Although Conformal Coating cannot provide 100 percent protection against liquid, it keeps the board protected against other outside elements such as dirt, corrosion, and high temperature. Computer manufacturers may choose to add this protective feature to their hardware, when they are supposed to be exposed to extreme environments.
Surge Protectors and Uninterrupted Power Supplies
Static electricity and power surges are other two big enemies of motherboards.
Two devices – UPS and surge protector – are used to keep motherboards protected from both power surge and disruption of power supply. In addition, a UPS ensures constant power supply to the motherboard. In the event of a power outage or power surge, these units will provide additional power for five to 15 minutes, so that you get sufficient time for shutting down your computer properly. This system helps avoid electrical damage. Surge protectors, on the other hand, are designed to reroute electrical surges away from computer components.
They prove helpful in the events like lightning. Both CPU and surge protector keep the motherboard safe against electrical damage.
A system crash may occur without any obvious warning. This may happen due to a number of reasons. However, it is the problematic hardware that is mostly held responsible. Since the PCB or the motherboard connects all the hardware components in a computer system, recurrent hardware failure ultimately affects this core unit. All the above mentioned techniques are employed to keep a computer’s circuit board protected against environmental, electrical, and electromagnetic damages. However, while attempting to resolve EMI issues, designers need to keep a point in mind – EMI shields must be chosen in accordance with space, weight, and production environments. Circuit board shielding provides the maximum protection against EMI simply because it helps to integrate a custom shielding solution in the early stages of application design. This allows for effective elimination of EMI without disturbing the compliance requirements of a computer. Along with a suitable EMI shielding solution, proper encasing, coating, and incorporation of the right cooling system enable manufacturers to make their products sturdy and long-lasting.