How to POST Test a Motherboard

Building Your Own PC – Performing a POST Test

Hi everyone. I wanted to write a brief guide today to help people with one of the most common questions we get in the computer industry, how to do a POST test.

A POST test is one of the most important steps in building your own computer that can sometimes give users problems. Follow the steps below to ensure your components are installed correctly, or to troubleshoot any problems in a “No POST” situation.

A POST test can be performed outside of the case, but needs to be done on an insulated surface. Using the foam insert that came with your motherboard, or POST testing the board on top of the motherboard box are two suitable methods.

01. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have all the needed computer hardware to perform a POST Test. To do a POST test you will need:

Computer Hardware for POST Test

  1. Motherboard
  2. CPU / Processor
  3. RAM / Memory
  4. Power Supply

These are the basic hardware requirements to perform a POST test.

(You may need a video card also if your motherboard does not have onboard video)

02. Install the processor on your motherboard. All CPUs have markings which show how they need to be aligned when they are installed. An Intel (Socket 775) CPU commonly has two notches in the sides which align with indents in the CPU socket. An AMD CPU (Socket AM2, Phenom, etc) have an arrow located on one corner that needs be aligned with an arrow on the CPU socket.

Intel CPU and Processor Tabs AMD CPU and Processor Markings

03. Once the processor is installed make sure you secure the lever on the side of the CPU socket. This holds the processor in place. Double-check to make sure you have properly installed your CPU before securing this lever to prevent against bent pins or damage to the processor or CPU socket.

04. Once the lever is down, and the processor is locked into the socket you will need to install your CPU heat sync (Cooler). When installing an Intel cooler make sure the 3 pin wire from the fan can reach the 3 pin connection on your motherboard. To secure the heat sync you will need to push down on each of the four pegs on the sides of the cooler. You should feel a small click as each one latches through the motherboard. (If you do not feel a click make sure the pegs are oriented the correct way to prevent bending the teeth on the pegs.)

For an AMD CPU cooler you will fasten the metal tabs on the heat sync onto the tabs located on the CPU socket. (Make sure the 3 pin wire from the fan can reach the 3 pin connection on your motherboard.) Once the tabs are in place, turn the swing arm on the cooler over to lock the cooler into place.

Intel CPU Heatsync and Cooler AMD CPU Heatsync and Cooler

05. Next we will be installing the RAM. Whether you are using DDR or DDR2 memory you will want to make sure you are aligning your RAM correctly when you install it onto your motherboard. Memory has a notch in the teeth which needs to line up with the notch in the memory socket. Place the RAM gently in the memory slot and check to make sure these notches are aligned before applying pressure. Once you have confirmed the RAM is aligned correctly apply moderate pressure from the top and you should feel the memory click into place. You can double-check that the RAM is secure by making sure the tabs on the sides of the memory slot have latched into the memory module you are installing.

DDR2 RAM and Memory Module DDR2 Memory Slot for RAM

06. Now we need to hookup the power connections for the motherboard. You should have two leads from your power supply that need to be connected to the motherboard. One lead will be a 20 or 24 pin ATX power connection. The other will be a 4 pin ATX power connection.

Check on your board for these connections. The 20/24 pin power connection will commonly be located near the memory slots, and the 4 pin power connection will usually be located between your CPU and the rear I./O connections on your motherboard.

Each connection has a tab (or notch) that locks the power connection in place. Check the connections on the board and align the notch with the tab on the power connection. (These connections are “keyed” so they will only fit one way. If you insert the cable into the power connection on the board and it goes in you have it aligned the correct way.) You should feel a small click when you insert the power cable which ensures it has been fully inserted.

ATX 20/24 Pin Power Connection on Motherboard ATX 4 Pin Power Connection on Motherboard

20 / 24 Pin ATX Power Cable on Power Supply 4 Pin ATX Power Cable from Power Supply

07. Now that we have everything connected you will want to hookup your keyboard and monitor to the motherboard. Also make sure you have plugged in the AC power cable to the power supply and ensure the power supply is set to on. (The black button on the back of the power supply).

(If you do not have onboard video you will need to install a video card to connect your monitor.)

Once you have these things hooked up you are ready to try and POST the motherboard. Refer to your motherboard manual to identify the 2 pins on the motherboard that are for your “power” switch. Take a flathead screw driver and tap these two pins to power on the motherboard combo.

Motherboard Front Panel Wiring Power Button Pins

Conclusion

You should now see basic POST information coming up on the screen. If you do not you may want to double check the steps listed above to make sure you did not miss a step.

If you have performed all the steps above correctly check the list below of common troubleshooting checks to check for any configuration problems or hardware issues.

  1. Make sure you are jumping the correct pins on the motherboard for the “power” switch. Refer to your motherboard manual as the colors can vary with every motherboard.
  2. Make sure the VGA cable from the monitor is securely connected to your onboard video or video card.
  3. Make sure your monitor is turned on.
  4. Check to make sure the CPU fan is plugged into the 3 pin connection on your motherboard. A fan that is not spinning can lead people to believe the board is not powering on.
  5. Check to make sure your memory is aligned and installed correctly in the memory socket. It is not uncommon that one side of the memory latched into place but the other side did not. When in doubt remove your RAM and reseat it in the memory socket.
  6. Double-check that your ATX power connections are firmly inserted into the board. Give each one a slight tug to make sure it doesn’t pop out of the connection indicating that it wasn’t making solid contact.
  7. Check the power switch on the rear of your power supply. It is a black switch that has a one and zero on it. 0 indicates the power supply is turned “off” and 1 indicates the power supply is turned on.
  8. Try resetting your CMOS. This can be done with the 3 pin jumper indicated in your manual. (This is commonly located near the battery.) You can also remove the battery for about one minute from your motherboard. Make sure the AC power cable is disconnected from your power supply when you do this as any slight charge in the board will allow the system to retain the settings we are trying to reset.
  9. Make sure that the wall outlet you are plugged into is not controlled by a wall switch. If it is, make sure the switch is turned on.
  10. Check to make sure the AC cable connected to your power supply is securely plugged in.
  11. If you are plugged into a power strip try plugging directly into a wall outlet to eliminate any variables between the motherboard combo and the outlet. (For testing purposes, It is recommend to use a power strip for normal use.)
  12. Reseat your CPU by removing the processor from the motherboard, and reinstalling it. When you remove the CPU visually inspect the pins on the CPU or the CPU socket to make sure none of them are bent. Double check the tabs or arrows on the CPU and the CPU socket to make sure the CPU is aligned properly. The CPU should lay flat in the socket, and requires no force to install. You should be able to place it gently into the socket.

If none of the techniques listed above work you may be running into an issue with faulty hardware or a problem that goes outside the scope of this guide. If this is the case contact the hardware manufacturer for help, or check online and in forums for advice from other users about things you can check.

I hope you all enjoyed our first “How-To” guide on the Custom PC Blog. Please feel free to leave any feedback or comments with questions or suggestions.

If you are looking for a great place for computer hardware, that offers component testing, barebones and combo build services for less than $10 dollars, and a FREE one year warranty check out www.cpusolutions.com for some of the best service around.


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5 Responses to “How to POST Test a Motherboard”

  1. Custom PC Blog How to Check the Make & Model of a Motherboard - Custom PC Blog Says:

    [...] have had a couple people asking me for a brief follow-up on our “How to POST Test a Motherboard” article. One of the main questions I have been receiving is from people asking how to tell what [...]

  2. motherboards computers Says:

    I want to add a fan on my PC, where the fan location is suitable for the place. Because the heat faster so that the PC is often slow process of the performance of my computer. I use Ecs motherboard and amd Sempron le 1100

  3. Troubleshooting Grounding Issues and How to Spot Them - Custom PC Blog Says:

    [...] POST Test Guide [...]

  4. dack Says:

    is it neccesary to put a cpu cooler? if i dont do it can it cause some damage in those 10-15 secs im trying the post test?

  5. Paul Says:

    Dack,

    I always recommend using a cooler when post testing a motherboard to avoid any potential problems. Technically the chip shouldn’t heat up to fault temperatures in 10-15 seconds but the cooler only takes a couple seconds to put on and then you don’t need to worry about it. Plus this way you can ensure that if you are having POST issues they are not related to an issue with the way to CPU and cooler is mounted.

    On a side note, you do not need to reapply thermal compound each time you use a tester cooler. Some people make this mistake and get a buildup of thermal paste on the bottom of their tester cooler overtime which will actually reduce the amount of heat transferred to the cooler. You only need a paper thin layer on the chip and cooler.

    Paul

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