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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | The Motherboard | Motherboard Integrated Components ]


Capacitors are electrical components that are used to filter and smooth signals on the motherboard. For the most part, they receive relatively little attention since they are passive and not very exciting. However, recently many motherboard manufacturers have been skimping on capacitors by either reducing the number on the board, or using smaller or cheaper ones. Over time, cheaper capacitors tend to dry out and lose their effectiveness. The result of this corner-cutting is possibly spurious signals on the board (causing problems that are virtually impossible to troubleshoot) and reduced motherboard life.

The only real way to protect against this sort of cheap construction is to avoid buying motherboards only on the basis of price. If you buy a quality board you will generally get what you are paying for. Look for name brands on the capacitors, and to make sure that they are a good size.

Capacitors of the type used on motherboards generally come in two flavors: tantalum or electrolytic. There has been a lot of banter back and forth about whether tantalum capacitors are better than electrolytic ones. Having failed to find a definitive source upon which to base an opinion, I choose at this time to specifically recommend neither. As with most things, sticking to assessing the overall quality of the board is probably better than making a decision solely on the basis of what type of capacitors is used.

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