Many IT pros enjoy a good mystery, but few want to spend hours searching the Internet for critical motherboard information. If the manufacturer and model number aren't printed on the board, use the FCC number or BIOS number to get the info you need.
Imagine you're upgrading the RAM on several of your organization's older PCs and you need to know what type of chips each system requires. Unfortunately, you only have the motherboard manuals for half of the systems. Now what?
Never fear; there are ways to determine a motherboard's manufacturer and model number without the manual, if you know where to look. The information might be printed right on the board, or you may be able to derive the information from the board's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) number or BIOS.
Printed on the board itself
Some motherboards have their manufacturer and model number silk-screened right on the board, as shown in Figure A. Other boards put this information on the CPU slot or socket.
|Asus, this motherboard's manufacturer, and A7PRO, its model number, are clearly printed on this board between the white PCI slots.|
But many motherboards, manufactured as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) boards, lack these markings, making it difficult to identify the manufacturer and model number. In these cases, your best bet is the FCC number.
Using the FCC number
The FCC number is usually comprised of three numbers, known as the Grantee Code, followed by a dash and more numbers that are the equipment code. All computer equipment should come with the FCC number on it, but I can tell you from personal experience that some pieces don’t. Indeed, the Asus motherboard shown in Figure A has the standard FCC compliance message but lacks the actual FCC number.
If you can find the FCC number, go to the FCC ID # Search page, where you can locate the manufacturer's name based on the Grantee Code and/or equipment product code. Once you know the name of the manufacturer, you can search its Web site for information on its various motherboards.
Using the BIOS
If all else fails, it may be possible to obtain the motherboard manufacturer and model information from the BIOS number. There are a couple of ways to obtain the BIOS number. The easiest way is as follows: When your computer boots up, hit Pause when the BIOS information is first displayed on the monitor. Then copy down the number the screen gives you.
If there's not enough time to hit the Pause key before the information disappears, take a tip from Bernie Shirley, a programmer/analyst at the University of Florida. Shirley suggests turning off the computer, unplugging the keyboard, and rebooting the computer. If the CMOS is set to Halt On All Errors, it will freeze during the post with the BIOS information showing on the screen. Copy the information down and then turn off the computer and reattach the keyboard. If the computer is not set to Halt On All Errors, go into your CMOS settings and configure it to do so.
Once you obtain the BIOS numbers, go to Computer Tech On-Line or to Wim’s BIOS and look up your board, including OEM motherboards, by BIOS type and number. These sites also offer helpful information on identifying motherboards from Dell, Gateway, Packard Bell, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and other common PC brands.
Are you a motherboard sleuth?
If you know how to quickly identify various motherboard manufacturers and models, we want you to share your knowledge with your fellow TechRepublic members. Post a comment to this article or drop us a note.
To read up a little more on motherboards, check out these two articles from TechRepublic: