How to remove the original motherboard from a computer

This post is part of a tutorial describing how to replace the motherboard of a computer.

We are going to see here how to remove the existing motherboard from the computer.

Please note that you can damage some computers components if you do not proceed carefully. If you feel unsure about reproducing these steps, ask someone with good computer skills to help you. As always, the author and the website decline any responsibilities about the consequences of trying to reproduce these steps.

Be aware that static electricity can damage computer components. The charges may build up on your body when you walk on carpeted floors or if you wear woolen clothes for instance. You can easily neutralize these static charges by touching any conductive material not isolated from the ground (any metallic furniture or appliance will do) before opening the computer case.

First I switched off the computer and I unplugged all the cables (power, USB, ethernet, video, sound, etc…) connected to it. After that I removed the computer case lateral panels to access its components. Most modern computer cases have been designed so that the lateral panels can be removed without having to use a screwdriver. but you should consult the computer case documentation if you feel unsure about the steps required to open it.

Dust can accumulate inside a computer case after a few months of use so I used a paper tablecloth to protect the working surface, some newspapers pages would have done the job too. I chose to remove both lateral panels yo get access to the cables and the motherboard but it is not always necessary. I placed the computer case horizontally on the working surface so that I could now have an easy access to the computer motherboard and components. The components I had to disconnect or to remove are highlighted in red in the next photo.

Original motherboard with CPU, RAM, SSD and cables
Original motherboard with CPU, RAM, SSD and cables
  1. Motherboard
  2. CPU heatsink and fan
  3. DDR4 RAM modules
  4. M.2 SSD
  5. 24 pin ATX power connector
  6. SATA connector
  7. System panel cables
  8. USB 3.0 connectors also used by case ARGB lights controller
  9. USB 2.0 connector
  10. Front Panel Audio Connector
  11. 4 pin 12 V ATX power connector

We will see step by step how I disconnected or removed these componentes one by one in this tutorial. As you can see in the photo, this computer had no PCI Express (PCIe) cards installed. If it had been the case I would have had to remove them first.

1) Disconnecting the 24 pin ATX power and ARGB lights controller connector

I started by removing the cables that were connected to the motherboard. First I disconnected the main 24 pin ATX power connector (5) and the computer case ARGB lights controller cables (8). The ATX connector had a clip that held it in place, I released the latch clip and I rocked the connector gently back-and-forth until it came out. The computer case ARGB lights controller cables came out easily.

Disconnecting the 24 pin ATX power and the computer case ARGB lights connectors
Disconnecting the 24 pin ATX power and the computer case ARGB lights connectors

2) Disconnecting the USB 2.0 connector and SATA cable(s)

Then I disconnected the USB 2.0 connector (9) and later the SATA cable from its connector (6), this one came out easily but some of them have a clip that you have to press to release the SATA connector. You may have to disconnect more than one if your computer has multiple SATA devices connected to.

Disconnecting the SATA cable from its connector
Disconnecting the SATA cable from its connector

3) Disconnecting the system panel and audio connector cables

Later I disconnected the system panel cables (7) used by the power button, the reset button and the system status indicator of the computer case. I disconnected the front panel audio connector too and in both case they came out easily.

Disconnecting the system panel and front panel audio cables
Disconnecting the system panel and front panel audio cables

4) Disconnecting the 4 pin ATX power connector

I disconnected the 4 pin 12V ATX power connector (11). Once again this power connector had a small clip that held it in place, I released the clip by pressing it and I removed the power connector without difficulties.  Some motherboard have two 4 pin 12V ATX power connectors, but it was not the case here.

Disconnecting the 4 pin 12V ATX power connector
Disconnecting the 4 pin 12V ATX power connector

5) Removing the motherboard screws

The next step was to unscrew the screws that secured the motherboard to the case. Depending on the system there could be more or less screws but there should be a least one for all the motherboard corners. Be careful not to let your screwdriver touch the motherboard and its components as it may damage them. I unscrewed the screws using a cruciform screwdriver (the photo below shows the six holes that could be have been used with this motherboard, but only four of them were used) and I kept them in a safe place:

6 motherboard screw holes
6 motherboard screw holes

6) Remove the motherboard from the computer case

The motherboard was no longer secured inside the computer case and I lifted it out of the case carefully.

Lifting the motherboard out of the case
Lifting the motherboard out of the case

I placed it on the working surface (an anti static bag would have been better but the paper tablecloth was OK here) and I was now ready to remove the RAM, the SSD and the CPU.

Motherboard out of the case
Motherboard out of the case

7) Uninstalling the RAM modules

The motherboard memory slots have clips or clasps that are used to keep the memory modules in place. Some motherboards have two clips per slot (one at each side) while some like the ASRock A320M-HDV R4.0 here have a single one.  I pressed the clip on the side of the memory slots with my index finger to release the memory module than I lifted them up carefully.

Memory slot clip
Memory slot clip
Uninstalling the memory modules
Uninstalling the memory modules

That’s was easy! You may have to pull the memory module from both ends or to wiggle it slightly but you should not have to apply a lot of force. Be sure to check that the memory slot clips are fully opened if the RAM is stuck.

8) Uninstalling the m.2 SSD

The next step was to remove the m.2 SSD. A small screw was used to keep it in place, so I unscrewed it…

Unscrew the m.2 SSD
Unscrew the m.2 SSD

… and the m.2 SSD popped up slightly once the screw was unscrewed. Then I pulled it gently apart from its connector.

m.2 SSD screw unscrewed
m.2 SSD screw unscrewed
m.2 SSD with its screw
m.2 SSD with its screw

9) Removing the AMD CPU Cooler

The next step was to remove the AMD CPU Cooler. It was secured to the motherboard by four spring-screws. Other CPU coolers can use retention clips or other mechanisms. I unscrewed the four spring-screws using the flat screwdriver.

Unscrew the CPU cooler spring-screws
Unscrew the CPU cooler spring-screws

Then I disconnected the CPU fan from its motherboard connector.

Disconnecting the CPU fan
Disconnecting the CPU fan

The AMD CPU cooler was now free, so I rotated it with care clockwise and counter-clockwise black and forth in order to break the thermal paste adhesion seal between the CPU and the CPU cooler. When I felt that it was completely loose, I pulled the CPU cooler carefully and I removed it from the CPU.

Rotating slightly the CPU cooler
Rotating slightly the CPU cooler
AMD CPU cooler removed
AMD CPU cooler removed

Be sure to proceed with care as you don’t want to remove the CPU with the CPU cooler while it is still locked in its socket.

10) Removing the thermal paste

The thermal paste helps in transferring the heat between between the CPU and the CPU cooler by filling the small air gaps that may exist between them. As you can see in the next picture, a bit too much of thermal paste had been applied by the PC builder. Too much thermal paste is not a good idea as it might spill over the CPU socket or the motherboard and damage them or it can also reduce the heat transfer instead of improving it.

Too much thermal paste
Too much thermal paste

I decided to remove the existing thermal paste before extracting the CPU from its socket. I started to use a plastic toothpick to remove the excess thermal paste from the border of the CPU:

Plastic toothpick to remove the excess thermal paste
Plastic toothpick to remove the excess thermal paste
Excess thermal paste removed
Excess thermal paste removed

Then I used some soft paper tissues (you could use also a microfiber cloth or some Q-tips) to remove the thermal paste from the metal exterior lid of the CPU also called the integrated heat spreader (or IHS).

Removing the thermal paste with a soft tissue
Removing the thermal paste with a soft tissue

Until it was clean enough to my taste. I was going to have to apply some thermal paste later after installing the CPU onto the new motherboard, so I didn’t need the IHS to be perfectly clean but you could use a Q-tip with a bit of isopropyl rubbing alcohol to finish cleaning it.

Cleaned CPU IHS
Cleaned CPU IHS

11) Uninstalling the CPU from its socket

I was now ready to uninstall the CPU from its socket. I unlatched and lifted up the CPU socket retention arm until it was vertical in order to release the CPU.

Unlatching the CPU socket retention arm
Unlatching the CPU socket retention arm
Lifting the socket retention lever to the vertical,
Lifting the socket retention lever to the vertical

The CPU was now free so I lifted it up vertically by the edges to uninstall it from the motherboard socket.

Lifting up the CPU
Lifting up the CPU

The CPU was now ready to be installed onto the new motherboard. That’s something that we will see in the next page of this tutorial.

CPU uninstalled
CPU uninstalled

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