Will technology ever catch up?

XP: Finding and Installing Drivers, Part 1.0 – Motherboard Chipset

Posted by cascadehush on October 4, 2006

N.B. This series of articles assumes that, for whatever reason, you either don’t have the original driver CD or choose not to use it. This is often the case if you work in a PC repair shop (as I do) or you have acquired components second hand. The introduction to this series is here.

Whether you are building a PC or reloading an existing one, the first thing you should install after the operating system are the motherboard chipset drivers. These drives are associated specifically with the northbridge (where applicable) and southbridge, rather than any other chips which may be present on the motherboard to provide other functionality such as audio or networking.

Motherboard chipset drivers are easy to overlook. Device Manager may not flag them as missing. They are responsible for the smooth running of your IDE and SATA drives, USB Ports and AGP slot. If you are wondering why your hard drive seems slow, or your new graphics card is not performing well, perhaps you are missing your motherboard chipset drivers.

The main motherboard chipset manufacturers all have sets of drivers which can be installed on almost any brand of motherboard. All you need to do is identify the chipset and you can select the appropriate drivers.

You can often identify the chipset manufacturer by looking at the southbridge, which is usually visible. (The northbridge is often covered by a heat sink so it is not visible.) You may also be able to guess the chipset from the model name, although this requires some experience. It isn’t a guaranteed method since some motherboards do not have their model name clearly marked and not all motherboard manufactures use an easy to follow naming scheme. Another way is to use a utility. I use CPU-Z and/or AIDA32. CPU-Z is quicker or this purpose. AIDA32 will become indispensable later on, since it provides much more information.

Remember, for most cases you only need to know the chipset manufacturer. The specific chipset is rarely necessary. There are 5 major motherboard chipset manufacturers, SiS, VIA, Intel, nVIDIA and ATI.

The following installments in this series will discuss, in turn, the different motherboard chipset manufacturers. Links will be provided to the driver packs.

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