This is where the fun really starts! There are plenty of sites and forums to help with how to put it all together, so I won't dwell on that too much, but prefer to point out considerations when choosing a motherboard specially for VTPO work. The motherboard is probably the single most important item that you will purchase for a PC and the most complex. It needs to be 100% reliable and able to perform every task required of it flawlessly. For this reason you should choose very carefully and do not rush your research and final decision. It's worth mentioning the fact that many motherboard manufacturers make the manual for each product available as an online (.pdf) file where you can find information that is not always obvious by just reading the motherboards' specification.

Choosing a motherboard is a bit like refining a search on Google. "Motherboard" is obviously the prime category and your first 'refinement' should be to choose a preferred manufacturer and a second manufacturer in case your favourite can't cater for your exact needs. Then, decide on which processor you are going to use and pick a series of motherboards that will support it. You MUST note the processor's socket style and choose a motherboard to match, but this should not narrow your choice too much at this stage.

Next decide on what style and how much memory you will use and ensure that your motherboard choices have sufficient capacity and will support memory speed. (Refer to our Memory page for tips on choosing the correct memory to match the motherboard). Now your choice should have reduced somewhat and you need to ensure that your choice/s of motherboard will support the type (usually IDE or SATA, occasionally SCSI) and number of hard drives that you intend to use. If you follow our Hard Drives page, then you need only worry about the number of drives in use. Whilst on the subject of hard drives let's look at RAID. For VTPO work, I don't believe that RAID 1 (Mirror) has much advantage over a single drive and will push up your overall costs by the price of an extra hard drive. Having said that, if you really want to use RAID 1, then firstly ensure that your choice/s of motherboard will support hardware RAID and secondly that their RAID spec includes RAID 1. Where there can be a great advantage to using RAID is with RAID 0 (Striped). (See our Hard Drives page). Again, your choice of motherboard will need to support RAID 0.
Now a little story: This author was actually 'caught' because he did not read the motherboard specification/manual thoroughly enough, before purchasing a motherboard! As it happens it was not a disaster, but these words could help you to avoid unnecessary grief! In this case the spec said that the motherboard supports RAID it also said that it uses the Intel ICH9 chip and it was assumed from the info that Intel RAID would be supported - wrong! In fact the basic Intel ICH9 controller does not support RAID at all. It's the Intel ICH9R (and other derivatives) that support RAID. However the spec said that RAID was supported and they did not lie! What they have done is to use a "JMicron" controller which in itself is fine. Unfortunately, they wired the RAID controller to use one internal SATA socket and one external eSATA socket, which meant buying an eSATA cable and passing it out of the case through one of the backplates, so that it can be plugged into the eSATA socket on the external backplane. I don't know what was going on in the designer's mind, but why they could ever think that anyone would want to use a permanent RAID array where one of the hard drive pair is outside of the case, eludes me!

Now's probably the best time to decide whether you need on-board audio and/or graphics. Generally it won't put the motherboard price up much if you have on-board sound, but it is important to check that it can be disabled if you are going to use one or more PCI or external sound cards. However, if you will be using an external sound card that uses a plug-in PCI or PCIe card, you need to ensure that there are sufficient slots of the correct type to support it. On the other hand, on-board graphics capability may affect motherboard cost more than you would wish, but could of course, save you the expense of buying a separate graphics card (See our Screen page for advice on graphics). As with on-board audio, ensure that any on-board graphics can be disabled if you are using a separate graphics card and that your chosen graphics card type (e.g. PCIe) is supported. Do watch out that if your graphics card is PCIe and your sound card also requires PCIe, then that's two PCIe slots that will be required! Also bear in mind that if you are going to use two monitors, you will need two screen outputs, which are not so common on motherboards with built in graphics.

Another thing to watch is that you have sufficient USB sockets for all of your needs, and remember that for best performance they need to be USB II. (See our Case page for help with position of USB ports). Your MIDI interface may be USB and you may need more than one. An easy one to forget is that many touch screens come with a USB controller, and don't forget that Hauptwerk needs a USB port to run its licence dongle. One saving grace is that the USB spec. allows for up to 127 separate devices, and if you do run out of USB connections on your motherboard, you can simply buy a USB 'hub' and plug it into an existing USB socket to give you as many extra USB ports as the hub is capable of.

Drivers for motherboards generally come on a CD which is bundled with the package. You can also usually download the latest drivers from the manufacturer's website, but do ensure that you have chosen the right version number. At this time I would also recommend downloading the latest BIOS and BIOS installation program, although I also recommend leaving well alone and not installing a new BIOS unless there are issues with the one supplied after you have installed and run all hardware and software. Also, ensure that the motherboard supports the operating system that you will be using (i.e. 32 bit or 64 bit) and that especially if you want to run Linux, that there are drivers available for it.

Finally, remember that you may be looking for as near silent a PC as possible, so you should consider buying a motherboard that is completely fanless. As an example, the Asus P6T series in particular uses heat pipe technology which is totally silent and you may wish to aim for something similar.

Now that you have narrowed your choice down to your ideal motherboard, hopefully there are a few left to choose from and your final choice can be down to price, although you should consider that it may be worth your while buying a slightly more expensive product that has enhancements such as wi-fi, built in. Wi-fi in a VTPO, why would you want to have that? Because many software and dongle upgrades come via the Internet or Email and wi-fi may be your easiest means of access and can easily be disabled when you don't need it. Also, as technology improves, it is now feasible to use wi-fi as your means of communicating between your console and external peripherals (relay etc.).

One final, word of warning. Most motherboards come with a CD which carries chipset drivers and other useful software. Some may also come with 'whizz-bangs' which are not so useful and really intended for the games PC, family and Internet browsing industries. When you come to load the software, it's advisable not to take the easy route (even if it's recommended) and 'install all in one go'. If a custom installation is offered, use this to only install the software that is either essential (chipset drivers) or really useful. Don't install just because it's offered and it's free.