Can You Use a Laptop Motherboard in a Desktop? Explained.

Many people wonder if it’s possible to use a laptop motherboard on a desktop PC

The short answer is yes, you can use a laptop motherboard on a desktop as long as you make a few modifications.

Key Points

  • Laptop and desktop motherboards have the same key components like CPU, RAM, graphics, etc. But laptop motherboards are designed for compactness.
  • You’ll need to transplant the laptop motherboard into a suitable chassis or case that fits it. The ports, design, and size differ.
  • Cooling is a challenge as laptop motherboards use passive cooling. You may need to add desktop-like fans and heat sinks.
  • laptop motherboards often use lower-power CPUs. Make sure the CPU is adequate for your needs.
  • You’ll likely need a new laptop power brick of suitable wattage to power the motherboard.
  • Drivers may be difficult to find for some laptop components when used in a desktop.

Why Use a Laptop Motherboard on a Desktop?

There are a few scenarios where using a laptop motherboard in a desktop case can be useful:

  • Reusing old laptop parts: If you have an old laptop, you can give the motherboard a second life by using it on a desktop. This saves e-waste.
  • Compact desktop build: laptop motherboards are smaller and can be good for compact form factor desktops, like home theatre PCs.
  • Low-power desktop: Since laptop CPUs use less power, they can make up for an energy-efficient desktop.
  • Troubleshooting: Diagnosing laptop motherboard faults may be easier in a desktop case with ready access.
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6 Challenges of Using a Laptop Motherboard

While using a laptop motherboard in a desktop is certainly possible, you need to overcome some key differences:

1. Size and Form Factor

Laptop motherboards are designed to fit into tight spaces and are much smaller than desktop boards. You’ll need to find a chassis that properly accommodates the unusual size and mounting holes.

In fact, you need to go full DIY and make a chassis for the laptop motherboard especially.

2. Ports and Connectors

A laptop motherboard’s ports are positioned differently than a desktop board. You may need to get adapters to connect the front USB, audio, and other ports from the case to the laptop motherboard.

You can use extended ports to align them in a row, which can remove the difficulty of different ports in different areas.

3. Power Specifications

Laptops use lower-wattage CPUs and components to conserve battery life. 

You need to make sure your power supply can deliver stable power at the voltage the laptop motherboard requires.

4. Cooling

Most laptops rely on passive cooling and don’t have fans or heatsinks. You’ll need to add desktop-like fans and heat sinks to actively cool the transplanted laptop.

5. Limited Upgradeability

Laptop motherboards usually have soldered components like the CPU and RAM. This limits future upgrades. Desktops are designed for easy swapping of parts.

6. Power Requirements

Laptops are known for their compatibility, and another thing that makes them different from desktops is their battery.

So when you are putting laptop motherboards into desktops, make sure you remove the battery. And replace it with an adapter.

Use a Laptop Motherboard in a Desktop

10 Steps to Use a Laptop Motherboard in a Desktop

Here is a step-by-step process to use a laptop motherboard in a desktop case:

Step 1: Analyze the Laptop Motherboard’s Specs

Check all the hardware available on your laptop motherboard and analyze how to use them in a desktop case. You will have to check the following:

  • CPU socket type and rated TDP
  • Chipset model – Intel or AMD
  • RAM type – DDR3 or DDR4
  • Expansion slots – M.2, mini PCIe etc.
  • Size of board
  • Input power connector type and required voltage
  • Available ports – USB, video outs etc.

Step 2: Find a Compatible Desktop Case

After analyzing all the hardware, you now have to look for a desktop chassis that can fit the laptop motherboard and has suitable expansion bays, an HTPC case or microATX chassis may work well.

Also, if that doesn’t work on your motherboard, you can make a DIY chassis from an acrylic pane by cutting it slightly larger than the motherboard size.

Step 3: Install Power Supply

Use a compact desktop ATX power supply that can deliver the voltage and wattage needed by the laptop motherboard. You may also use a laptop power brick.

Step 4: Mount the Motherboard

Securely mount the motherboard to the chassis using suitable standoffs. You may need to improvise and get creative with placing the unusual board.

Step 5: Add Cooling Solution

Since most laptop motherboards rely on passive cooling, you’ll need to add CPU and chipset heatsinks. Connect 120mm fans strategically to provide airflow inside the motherboard station.

Also, when placing fans, make sure there are fan holes carved in the chassis.

Step 6: Connect Front Panel Ports

Use adapter cables to connect the USB, audio, power button, and other front panel ports of the case to the JST connectors on the laptop motherboard.

Step 7: Install RAM and Storage

If the RAM slots and M.2 slots are not occupied on the laptop motherboard, install compatible RAM and NVMe SSD modules.

Step 8: Install GPU (Optional)

If the laptop motherboard has a suitable PCIe x16 port, you can add a desktop discrete GPU for extra graphics performance.

Step 9: Complete the case:

After you have installed all the hardware you need, align the ports in a section and attach the panel. Before you attach the case, make sure you have put all the things in their place.

Step 10: Install Operating System

Install Windows or Linux OS. You may need to install specific drivers for the laptop components.

And you’re done! Power it up, and you should now have a functioning desktop computer using a laptop motherboard.

Common Laptop Motherboard Specifications

Here are some ballpark specifications for consumer laptop motherboards from the past 5 years:

  • Size: Typically under 9 inches x 9 inches. Micro or mini-ITX boards may fit.
  • CPU socket: LGA 1151 or LGA 1200 socket for Intel boards. AM4 socket for AMD boards.
  • RAM: 2 SODIMM slots supporting DDR4 at up to 3200MHz speed and up to 32GB capacity.
  • Storage: 1 or 2 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD slots. Some boards have space for a 2.5-inch SATA SSD.
  • GPU: Integrated Intel or AMD graphics. Some boards have PCIe x16 for discrete GPU.
  • Power input: 19V DC input via 5.5mm x 2.5mm barrel plug at 65W to 230W.
  • Ports: 1x HDMI or mini DisplayPort video output, 2x USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack.

Tips for Successfully Using a laptop motherboard on a Desktop

  • Match the laptop’s motherboard’s power because it needs to match the PSU wattage and voltage. Underpowering can lead to unstable function.
  • Use quality thermal paste between the CPU and heatsink for optimal heat dissipation.
  • Install the motherboard securely with proper standoffs to prevent short circuits.
  • Get an adapter board to connect the laptop motherboard’s uncommon ports to standard desktop front panel ports.
  • Update the laptop motherboard’s BIOS and install appropriate drivers for desktop use if available.
  • Undervolt and underclock the laptop CPU if you face cooling issues in the compact desktop case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put any laptop motherboard in a desktop computer?

No, you can’t use just any laptop motherboard in a desktop. You need to ensure compatibility in terms of size, power delivery, ports, cooling needs and specs like CPU socket and RAM type.

Will laptop motherboard drivers work in a desktop OS?

Many standard laptop hardware drivers will automatically install in desktop Windows 10 or 11. But you may need OEM-specific drivers for some components to function properly.

Is it worth using an old laptop motherboard in a new desktop?

In most cases, old used laptop motherboards aren’t worth reusing in new desktop builds. Limited upgradeability and outdated specs make building a new desktop more reasonable.

Can I game on a desktop computer using a laptop motherboard?

Light gaming is possible if the laptop motherboard has a decent processor with integrated graphics or a PCIe slot for adding a discrete graphics card. Just ensure adequate cooling.

What sized desktop case do I need for a laptop motherboard?

Look for SFF cases like mini-ITX or micro ATX models under 20 litres in volume. Measure your laptop motherboard and ensure the case can accommodate it.


The answer to your question, Can You Use a Laptop Motherboard in a Desktop?

Yes, you can certainly turn a laptop motherboard into a suitable desktop case is certainly doable with some effort. 

Just be aware of the size constraints, cooling needs, power differences, and port layout challenges. With the right homework and preparation, you can build a functional desktop PC using salvaged laptop components. This can be a budget-friendly project or an interesting way to learn.


  • Mira Edorra

    I'm Mira Edorra, your go-to gadget gal! I’m originally a California girl, born and raised in Silicon Valley, where people are as busy as bees, making all sorts of amazing tech stuff. But now, I live all the way over in the UK! At 32, I’m living the dream as a digital nomad, Traveling is my jam and gadgets are my peanut butter - a perfect combo, don't you think? As I bounce around the globe , I get my hands on loads of cool gizmos, and I just can't wait to share all my discoveries with you!From testing drones on mountain peaks to troubleshooting laptops in cozy cafés, my travels fuel my tech expertise. Got a gadget query? I'm your girl. Even if I don’t have the answer right away, Google and I are like Sherlock and Watson - we leave no mystery unsolved.

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