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What Is a Daughterboard?

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  • Originally Written By: M. J. Memon
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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A daughterboard, sometimes also called a daughtercard or mezzanine board, is a part of a computer’s internal circuitry that is usually intended to improve or enhance the machine’s overall functioning, perhaps most significantly when it comes to available memory and operating speed. Most of the time this piece is not essential to the computer’s operation, and is normally added after market as an improvement or upgrade. It’s usually somewhat small and gets its name from its proximity to the larger and more crucial motherboard: the daughter component usually attaches onto the motherboard, which is a vital piece of most operating systems, and either improves it or offers it new functionality.

Understanding Computer Circuitry Generally

Beneath the sleek and streamlined exterior of most modern computers is a complicated world of circuits and electrical connections that enable the machine’s basic functionality. Some parts are required, whereas others are added at the manufacturer or purchaser’s discretion. Daugherboards normally fall within the latter category. In contrast to expansion boards, which connect to the motherboard through an electrical conductor called a bus, daughterboards generally connect directly to the motherboard. They are one of the most common pieces of computer hardware.

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Improving Memory Capabilities

One of the major purposes of this circuitry is to upgrade a computer. Adding the board allows the owner to avoid the expense of a new computer or major upgrade, and can be a compelling alternative to replacing the motherboard. Installing a new motherboard often improves a computer’s performance more profoundly, can be quite costly — both in terms of parts and labor. It is usually less expensive to add “piggyback” boards.

Memory is often a big concern for computer users. Program downloads and systems operating simultaneously all require access to the computer’s core memory, which can be thought of as available storage or processing space. Memory is often written over, and as a consequence users of older machines in particular often find that things slow down noticeably and executions take longer and longer to complete, which can be frustration.

Many older computers lack the Random Access Memory (RAM) needed to run new software. If there is not enough space on the motherboard to add more RAM, then it must typically be installed on one or more daughterboards. Older computers may also lack features common to newer computers such as an optical drive or a modem. This can be rectified with the addition of a daughterboard, allowing the user greater functionality. Daughtercard installation is usually pretty straightforward, and savvy users can often do it themselves.

Network Connections

A daughterboard is commonly also used to allow computers to connect to a network. Many laboratories and businesses network computers to perform tasks that often would not be possible with a single computer. Even older computers, if enough of them are properly networked, can run like a newer computer with the addition of linked daughterboards. Newer computers can also benefit from the enhanced functionality of a new board by allowing the user to add more capabilities later. Of note here is that the boards aren’t common for networking in desktop computers, which are usually routed to networks through permanent wired connections. It’s laptops that tend to receive and use them most often.

Enabling Customization

Another important function is to allow customization of a computer for specialized tasks in the sciences or in development. Researchers and developers often require computer features for their work that are not commonly installed. Many companies offer specialized daughterboards that allow the computers to be modified as needed without the expense of building a custom system. In most cases, the board can be added through a connection on the motherboard and doesn’t require much in the way of careful wiring or circuitry expertise.

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Discuss this Article

afterall
Post 2

@widget2010- I like when these parts are simply named like that. I am hopeless with computers, but it makes it easier for someone like me to understand how these things work.

widget2010
Post 1

I only knew about motherboards- it never occurred to me that those might have "daughter" parts connected to them.

The name really explains what a daughterboard does, though, that it connects to and helps its "mother".

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