Though the specific features of a motherboard vary according to the intended use, price and underlying technologies, the main components include power connectors, expansion slots, front and rear panel connections, drive interfaces and the main logic for the computer's processing operations. Motherboards also contain different firmware, including flash ROM and the system clock battery.

Expansion slots are used to connect peripheral components such as sound cards and network cards. These typically are PCI-Express slots.

Motherboards must provide a connection for the cable of the power supply unit for the central processing unit. Additionally, the motherboard must provide a connector for a power supply unit that powers the motherboard itself. This connector is typically for a 24-pin ATX power cable. Motherboards often provide power connections for fans that cool the CPU and the computer case.

The drive interfaces are for hard drives, which could be IDE, SATA or solid state, as well as for optical drives used to transfer data. Front and rear panel connections include USB ports, LEDs, power switches and audio jacks accessible from the exterior of the computer case.

The main logic components of a motherboard include a socket for insertion of the CPU and the chipset, which communicates with the expansion slots, hard drives and panel connections.