So, in the recent past, i started a project that required the research of the design process of a motherboard. This sparked my interest in the topic, but i'm having trouble finding a good education resource on the topic. What I need to know is where are good online resources (MOOCs, a set of lectures, online college courses, etc) for learning the process, not so I can actually design a motherboard, but so I can learn more about the design process. I would rather learn online then in a brick and mortar college, as it is far cheaper and more suitable for my schedule. I am willing to go beyond free courses, if necessary, but free is always better.

These are some of the things that I've read through so far:

None of these proved to be super helpful.

Now, i already have some ground knowledge in this. I've been programming for almost 4 years now, and I do know a decent amount about general electrical engineering (I worked with a team on building a robot recently), so I don't really want to know about entry level courses of computer engineering.

It would also be nice if you could point me in the direction of good PCB design software for this sort of thing (around 8 or 10 layer support, simulation, etc.). For software, i'd rather not pay thousands of dollars for a one year license, so the cheaper end of software that still has similar capabilities would be preferable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In general, people who contemplate building their own motherboards have trouble fathoming how much they don't know about the process, or how much money and time are involved in building prototype hardware that complex. \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Apr 16, 2016 at 0:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO I understand that I don't have nearly a complete understanding and that there is a lot to learn. This is why i want to know where I can learn how. I know it's very very complex, and I also understand it's not cheap. I'm not saying I want to build one right now, I simply want to know where I can learn to build one. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2016 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you SURE you need a custom motherboard. I'm not trying to patronise you. I just wonder if perhaps there might be some way to utilise the huge range turnkey solutions available. It's typically NASA /military that need custom boards. Help Centre would suggest you rephrase the question to specify your objectives and that way someone might come up with a less onerous solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Uszak
    Apr 16, 2016 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you state your intent as to why you think you need a motherboard so that we may offer a potential solution? No one person ever makes a motherboard. An entire team(s) make it. There's no resources on it because it's not something you do alone. \$\endgroup\$
    – horta
    Apr 16, 2016 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Expect it to be a huge time sink nonetheless. I've just spent the better part of a day just for a simple power supply, and that is not my first one. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2016 at 1:47

2 Answers 2


This is not about getting educated about PCB design and layout, but rather what a realistic starting project might be.

If you want to start off doing motherboard design, I suggest building your own motherboard for a retro-computer such as the Apple II. There should be plenty of documentation available on the web.

The Apple II was primarily designed by one person (Steve Wozniak). But don't just copy his design (others have done that). Do some original design. Perhaps update it so instead of outputting composite video, output VGA or HDMI while remaining software compatible with the original Apple II (not as easy as it sounds, Woz did some strange addressing to save a chip or two).

Add a USB interface that will connect to USB floppy disks, CD/DVD drives and hard disks, while again keeping the original interface between the interface controller and the computer.

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To reduce the amount of discrete logic you could use an FPGA, although that would not be as much fun IMO.

The original motherboard had only two layers. High frequency design skills were not needed since the clock ran at only 1.023 MHz. You could use CadSoft EAGLE Make Personal ($169) to do schematic capture and layout. Back then, layout was done by sticking strips of narrow tape on top of a big Mylar sheet on a light table and then photographing it at a much smaller scale.

Probably the hardest part getting it to actually work will be getting copies of the original ROM's (but it can be done).

  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterJ I'm completely serious. I think it would be a fun project. There are a lot of people into retro-computing these days, but I don't know many that are doing their own motherboards (they usually try to replicate the original silkscreens). An Apple II with HDMI and USB? Awesome. \$\endgroup\$
    – tcrosley
    Apr 16, 2016 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterJ I'm sure the OP had in mind designing his own PC motherboard when he wrote the question, which has been pointed out by others is a pipe dream, but I believe redesigning and extending a computer design from 40 years ago is quite doable (while still being quite challenging for a newbie). \$\endgroup\$
    – tcrosley
    Apr 16, 2016 at 13:33

Thank you @Dan Laks for the answer:

Fedevel Academy (www.fedevel.com/academy/) provides pretty much exactly what you are asking for. It's online based and is inexpensive for the amount of information the author, Robert Feranec, provides.


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