northsouth bridge

What Are the Northbridge and Southbridge and How Do They Relate to Your Computer?

You may have heard of RAM (random-access memory) and CPU (central processing unit) as terms that involve your computer’s data storage. Though those terms may be more widespread, there are other key players intrinsic to the memory storage process. They’re called the northbridge and the southbridge.

The northbridge, or host bridge, is one of the two chips in the core logic chipset architecture on a PC motherboard. Woah, ok what does that mean?

So a logic chipset is just a central processing logic of a complete system (such as a computer). The PC motherboard is printed circuit board on which all the electrical components are arranged.

nbsbThe northbridge¬† is connected directly to the CPU via the frontside bus (FSB), which is an electrical component engineered to carry data between the CPU and a memory controller hub, which is another word for the northbridge. The northbridge is so directly connected to the CPU because it is supposed to be responsible for tasks that require high performance. It’s also paired with something called the southbridge, which is also called the input/output controller hub.

That’s a lot of wordy information, but basically just know that these two chips manage communications between the CPU and other parts of the circuit board.

Modern day northbridges don’t perform as many different tasks as they used to; a lot of their previous functions have been handed off to the CPU chip itself, including memory and graphics controllers.

The reason that the CPU, northbridge, and southbridge chips all have to specialize in different functions is because Intel had such a hard time integrating all the necessary functions into one single CPU. In some instances, the northbridge and southbridge are acatually one combined chip, but in most there are three different parts.

overclockingGenerally, the northbridge handles communications among the CPU, RAM (random-access memory), and PCI (peripheral component interconnect) express. Different processors and different RAM tends to each require a different system of signaling, so any given northbridge is generally so specialized that it will only work with one or two classes of CPUs and generally only a single type of RAM.

The northbridge plays an important role in how far a computer can be overclocked because its frequency is commonly used as a baseline for the CPU to establish its own operating frequency.

What does that mean?

First of all, overclocking is a process involving forcing your computer or hardware component to operate much faster than the manufacturer-specified clock frequency. The clock frequency is the time between processing pulses.

If the processing pulses enacted by the CPU are reliant on how fast the northbridge operates, that means that the entire system cannot be overclocked to the point that it goes faster than the northbridge wants to go. This is generally for the best; at top processing speeds, the chip tends to get hotter and hotter, which will in turn require more cooling. Computers are only meant to get so cool, so without the northbridge your computer could be in trouble!


Categories: Technology

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