When determining information about the hardware in your computer, the easiest way to identify a chipset is to use your computer hardware manager, which displays information about the hardware in your computer. The word "chipset" usually refers to the type of main circuit board in a piece of computer hardware. If the computer hardware manager fails to identify the chipset, you can also open the computer to look for markings, numbers, or manufacturer names on the chipset board that will tell you the maker and model of the chipset. You can use the type of hardware that uses the chipset to try to determine the type of chipset in a computer. Types of chipsets include mainboard chipsets, also called motherboards, graphics chipsets and video chipsets, used in graphics cards, and audio chipsets, which are used in sound cards.
Chipsets are called chipsets because they are usually made up of more than one chip. Besides the basic circuit chip, other chips that appear as parts of chipset are usually processing chips. On a graphics chipset, the processing chip would be called the graphics processing unit (GPU), and on a motherboard chipset, the processor would be the main computer processing unit (CPU). Graphics processing units are most commonly found on high-end video cards with three-dimensional (3-D) capabilities.
Companies that make chipsets include Advanced Micro Devices® (AMD), Intel®, Very Innovative Architecture® (VIA) and NVidia®. When you are trying to identify a chipset for a motherboard, you can get some information about the hardware by looking at the type of CPU chip that is used in the motherboard. Often but not always, the manufacturing company that made the CPU chip also made the motherboard. Some companies, such as AMD®, make hardware compatible with chips from other manufacturers, such as Intel.
Learning to identify a chipset can help you get the right chipset drivers for your hardware. Once you identify a chipset, its drivers are usually available for download from the chipset manufacturer. Installing the right firmware and drivers for your hardware chipsets is a crucial step because without the correct software, the hardware will not run.
As a last resort, hardware specialists at computer repair shops or computer hardware stores may be able to help you identify a chipset by examining the hardware and looking at its specifications. Determining the specifications of a chipset can help you narrow down its identity. Distinguishing characteristics of different motherboard chipsets include its front-side bus (FSB) speed and whether it operates on synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM) or double data rate (DDR) memory.