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A chipset is a group of interdependent motherboard chips or integrated circuits that control the flow of data and instructions between the central processing unit (CPU) or microprocessor and external devices. A chipset controls external buses, memory cache and some peripherals. A CPU is unable to function without impeccable chipset timing.
A chipset includes the circuit board layout/functionality and circuit mechanisms. Varieties include microprocessors and modem card chipsets. In addition, a CPU has several different chipsets that vary according to architecture.
A chipset is specifically designed for a motherboard. The chipset and motherboard must be compatible with the CPU to prevent system failover. Most chipset drivers are manually updated and installed.
A chipset has two sections – southbridge and northbridge – with specific sets of functions that communicate between the CPU and external devices.
The southbridge, which is not directly connected to the CPU, is also known as the input/output controller hub. Southbridge handles the motherboard's slower connections, including input/output (I/O) devices and computer peripherals like expansion slots and hard disk drives.
The northbridge connects the southbridge to the CPU and is commonly known as the memory controller hub. The northbridge handles a computer's faster interaction requirements and controls communication between the CPU, RAM, ROM, the basic input/output system (BIOS), the accelerated graphics port (AGP) and the southbridge chip. The northbridge links I/O signals directly to the CPU. The CPU uses the northbridge frequency as a baseline for determining its operating frequency.
A chipset and device drivers are compatible when an operating system is initially installed. However, device drivers eventually become outdated due to subsequent hardware and software installations. Outdated or incompatible device drivers create compatibility issues, lack of features and sub-par device performance.