Form factor (design)

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Comparison of some common motherboard form factors (pen for scale)

Form factor is a hardware design aspect that defines and prescribes the size, shape, and other physical specifications of components, particularly in electronics.[1][2] A form factor may represent a broad class of similarly sized components, or it may prescribe a specific standard. It may also define an entire system, as in a computer form factor.

Evolution and standardization[edit]

As electronic hardware has become smaller following Moore's law and related patterns, ever-smaller form factors have become feasible. Specific technological advances, such as PCI Express, have had a significant design impact, though form factors have historically evolved slower than individual components. Standardization of form factors is vital for hardware compatibility between different manufacturers.


Smaller form factors may offer more efficient use of limited space, greater flexibility in the placement of components within a larger assembly, reduced use of material, and greater ease of transportation and use. However, smaller form factors typically incur greater costs in the design, manufacturing, and maintenance phases of the engineering lifecycle, and do not allow the same expansion options as larger form factors. In particular, the design of smaller form-factor computers and network equipment must entail careful consideration of cooling.[3] End-user maintenance and repair of small form-factor electronic devices such as mobile phones is often not possible, and may be discouraged by warranty voiding clauses; such devices require professional servicing—or simply replacement—when they fail.[4]


Size comparison of various mobile form factors (from smallest to largest: Nintendo DS Lite handheld, Asus Eee PC netbook, and MacBook laptop)

Computer form factors comprise a number of specific industry standards for motherboards, specifying dimensions, power supplies, placement of mounting holes and ports, and other parameters. Other types of form factors for computers include:


Mobile form factors[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Form factor". Webopedia. Quinstreet Enterprise. 23 May 1997. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Form factor". TechTarget. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  3. ^ Morrison, John (April 4, 2016). "Passive Cooling – An Experiment". SFF Network. Minutiae. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  4. ^ Prowse, David L. (September 27, 2012). "CompTIA A+ Exam Cram: Mobile Device Hardware and Operating Systems". Pearson IT Certification. Pearson Education. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Form factors, windows hardware design". Learn Microsoft (in Brazilian Portuguese). Learn design. Retrieved 2023-02-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)