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The Easy Guide to I/O Shields

Everything you need to know explained in plain English

IO Shield

There is a surprising lack of simple answers to the common queries around I/O shields.

What is an I/O shield?

Do you need one?

How do you install an I/O shield anyway?

Thankfully, the answers to these questions are quick and easy. Today’s feature is here to guide you through everything you need to know about I/O shields.

Table of Contents

What is an IO shield?

An I O shield, or “motherboard input-output shield” is a metal plate that is included with nearly every motherboard on the market. 

These plates are designed to be installed at the rear of a PC case where there will be a cutout hole perfectly designed to fit snugly. Each IO shield is designed to match the ports of the motherboard it comes with (i.e. holes in the same locations).

What does an IO shield do?

A PC IO shield has 2 main purposes; the first is to protect against electromagnetic interference (EMI) between your motherboard and the components you are connecting to the IO panel (USB, HDMI, ethernet, etc.).

The second purpose is to act as another physical barrier on the back of the case. Without the IO shield, you will have an enormous hole for dust (and potentially insects) to enter your computer.

One could argue an IO shield also makes the back of your PC look neater too!

What are the Metal flaps/prongs on the IO shield?

As per the example picture below, a majority of mobo IO shields have some little “prongs” or “flaps” near some/all of the port cut-outs.

These are used to allow a part of the metal on the IO shield to lightly touch the metal on the motherboard’s IO panel, this then offers sound static grounding between the shield and your motherboard, further reducing the chances of any electrical interference.

IO Shield Example

Do I need an IO shield for my PC?

Your motherboard should come with an IO shield (either separately or already pre-installed) so for most users, the question is really why wouldn’t you install the IO shield? It offers some additional protection, improves the look of your device, and is super easy to install as we detail below.

If for whatever reason, you don’t have one, how important is an IO shield? Well, many people (myself included) have gone through periods of not using one with their PC.

The electromagnetic interference protection is not as big a concern now that most connections you make on your IO panel are digital. Your only real risk is if you are plugging something into a port on your motherboard’s IO panel and accidentally slip/have the output touch a part of your motherboard and short a component.

This is a worst-case scenario, and if you’re careful, the chances of something like this happening are very low. If, for example, you were just trying to skip using an IO shield temporarily while a replacement was being delivered, then this isn’t much cause for concern; we all understand being impatient with a shiny new PC. (I’ve had colleagues who have not used one on a build for 5+ years!).

The other problem is of course the rear of your PC being significantly exposed to dust/insects – to me, this issue is the more annoying one, but can be negated with regular cleaning.

Disclaimer: While the risks of not using an IO shield are very low, it’s still a risk that you have to accept – we will always recommend using a shield where possible.

How do I install an IO shield?

Motherboard-IO-Panel Example

Thankfully, installing an IO shield is one of the most simple parts of a PC and should be added to your case before you install your motherboard.

  1. Align the metal I/O plate with the cut-out on the back of your PC case on the inside, the easiest way to establish what way your plate needs to be is by seeing how it aligns with your motherboard, and then matching that position with the orientation your motherboard will be installed.
    • Take the IO panel on the right for example, if you aligned this motherboard with the back of your PC case and saw that the circular audio ports were on the bottom, then you know you need to install the computer’s IO plate with the circular ports downwards.
  2. If your IO shield has any metal prongs/tongs that are already bent, these should be pointing into the case (as they are supposed to make light contact with the motherboard once it is installed).
  3. Now that you’re aligned, simply apply some pressure and push the IO shield onto the case hole (from the inside).
    • With some light force, you should hear a “clacking” or “popping” noise to confirm the shield has attached to the case.
  4. And that’s all there is to do on the install IO shield process! When you’re installing your motherboard, the ports should neatly align with the IO shield like the example picture in this section.
    • If the IO shields prongs/tongs aren’t touching the metal of the motherboard ports, you can lightly bend them to do so, however, most should be set up to touch automatically.

How to remove an IO Shield?

Removing an IO shield is very simple.

First, uninstall your motherboard from the PC case. Once there is nothing connected to your IO panel (other than the PC case it “popped” into), simply push the IO shield with some pressure from the outside of the case inwards.

After a moment or two, the computer IO shield should pop out.

Where can I buy a replacement IO shield?

If your motherboard did not come with an IO plate, my first piece of advice would be to contact the supplier, as every motherboard should absolutely come with one.

If for whatever reason, you can’t get an IO shield replacement from the buyer, I would try these things (in order of recommendation):

  • Contact your motherboard manufacturer, they will usually be able to re-arrange a replacement.
  • If not, check Amazon, eBay, or Ali Express for your motherboard model number as they may have the exact model in stock.
  • There are a couple of mesh IO plates available online, such as the IOmesh. These allow you to fashion your own IO plate by snipping holes in the mesh in the places you need room for input to come through. It’s not as elegant/dustproof as a traditional metal plate, but it’s a nice, easy alternative if needed.
  • Failing that, you can try the universal IO shield below (recommended for experienced DIY’ers only).

Custom / Universal IO Shield Option

The SuperMicro MCP-260-00011-0N is a simple blank IO shield that is usually used for covering a PC case IO panel cut-out that has no ports.

However, some tech-savvy folk have previously used this as a replacement IO shield by drilling through the necessary holes.

We would strongly recommend trying our replacement steps above before trying this one, and only attempting if you have some competence with cutting metal accurately.

Final word on IO shields

And that’s really is all there is to know for the average PC builders on I/O connector plates! It’s thankfully one of the nicer parts of an installation.

We appreciate it can be a pain if you’re running into problems with a motherboard not including one. But from my experience, manufacturers and suppliers are usually well equipped to supply a replacement (providing the mobo is still in production).

Good luck and happy building!

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About the author

Picture of Kaelum Ross
Kaelum Ross
Kaelum Ross, BSc is the Lead Writer at What in Tech and a leading authority in PC hardware and software. With a career as a senior IT professional, Kaelum has led multi-million dollar projects covering everything from bespoke software development to complex Windows hardware upgrades. Today, Kaelum uses his expertise to serve What in Tech's readers and has been featured in numerous global publications including New York Magazine and Lifewire.

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