The processor remains one of the most important components of a modern computer. Upgrading can provide significant benefits in certain games and applications, especially if you are upgrading from a dual-core or quad-core model, or upgrading from an older processor architecture.

It’s not that hard for a geek, but it can seem complicated. You have to work on some of the most important components of your system, which can cost money. Here’s how to properly install or replace your computer’s processor.

Preparing for Installation: Check the BIOS

how to install cpu

This is not a hardware buying guide, so I’m assuming you’ve chosen a processor and done the basic research needed to see if it will fit with a motherboard you already own or plan to buy. However, there is one more thing you should check that many people forget about for the first time — BIOS compatibility.

You may experience this issue if you are installing a new processor on an older motherboard. Some older motherboards will not recognize the latest processors even if the socket is physically compatible.

Updating the BIOS to a new version is (usually) the fix. Before installing any processor, check the manufacturer’s support page for your motherboard. You will be able to find a list of compatible processors and determine if you need to upgrade.

Removing your motherboard

install processor

This step assumes that you are upgrading. If you are building a new system, you can move on to the next step.

It may be possible to install a new processor without removing the motherboard, but this often cannot be done. To remove the motherboard, power off the computer and unplug it from the wall outlet. Move your computer to a level workspace and grab a Phillips head screwdriver and some duct tape.

Open your computer. You will notice that there are a lot of wires connected to your motherboard. You will need to disable them all. Do this one at a time, and each time you disconnect a wire, wrap duct tape around it and label it. If you want to clarify questions, you can draw a diagram of your motherboard and indicate where each labeled wire should physically connect. This may sound silly, but it will save you the trouble of forgetting where the wire goes.

After removing all the wires, unscrew the motherboard from the case and pull it out. This shouldn’t take much effort — if it does, make sure you don’t miss a screw and nothing is in the way of the board.

After removing the motherboard, you must also remove the cooler from the processor. Different colors use different attachment mechanisms, but most are removed either by turning some pins, opening a latch, or removing some screws.

Processor installation

Important note . The photos below show an AMD Socket AM2 processor. Modern Intel processors do not have pins — instead, they are located on the motherboard. This does not change the instructions below, but the exact appearance of the CPU and motherboard socket will differ.

install processor

The processor socket is now visible. If you are upgrading, your old processor will be there. If you are installing on a new motherboard, there may be a plastic shield or stand.

Either way, open the nest by lifting up the metal rod or rods next to it. This will loosen the fastening mechanism. Intel connectors usually have an additional metal shroud that needs to be flipped over and removed. AMD sockets are usually not available.

install processor

Now remove the old processor (if there is one) and place the new one. If you examine the socket and processor, you will notice that the pattern is the same on both, or on a small notch or knob that matches the motherboard connectors. This prevents the processor from being installed in the wrong direction.

For example, the figure below shows four blank areas on the bottom of the processor with no pins. These same areas can be found on the motherboard connector in the picture above.

how to install cpu chip

You should be able to simply pop the new processor into the socket — if it doesn’t lie flat, then you’ve connected it to the socket incorrectly. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you are installing the processor correctly. Trying to push it into the socket when it’s not lined up will just bend the pin. This is one of the few ways to permanently ruin your motherboard or processor during installation.

how to install cpu chip

Notice how the processor lies in the socket. There are no gaps and any side. This is what your processor should look like if it is properly installed.

After confirming that the processor is installed, you can lower the metal bar that secures it. Do it gently but firmly. Usually the bar will resist when you lower it. It should click into place and lie flat.

Apply thermal paste

how to install cpu chip

If you have removed an old processor, you will notice that there is a residual thermal bond in your cooling solution. Wipe it down with a strong cloth that doesn’t tend to leave lint, then give the cooler some compressed air to be sure.

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Now apply the thermal bond spot to the center of the processor. The amount you apply should be about the diameter of a pencil, and will hopefully look a little better than my example above (the thermal paste I have on hand is obviously a little dated).

It won’t look like much, but once you plug in the cooler, it will stretch nicely. The bigger the better — the example above is only as big as you need it to be, and that’s only because the composite image isn’t the best. Better quality thermal compound can be applied in smaller quantities as it spreads better when the cooler is installed.

Reinstall cooler

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By the way, do it now. As I said earlier, I can’t tell you the exact steps because they vary considerably between coolers. Refer to the cooler manual. After the cooler is installed, inspect the edges of the cooler to make sure the thermal bond hasn’t been thrown out of the sides. If you see this, remove the compound with a dry rag (you may need to remove the cooler). Once again, give the area a spray of compressed air to expel any fluff.

how to install cpu

Now connect the cooler’s CPU power cord to the corresponding pin on the motherboard. Most of them are three-pin, but you can also see four. The fourth pin is for the fan speed control function called PWM. Don’t worry if your fan and motherboard don’t have the same number of pins. Just make sure the pins are placed correctly — refer to this Intel manual for more information.


Now that you have installed the processor, you just need to reinstall the motherboard. Screw it back into the case and reattach all the wires you removed. I hope you followed my previous tips and bookmarked them.

Now reconnect your computer and turn on the power. If everything went well, your computer should boot without problems. You don’t need to install drivers for the processor to work (and we’ve already covered updating the BIOS).

If you have any problems or have advice, please leave a comment. You can also ask for help by visiting Answers.

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