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   >  What to Upgrade
   >  Before you Begin
   >  Upgrading PC RAM
   >  Upgrading PCI/Graphics Cards
   >  Upgrading Drives
   >  Upgrading a PSU
   >  Upgrading a CPU
   >  Upgrading a Motherboard

 

Upgrading a PC Central Processing Unit (CPU)

When to Upgrade your CPU

There is only one reason for upgrading your CPU: speed! If your PC is generally slow, you have plenty of RAM and you have plenty of drive space, then a CPU upgrade may be in order.

Note that unless your PC is relatively new, a CPU upgrade may well mean that the motherboard must also be upgraded ..

Note that unless your PC is relatively new, a CPU upgrade may well mean that the motherboard must also be upgraded, unless the board was designed to work with the new chip.


Choosing a CPU

Which CPUs are suitable depends on the CPU socket in your motherboard and, unfortunately, there are a multitude of these. To make things worse, the socket is not even visible on an existing motherboard, being buried deep beneath the CPU chip, heatsink and fan. The best way to figure out the socket your motherboard uses is to either:

  • Search for your PC product/motherboard number using a search engine to try and see if you can find the original specification

  • Check the System Monitor "Hardware" tab, as to which CPU is installed in the PC. Search for this processor using a search engine to try and see if you can find information on which socket(s) the chip fits

Note: some boards have embedded processors (e.g. Intel Atom boards) which cannot be changed! A CPU upgrade for one of these will require a motherboard upgrade.


Removing an Existing CPU

The removal of a PSU is fairly straightforward, but the specifics tend to be different for every socket type:

  1. Before starting work, deploy anti-static controls and ensure the power is off

  2. Prepare an anti-static bag or box to place the old CPU in once it is removed (-to avoid static damage)

  3. Remove the access panel(s) from the computer case: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels

  4. Remove the CPU fan power connector from the motherboard. This is single three socket female plug running from the fan on top of the CPU to a three prong male connector nearby on the motherboard. The white fan connector can clearly be seen in the photo below with yellow, red and black wires trailing back to the fan housing itself:

  5. Release the fan retension bracket: often this is a lever which needs to be pulled upwards (-away from the motherboard), to release the fan. Lift the fan and heatsink out of the case and place it in a safe place

  6. Most CPUs use what is know as a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket. To release a CPU from one of these, there is a pivoting bar on the side of the socket: pull the free end slightly away from the latch then pivot the bar upwards away from the motherboard

  7. Grasp the CPU by the top and lift upwards and out of the socket: you should not have to apply any effort to do this: if the chip is resisting, then go back to the previous step and ensure the socket is fully released

  8. Place the old CPU in the anti-static bag or box that you prepared earlier

  9. Refit the access panel(s) to the computer case


Installing a New CPU

The insertion of a CPU is similar to the removal process in reverse:

  1. Before starting work, deploy anti-static controls and ensure the power is off

  2. Remove the access panel(s) from the computer case: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels

  3. Make sure the a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket is released: if not, follow the procedure above to release it

    Releasing a ZIF socket
  4. Remove the new CPU from the packaging, align it over the socket and drop it in. The CPU will only go in one way round (-normally there is a triangle symbol on one corner of the processor and also the socket, which need to be lined up)

    Fitting the CPU to the Motherboard
  5. To lock the CPU in place, push down (-towards the motherboard) the pivoting bar on the side of the socket until it locks in place (-when horizontal)

    Locking the Processor in Place
  6. If the CPU has been previously used - the top surface needs to be coated with a thin coat of Thermal Compound Paste before the heatsink is fitted, to ensure heat is transferred effectively between the two

  7. Place heatsink/fan assembly over the CPU and hook it into the fan retension bracket

    Fitting the CPU Fan
  8. Secure the fan retension bracket: often this is a lever which needs to be pulled up (-i.e. away from the motherboard, as in the picture below) or down (-i.e. towards the motherboard), to lock the fan in place

    Locking the CPU fan into place
  9. Connect the CPU fan power connector to the motherboard. This is single three socket female plug running from the fan on top of the CPU to a three prong male connector nearby on the motherboard

    Connecting the CPU Fan
  10. Refit the access panel(s) to the computer case


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