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DIY! Learn How To Install or Upgrade a PC Processor chip in a Desktop Computer

It’s my belief that simple, clear text coupled with before assembly, during assembly and after assembly photographs make it possible for just about anyone to assemble a PC successfully. Once you understand the basic computer components and build your first computer, you will have learned a skill that will last a lifetime! You will be able to upgrade your computer or change the configuration easily when your computing needs demand it, and this knowledge can save you thousands of dollars over time.

By doing a little research on your Motherboard, you can determine if you are able to upgrade your processor. The processor is known as the micro-processor, Central Processing Unit (CPU) and commonly called the “chip”. The processor is basically the brains of your computer and it oversees all of the other components in your system.

Before upgrading your system, you must figure out the type of socket for your motherboard and the clock rate, also known as the front side bus speed.

Examples of sockets include:

  • LGA 771
    • Chips: Intel Xeon
    • Cores: Harpertown, Tigerton
    • Models: E5440, X5450, E5205, E5405, E5410, E5430, E5450, X5460, X7350)
  • LGA 775
    • Chips: Intel Celeron, Intel Celeron D, Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Core 2 Extreme, Intel Core 2 Quad, Intel Dual Core, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Pentium D, Intel Xeon
    • Cores: Allendale, Cedar Mill, Conroe, Conroe-L, Kentsfield, Prescot, Presler, Yorkfield
    • Models: 336, 347, 352, 356, 360, 420, 430, 440, 631, 641, 925, 935, 3040, 3050, 3060, 3065, 3070, 3075, 3085, 6800, E2140, E2160, E2180, E2200, E4300, E4400, E4500, E4600, E6300, E6320, E6400, E6420, E6550, E6600, E6850, E6700, Q6600, Q6600, Q6700, QX6700, QX850, QX9650, QX9650, X3210, X3220, X3230, XE6750
  • Socket 478
    • Chips: Intel Celeron D, Intel Pentium 4
    • Cores: Northwood, Prescott
    • Models: 315, 2.4B, 2.8, 3.0E
  • Socket 604
    • Chips: Intel Xeon
    • Cores: Irwindale
    • Models: EM64T 3.0, EM36T 3.2, EM64T 3.6
  • Socket 771
    • Chips: Intel Xeon
    • Cores: Woodcrest, Clovertown
    • Models: 5110, 5120, 5130, 5140, 5148, 5150, 5160, E5310, E5320, E5335, E5345, X5365
  • Socket 939
    • Chips: AMD Athlon 64, AMD Athlon 64 X2, AMD Opteron
    • Cores: ClawHammer, Denmark, Manchester
    • Models: 175, 180, 185, 3600+, 4000+
  • Socket 940
    • Chips: AMD Opteron
    • Cores: Egypt, Italy, Troy
    • Models: 252, 265, 275, 280, 285, 290, 870, 875, 880, 875, 885, 890,
  • Socket AM2
    • Chips: AMD Athlon 64, AMD Athlon 64 X2, AMD Opteron, AMD Sempron LE, AMD Sempron 64
    • Cores: Brisbane, Manila, Santa Ana, Sparta, Windsor
    • Models: 1212, 1214, 1216, 1218, 1220, 1222, 3400+, 3600+, 3800+, 4000+, 4200+, 4400+, 4600+, 4800+, 5000+, 5200+, 5400+, 5600+, 6000+, 6400+, LE-1100, LE-1150, LE-1620
  • Socket AM2+
    • Chips: AMD Phenom
    • Cores: Agenda
    • Models: 9500, 9600
  • Socket F
    • Chips: AMD Opteron
    • Cores: Santa Rosa
    • Models: 2210, 2212, 2214, 2216, 2218, 2220, 8212, 8214, 8216, 8218, 8220, 8222
  • Socket P
    • Chips: Intel Celeron M, Intel Core 2 Duo
    • Cores: Merom
    • Models: 540, T7100, T7300, T7500, T7700
  • Socket S1
    • Chips: AMD Turion
    • Cores: Taylor, Trinidad
    • Models: TL-50, TL-52, TL-56

Examples of Intel clock rates, or front side bus speeds, include:

  • 533MHz
  • 667MHz
  • 800MHz
  • 1066MHz
  • 1333MHz

In this article we will upgrade an ASUS NVIDIA nForce 570 SLI Motherboard from an Intel Pentium 4 to an Intel Dual Core Processor. From the manual, we determine the socket type is LGA775 and the FSB can support up to 1066 MHz (also, supports 800 and 533 MHz). This particular motherboard supports Intel Core Duo, Pentium D, Pentium 4 and Celeron D Processors.

Examples of Intel chips we may chose from include:

  • 2.20 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo Desktop Processor E4500
  • 2.33 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo Desktop Processor E6550
  • 2.66 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo Desktop Processor E6750
  • 3.0 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo Desktop Processor E6850
  • 2.66 GHz Intel® Core™2 Extreme Desktop Processor QX6700

In is important to note that to install the chip, you must also install a heat sink or CPU Fan. In this demonstration, we install a Cooler Master Heat Sink and CPU Fan.

Step 1: Prepare to Install or Upgrade your CPU Chip

Step 1a: Collect Your Tools

I wasn’t kidding when I said that anyone can assemble a PC, and it’s even easier if all you are interested in is upgrading your CPU. The only “tool” you will need for your project is a screwdriver. In addition to the screw driver, there are a few items from around the house that could be helpful.

Please collect the following items:

  • Small or Medium Sized Phillips Head Screwdriver – if you do not have one available at home, most grocery stores and all hardware stores sell them
  • Flashlight – if you have great lighting, you may not need a flash light. Flashlights can come in handy when working within the computer case because shadows can make it hard to see
  • Scissors or Utility Knife – many of the components come in sealed boxes or plastic clamshells. Having something to open the packaging saves time and ensures you don’t damage the parts contained within

Step 1b: How to Setup Your Workspace

Establishing a solid workspace will ensure your project is easy and you are comfortable. A poor workspace can lead to frustration, lost parts and longer than necessary assembly times.

Please consider the following guidelines for your workspace as you prepare to upgrade you co-processor:

  • Large Flat Work Surface – dining room tables work well as do coffee tables. You can even get away with working on a tile or wood floor. You may optionally spread out a sheet or large towel to protect the surface you are working on from the case which will be heavy and have sharp corners. We DO NOT recommend working directly on a carpet because of static electricity, and carpets can make it too easy to lose small parts.
  • Clean Working Environment – since your computer will be open and exposed during most of the assembly process, it is important to keep the area you are working in free of potential contaminants. We DO NOT recommend eating, drinking or smoking anywhere close to your workspace.
  • Sufficient light – it is important for you to be able to see well as you assemble your kit. Make sure to work in an area with good overhead lighting. It is also helpful to have a flash light handy if your overhead light is not bright enough to see well inside the case.
  • Limited Interruptions – even though the assembly process is straight forward, concentration will be required. We recommend that you find time to devote to the assembly process when you will not be distracted by other priorities.

Step 1c: Exercise Caution

Before you begin, please consider the following precautions:

  • Static electricity can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT work on or stand on a CARPET while installing or upgrading RAM
    • ALWAYS touch a grounded metal object to DISCHARGE yourself prior to handling RAM modules
  • Liquids or particles can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT eat, drink or smoke near your workspace
    • Do NOT allow pets or small children to play near your workspace or components
    • ALWAYS wash your hands prior to touching parts
    • ALWAYS work on a clean surface
  • Computer components can cause electrical shock
    • NEVER touch any of the internal components while the computer is plugged in
    • NEVER allow children to touch or play with the computer or components
    • ALWAYS close the computer case completely before plugging the cord into an outlet

Step 2: Seat the Processor on the Motherboard

In this step, you will be installing the brain of your PC. Given the importance of this step, please proceed with caution. The 2.13 GHz processor is powerful, but also very delicate. By using care when handling and installing the chip, you ensure your PC will perform successfully.

Step 2a: How to Open Your Computer Case

Please follow these steps:

  • Unplug your computer
  • Discharge any static electricity you may be carrying in your body
    • Touch a metal object that is grounded (e.g., a metal table, appliance, lamp, etc.)
    • Failing to discharge static electricity could result in catastrophic damage to your parts
  • Open your case
    • Typically cases are easily opened by loosening several screws
    • With the shell removed, gently move and cables to the side that obstruct your access to the processor chip
    • The motherboard in this example is shown on top of an anti-static bag, instead on inside a computer in order to make it easier to photograph

Step 2b: How to Prepare the CPU Socket

Please follow these steps:

  • Locate the CPU Socket on the Motherboard
  • Unhook the Socket Lever by pushing DOWN and AWAY from the socket (left image)
  • Lift the Load Plate as shown (right image)
  • For new motherboards, Remove the Protective Socket Cover and place it in your Motherboard box (as shown)
    • You will not need this cover once the Chip is in place, but it is worth saving in case you ever need to remove the Chip from the Motherboard again
  • Raise load plate cover as shown
  • For existing motherboards, Remove the chip by lifting it up gently. This process does not require any significant pressure

Step 2c: How to Install the new CPU chip

Please follow these steps:

  • NEVER touch the bottom of the Chip, ALWAYS hold the Chip by the edges
  • Remove the Chip from its plastic case (left image)
  • Holding the processor by its edges, remove it from the plastic case and take note of the plastic protective cover on the bottom of the chip. When ready, you will remove this plastic cover by the connection points shown below (right image)
  • Align the semi-circular grooves on the processor chip with the tabs on the load plate socket as shown. The semi-circular grooves are highlighted in yellow and the tabs on the load plate socket are highlighted in orange below
    • The load plate socket will only allow you to insert the chip one way
  • Now, slowly and carefully lower the Chip straight down into the Socket (left image)
    • Do NOT tilt or slide the Chip when placing it in the Socket
    • NEVER force the chip into place, it should fit easily when the notches are aligned
  • Make sure the chip is seated fully and level in the Socket
  • Press down on the Socket Lever to lower the Load Plate (right image)
  • Hook the Socket Lever under the lip on the Socket to lock it in place
  • This step requires slight pressure, but not significant pressure

Step 3: How to Install the CPU FAN and Heat Sink

Installing the CPU Fan is a straight forward process as described below.

Please follow these steps:

  • DO NOT, at any time, put significant pressure on the CPU Fan or Processor Chip
  • Discharge any static electricity you may be carrying in your body
    • Touch a metal object that is grounded (e.g., a metal table, appliance, lamp, etc.)
    • Failing to discharge static electricity could result in catastrophic damage to your parts
  • Retrieve the heat sink and fan from the processor box (left image)
  • Place the CPU Fan/Heat Sink on top of the installed processor chip
  • Make sure CPU Fan Power Cable reaches the four pin power receptacle labeled “CPU_FAN” on the motherboard before proceeding
    • If required, re-orient the CPU Fan so power cord reaches the receptacle
    • Use gentle force, DO NOT put excessive pressure on the CPU Fan or Chip
  • Fasten the heat sink and fan using the fasteners on all four corners
  • Rotate the fasteners as shown below with the narrow groove directed outward (left image)
  • Once the fasteners are in the correct position, apply downward pressure to two fasteners at a time
    • When fastening two at a time, fasten in a diagonal sequence or OPPOSITE corners at the same time
  • If possible, check the bottom side of the motherboard to ensure the heat sink and fan were properly installed (right image)
  • Confirm that your CPU Fan is properly locked into place
    • Check to make sure the CPU Fan is level
    • Gently pull upward on the CPU Fan to make sure it stays in place
    • If the CPU Fan is not level, or comes free with slight upward pressure, then you try to unlock and secure the fan and heat sink again
  • Once the CPU Fan is properly locked in place, connect the CPU Fan to the Motherboard
    • Look on the motherboard for the four pin power receptacle labeled “CPU_FAN”. It is located in the same area as the Chassis Fan
    • If you look more closely, you will see the receptacle on the motherboard labeled CPU Fan
    • Plug the cable from the CPU Fan into the receptacle
    • It does matter how you align the plug, make sure to align it as shown
  • If the Power Cord does not reach the receptacle, you may need to remove the CPU Fan and re-install it
    • Before uninstalling the CPU Fan, check to see if there is an easy way to release more of the CPU Power Cable and avoid re-installation
    • Unplug CPU Fan Power Cord from the motherboard
    • Unlock the retention module by lifting up on the retention bracket lock
    • When you have retention module lock, gently pull straight up on the fan and heat sink
    • Re-orient the fan and heat sink as necessary so the fan cord reaches its receptor on the motherboard

Congratulations, you’ve just learned how to upgrade your CPU!!!

After getting your case buttoned up and system turned back on, you’ll need to run a hardware identification program such as Sandra or CPUID. Simply run an internet search for these programs. Check whether you’re running at the correct clock rate. If not, you’ll have to enter motherboard set-up by pressing Del after during the boot process. You’ll often see a line during the boot process that says, “To enter set-up, press Del.” You can change your CPU configuration in motherboard set-up.


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