How to Upgrade a CPU

March 19, 2021

Sylvia Keller

When you want to upgrade a CPU, typically its because your games and programs aren’t running as smoothly as you want them to be.

The CPU is the “brain” of your PC that helps run programs, perform operations, and just generally helps your system “do the thing.” Upgrading your CPU can be a great way to improve performance on your PC, but if you’re new to replacing hardware, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

 

Prepare to Launch 

To upgrade a CPU properly and get that lightspeed fps you want, you’ll need to do some prep work. Before you even purchase that new Intel or AMD processor, follow this checklist: 

Motherboard Compatibility 

  • Look at the make and model of your motherboard, and research your new CPU model. Make sure that the motherboard you have can support your new CPU – otherwise, you might need to also upgrade to a compatible board.  
  • If they’re not compatible – time to research what models will work best for your upgrade. If hardware research intimidates you, you can always customize a PC with us to ensure you make compatible selections.  

Update and Back Up 

  • Before you do anything else, back up your data to an external drive or cloud service. While I like to keep things optimistic, you’ll have more peace of mind if you know for sure that all your game’s save files are tucked away somewhere, just in case.  
  • If it’s been a while since your last CPU upgrade, there’s a small chance your BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) may also need to be updated as well. The BIOS is contained in a chip on your motherboard, and it helps initialize hardware when you turn on your PC 
  • If you find a BIOS update is needed, look up your system model for instructions. This type of update is more important than your normal software update, so make sure you’re following the instructions for your system to the letter. 

Gather Your Tools 

You’ll need: 

  • Phillips screwdriver 
  • Container(s) for small parts (optional, but recommended so you don’t lose anything) 
  • Rubbing Alcohol 
  • Soft Cloth (make sure it’s an anti-static fabric) 
  • Thermal Paste – this is vital to help heat leave your CPU, so don’t skip this step. 
  • Grounding Wristband (Optional) 
    • Grounding yourself is very important, so make sure you’re  working on a clear surface with a hard floor underneath you. Touching the metal surface of your PC case periodically will also help you stay grounded if you don’t have a fancy wristband. 

 

Replace 

Now it’s time to get into your PC and replace your CPU! 

1.) Power off, unplug

 An obvious start, but make sure you’re shut down, powered off, unplugged, and ready to work 

2.) Ground yourself

Touch a metal portion of your pc case to ensure you have no charge in your hands. 

3.) Open PC

Lay your pc on it’s side, and remove the side panel from it to get into your hardware. 

4.) Remove heatsink 

The heatsink on your CPU is designed to draw heat away from this component. It can be attached to either a fan cooler or a liquid line and radiator. 

Check that you are grounded before touching any internal components. 

There are four screws anchoring your heatsink to your motherboard so that it sits on top of your CPU. Remove those screws, set them aside if needed, and take off your heatsink. 

5.) Clean with Alcohol 

Your heatsink will have thermal paste residue on it. Use your soft cloth and rubbing alcohol to clean it off.  

6.) Remove old CPU 

There is a small lever that holds the cage over the CPU in place. You’ll need to press down the lever, move it to the side, and release it to open the cage.  

ALWAYS HANDLE A CPU BY THE EDGES. Do NOT touch the pins or plates. Pinch your CPU at the edges and lift it out.  

7.) Replace 

Unbox your new CPU. It should have an indicator in a corner that will line up with a symbol on your CPU socket. Grip the CPU by its edges, and gently slot it into place. Fold down the cage, press the lever down, and lock it. 

8.) Thermal Paste 

Place a pea-sized amount of thermal paste onto the center of your CPU 

9.) Reattach Heatsink 

Realign your heatsink over your CPU, and place it over your processor. When installing the screws, use an “X” pattern to make sure your motherboard doesn’t warp. Don’t over-tighten! 

10.) Test 

All set! Now it’s time to see if it will turn on. Don’t replace that side panel just yet, in case you need to troubleshoot. If your computer boots, you’re done! 

 

Troubleshooting 

So you got through all that, plugged in, and pressed the power button… only to see nothing. Don’t panic! Disconnect again from power, and try these solutions:  

1.) Cooler to motherboard connection 

Make sure you didn’t over tighten the screws on your heatsink, and that your board isn’t warped because some screws are tighter than others. Give every screw a half turn to loosen, and try booting again.

2.) RAM 

Components can shift around when you’re moving your system. Sometimes, reseating your RAM will solve the problem. Simply press down on the guards to release your RAM from its slot, and reinstall. Make sure you hear a click!  

3.) Cable connections 

Cables can shift or loosen in this process, so check all your connections and make sure everything is plugged in securely.

4.) BIOS reset 

There may be a BIOS reset button on your board. Check your motherboard’s manual for instructions on how to reset your BIOS 

5.) Still stuck? 

Try going through the installation steps one more time, making sure everything is aligned and set up correctly.  

If nothing else is working, you’ll want to see about returning that CPU, since it could be defective. 

Test Drive 

If you conquered troubleshooting, or your PC booted right up, congrats! Take your new PC for a test run with one of your favorite games! 

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