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[ The PC Guide | Procedure Guide | Physical Installation Procedures ]

Processor Physical Installation Procedure

This procedure describes how to install a system processor in a motherboard. This is a fairly straightforward process, although of course you want to be very careful when performing it due to the fragility of the component. This procedure provides steps and caveats for installation of all types of socketed CPUs. I will add instructions for installing slotted CPUs (those using an SEC package, i.e. the Pentium II) at a later time. Note that this procedure deals only with the physical installation of the CPU, and does not contain all of the steps necessary for a CPU upgrade, for example.

Procedure Overview:

  • Difficulty Level: 2-4 (Low to High). For most newer processors in modern motherboards, this is a simple procedure. For some older ones that go into older motherboards, it can actually be quite difficult to get the processor to install.
  • Risk Factor: 2-3 (Low to Moderate). Despite the fragility of the processor, it's quite rare to wreck one just by trying to install it. If you insert the processor incorrectly into the socket, however, you definitely risk damaging it.
  • Hardware Required: None.
  • Software Required: None.
  • Time to Perform: Less than 5 minutes
  • Preparation / Warnings:
    • If you have not already done so, please read the section on general installation and assembly tips.
    • This procedure assumes that the socket is already empty and does not include instructions for removing any processor that may have been there before.
    • This procedure assumes that the processor has not had a heat sink attached to it yet. The instructions don't really differ that much if the sink is already attached, however.
    • Make sure that the motherboard is on a flat, clean, sturdy, static-free surface.
    • Do not attempt to install the processor if you cannot be sure that you have oriented the processor correctly in the socket.

Procedure Steps:

  1. Determine Socket Type: The first step is to figure out if you have a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket on your motherboard. The key to this is to look for a small plastic or metal lever along one side of the socket. If you see one, it is a ZIF socket. Virtually all Pentium class or later motherboards have these, and many 486 motherboards do as well.
  2. Orient Processor To Socket: The processor and socket are both square, so you have to be sure to orient the processor so that it lines up correctly to the socket. Both pieces of hardware will have a distinguishing mark in one corner to indicate where pin 1 is. On the processor, look for one of the following: a dot on the surface of the chip in one corner; a notch in one corner; a diagonal bit of gold coming from the patch on the underside of the chip; or a square-shaped gold pad where one of the corner pins connects to the underside of the chip. Typical markings on the socket are a slightly different pattern of pin holes in one corner, a "1", or a notch in the socket.

Note: Some 486-class motherboards have sockets containing four rows of pins, intended for use by a Pentium OverDrive chip. True 486-class chips have only three rows of pins, so be careful to ensure that when inserting these into a socket with four rows, to center the chip in the socket. One unused row of pins should be left all around the edge of the socket.

Note: Many newer CPUs are keyed through the use of special pins so that they cannot be inserted incorrectly (well, not without breaking off one of the pins).

  1. Open ZIF Socket: Assuming that your board has a ZIF socket, open it up. This is done by grasping the lever next to the socket, and then lifting it up and pulling it back until it is vertical, perpendicular to the motherboard. On some ZIF sockets, you will have to pull the lever out away from the socket first slightly before lifting it up. This will cause the top part of the socket to shift and thereby open the socket. On some older motherboards the lever can tend to stick and it may take a bit of pressure to get the lever to get all the way open.
  2. Insert Processor Into Socket: Double-check the orientation of the processor, and then place it into the socket. Follow these instructions depending on what type of socket you have:
    • ZIF Socket: The ZIF socket is appropriately named; the CPU should really drop right into the socket and no force at all should be required. If any is, you probably don't have the socket all the way open. Lightly tap the processor into place in the socket.
    • Non-ZIF Socket: Older non-ZIF sockets require you to push the processor into the socket. If you do this incorrectly you can damage the CPU. The way to do it is to first put the ends of the pins into the socket. Apply light pressure all around the surface of the CPU. Then move around the surface of the processor, applying firm but even pressure over the entire surface. Go slowly; it may take a full minute or longer. Don't push too hard and make sure the pressure is even.
  3. Check That Chip Is Inserted Fully: Carefully check the processor to make sure that it is fully inserted into the socket. There should be very little space between the bottom surface of the processor and the top of the socket, less than 1/16" (less than 1 mm).
  4. Close ZIF Socket: Assuming that you are using a ZIF socket board, close the socket. Gently push the lever down. You may encounter some resistance while doing this, which is normal, but if you have to really lean on it then either the socket is defective or you have the processor inserted incorrectly. The lever should go all the way down and rest next to the socket, where it was before you started.

Next: Heat Sink Physical Installation Procedure


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