How to Build a Gaming PC

by turbolence1988dec 22nd, 2018

Installing the CPU

With your motherboard primed and ready, let’s get the CPU installed. Before we dive in, note that processors are easily damaged by mishandling. You should always grip a processor by its edges. Do not touch the pins, contacts, nor the transistors and capacitors sticking out from under them.

Depending on the type of processor and motherboard combo you bought, you’ll find either:

  • A CPU that has no pins on it; its underside contains ovular contacts. This is a processor in Land-Grid Array (LGA) configuration, where the pins that contact the CPU are in the socket on the motherboard. All modern Intel processors and AMD Threadripper processors use this configuration.
  • A CPU that has an array of pins protruding from it. This is a Pin-Grid Array (PGA) configuration, which slots into an equal array of holes on the socket on the motherboard. All mainstream AMD processors use this configuration.

Whether you have an LGA or PGA configuration, you’ll want to take care not to drop or otherwise mishandle your processor as capacitors can be damaged or pins bent.

PGA processor installation (AMD mainstream)

A new AMD motherboard will have a raised socket lined with many holes in which the processor will slot into. A spring-loaded lever connected to the socket will shift the plastic grid as it moves, allowing the pins of a CPU placed in the slot to contact the terminals underneath the socket. Start by sliding the lever out from under its retaining clip, gently angling it upwards to release the tension and have the socket ready to accept its processor.

Now, remove the processor from its packaging. Take care to remove the processor carefully from the box as this is the point where you are most likely to bend pins from mishandling or damage. As before, if you see any bent pins, stop here and either exchange or RMA the processor. A PGA processor will not slot nor sit flush with the socket if any pins are bent. While bent pins can oftentimes be gently re-straightened, such repair is beyond the scope of this guide.

Handling the processor by its edges, align the arrow on the corner of the processor with the arrow on the socket. Gently lower the processor into the socket, being mindful that you should not have to apply much, if any, force for the CPU to slot into place. Once the CPU sits flat in the socket, carefully return the lever to its original position under the retaining clip (you will feel more resistance than before as the socket is now making physical contact with the CPU pins).

LGA processor installation (Intel mainstream)

A new Intel motherboard will ship with a protective plastic cover installed in the socket to prevent any damage to the pins. A spring-loaded lever along the side of the socket will be pressed down and hooked into a retaining clip keeping the plastic guard (and later, your processor) in place. Taking care not to let the lever fly open, gently pull the lever to the side, getting it out from under its retaining clip, and lift. You’ll see the metal processor guide start to slide out from under its guide screw, and as you continue to bend the lever back the guide will lift up at an angle and flip back, exposing the plastic guard. Remove it and either store it in a safe place if you plan to resell the motherboard down the road, or discard it. Check the pins in the socket at this point and make sure they’re all facing the same direction. If you see any bent pins, stop here and either exchange or RMA the motherboard. You may irreparably damage the motherboard, CPU, or other components by running a machine with a damaged socket!

Take your processor out of its packaging, turn it so the arrow on the corner of the chip is in the same corner with the arrow on the socket, and align the processor so it fits into the plastic notches surrounding the socket (the CPU will only fit one way). Lower the CPU straight down into the socket, but don’t use any force to push it into place as LGA pins are easily bent. The CPU should set cleanly into place like a puzzle piece and rest perfectly flat atop the pins in the socket.

As you swing the metal lever back around to begin to set it back in place, you’ll see the processor guide press into the two sides of the chip, and it should re-slot under the guide screw on the motherboard. If it lands atop the screw, you can gently guide it back into place as needed. Lower the lever back into place and push it into position under the retaining clip. You’ll be fighting spring tension to get it back into position, but if the CPU is installed correctly you won’t have any other issues and all parts of the socket will be snug.