You just purchased a new processor and a gleaming new motherboard, and you were also fortunate enough to obtain a new graphics card in 2022, despite what is likely to be the worst GPU shortage in history. Now you’re asking yourself “Is it better to put the CPU in the motherboard first, then put the motherboard in the case?“
To get your PC up and running, you can do any of these but the recommended practice is to first install the CPU on the motherboard. Installing a CPU is similar to installing the brains of your computer. Fortunately, it’s a relatively simple task, so there’s no need to worry. We’re here to walk you through the steps and ensure everything is in order.
Prerequisite: Everything you need
If you’ve decided to start building your own PC, chances are you’ve already gathered all of the necessary components. If not, now is the time to start. You really only need the CPU and motherboard to complete the steps in this guide, but we’ll look at a couple of other things you might want to get before starting this step of PC building:
Thermal Paste: After installing the CPU, you’ll need thermal paste, so get some; we’ve reviewed the 10 Best Thermal Pastes you can use.
CPU Cooler: It goes without saying that a CPU cooler is required to ensure that the CPU’s thermal output is maintained. It’s mandatory to run the PC otherwise you may end up blowing it up.
A compatible motherboard: Not all CPUs are compatible with all motherboards on the market. Many CPUs are installed in various CPU sockets on the board, and they require dedicated and compatible chipsets to function. Following are the types of socket CPUs have:
- LGA Sockets.
- PGA Sockets.
- ZIF sockets.
- BGA Sockets.
- Intel vs AMD CPU Sockets.
How to install a CPU: Step-by-step guide
When you locate the CPU socket on the motherboard, the first thing you notice is the metal arm next to the socket that is attached to the socket enclosure. To raise this arm, pull it slightly away from the socket. The arm will lift up or free the metal enclosure or frame, revealing the empty socket.
The CPU is then inserted into the CPU socket on the motherboard. It’s best to only touch the CPU’s sides while holding it. Touching the underside or even the metal lid is not recommended. Fortunately, there is almost always an indicator on both the CPU and the socket that will assist you in properly aligning them. Look for a small triangle indicator on the corner of the CPU and the socket and ensure that they are properly aligned.
Once properly inserted, the CPU should lay flat on the socket with no need for any force or pressure.
The metal frame is then lowered over the chip. You’re essentially returning the metal arm to its original position. This will necessitate some force but use caution. Tuck the metal arm back in and press it down. This will disable your CPU.
The procedure is essentially the same for AMD CPUs. However, in most AMD motherboards, there is no enclosure or metal frame. Lifting the metal arm, on the other hand, causes the socket to move slightly. The CPU will then be carefully aligned on the socket before being inserted. Tuck the metal arm in to secure the chip in place.
How to install a CPU: Final Thoughts
Drop the motherboard inside the case once you’ve finished installing the CPU and all of the other core components on the motherboard, such as RAM, SSD, and GPU. Before you can finish the build, you’ll need to apply thermal paste and install the CPU cooler. To get a more in-depth understanding, read the essay on how to apply thermal paste to a CPU.
The steps were demonstrated using an Intel Core i5-12600K CPU, but the procedure is very similar for almost all mainstream chips. It’s a little different for enthusiast chips like the AMD Threadripper and Intel’s Xeon CPUs, but if you’re dealing with those chips in the first place, you probably already know how to install a CPU. This beginner’s guide should have helped you understand how to install a CPU on a motherboard. We recommend that you join our XDA Computing Forums to learn more about PC construction, parts, and computing in general.