Replacing a CPU

Basic computer maintenance, like changing the oil or a tire on your car, is something everyone should know. Skills like this are valuable in today’s world where everything and everyone is connected. Being able to fix or otherwise replace computer components makes you more employable than fellow applicants to almost any job. In this guide, I aim to show you how to replace a Central Processing Unit, or CPU, in a computer.

Right away, it seems intimidating. I was in your shoes too once. When it’s broken down into easy to follow steps, it’s really quite easy! The materials that you’ll need for this procedure is; (1) Computer, (1) #1 phillips screwdriver, (1) CPU, (1) tube of thermal compound, and (1) heat-sink. As we use these different parts, I will explain the parts in detail.

Step 1: Removing the Cables

First, remove all of the cables going to the different parts of the computer from the motherboard, the motherboard is the flat piece of gray/green plastic and is kind of like the central nervous system of the computer. I highly recommend taking pictures of the computer before unplugging any cables so there will be a reference for when it comes time to plug everything back in.

Step 2: Removing the Motherboard

Second, unscrew the 5 screws from the motherboard securing it to the case. Be careful to not strip these out, they’re hard to find replacements for. After removing the screws, set them aside in a safe place, and carefully lift the motherboard out of the case. Leaving the CPU and heatsink+fan attached to the motherboard makes the following steps much easier.

Step 3: Removing the Heat-sink

Next, unplug the heatsink fan from the motherboard and loosen the four retained screws at each corner of the heatsink block. This will let free it from the motherboard. Set this aside.

Note: If the old heatsink is going to be reused, it is imperative that the old thermal compound gets removed with a lint-free cloth and rubbing alcohol. Thermal compound is a grease-like substance that allows for better heat transfer between the CPU and heat-sink.

Step 4: Removing Old CPU

After removing the heatsink, the next step is to take the old CPU out of the motherboard. This is done by moving the little metal lever away from the CPU, normally to the right, and lifting it up. This will undo the retaining-latch on the CPU-socket, freeing the CPU. Once that is done, the CPU can be carefully lifted out of the socket. This CPU can either be set aside or thrown away, depending on if it is still wanted or not.

Step 5: Installing New CPU

Now it’s time to put the new CPU into the socket. This step is the most nerve-racking for me since this is the step that you can break the motherboard by bending the delicate gold pins in the socket. Fortunately, the CPU is keyed to prevent this from easily happening. Line up the two notches on the CPU with the protrusions at the top of the socket and gently lower the CPU into the socket.

Once the new CPU is placed onto the motherboard, the retaining latch will have to be closed down onto the CPU, securing it to the motherboard. Take the lever and lower it down, once the notch at the end of the lever is underneath the screw at the bottom of the socket, move the lever to the left under its retaining notch. Don’t be alarmed if you feel like you are using too much force, this step takes a little bit of force and it won’t break the motherboard.

Step 6: Applying Thermal Compound to CPU

Next, clean the top of the CPU with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth. This removes any oil from skin or fingerprints allowing the thermal compound more surface area to work with.

Now take the syringe of thermal compound and squeeze out a pea-sized amount onto the middle of the CPU. Do not spread out the thermal compound on your own! The pressure from the heatsink being secured down will spread the thermal compound out evenly onto the CPU.

Step 7: Putting It All Back Together

Now it’s time to start putting everything back together! Set the heatsink back onto the CPU and loosely tighten down the screws so that the heatsink doesn’t fall off.

Then, tighten the screws in a cross-pattern much like how you would tighten the lug nuts on a tire.

Next, place the motherboard back into the case and re-fasten it to the case.

This is the last step! Using that picture from earlier in the guide, plug the cables back into their slots.

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