Intel puts its processors in different kinds of Land Grid Array (LGA) sockets. So it’s important to make sure that the CPU and motherboard will work together before you buy them.
For example, the LGA 1700 socket type works with the i9-12900K processor. So, you couldn’t put this processor on an old motherboard with an LGA 1150 socket and expect it to work.
As long as there are no problems with compatibility, it is easy to install an Intel CPU. You unlock the CPU, make sure it’s in the right place, and gently drop it into the socket. Then you lock it back into place. You can do this by following the steps in the sections that follow.
How To Install Intel CPU
We wrote down the steps to take out an old CPU and put in a new one because most people will find that helpful. If you’re putting a CPU on a brand-new motherboard, you can skip the first part.
Remove Old CPU and Install New One
This is the part where you actually put it in. Here is the full list of steps:
- Look on the motherboard for the CPU. Pull the retention arm to the side, then push down on it and lift it up.
- You should now be able to raise the load plate. A black socket cover would also be on a new motherboard.
- Grab the sides of the processor and lift it carefully straight up and out.
- You can also grab the new processor by the sides. This is important so you don’t touch the caps at the bottom that are covered in gold.
- Check the markings and notches on both the CPU and the socket to make sure they are in the right place.
- Once the CPU is in the right place, carefully put it into the socket. Don’t drop it at an angle if you can. It should fit right in without having to be pushed or pulled.
- To lock the CPU down, pull the load plate back down and put the retention arm back in place. Most users have found that they had to use more force than they expected or were comfortable with to lock the new CPU in place. There is also often a faint creaking or crunching sound. During this step, the black socket cover will also pop off of new motherboards. Keep this cover in a safe place, because you may need it for the warranty.
Everything backs together and test the new CPU
Now that you’ve put in the new CPU, all that’s left to do is reattach the cooler, motherboard, and everything else, and test how well the new CPU works. Here’s what you need to do:
- If the CPU you just put in isn’t brand new, you should clean it first. Using a microfiber cloth and some isopropyl alcohol, carefully remove the old thermal paste from the IHS. Once the food processor is clean, let it dry for a few hours.
- Later, put a small amount of thermal paste in the middle of the IHS, about the size of a pea. If you’d rather put the thermal paste on in a different way or pattern, that’s fine too.
- Grab the CPU cooler and line up the holes on the motherboard with the pins on the cooler.
- Drop it in place and lock it by pressing down on two pins that are diagonally opposite each other. Do the same thing with the other two pins.
- Get the plug for the fan and plug it into the CPU Fan header on the motherboard.
Reconnect the motherboard’s cables and put them back in the case.
- Turn on your PC, and when it starts up, press the BIOS key to get into the BIOS.
- Check to see if all of the memory modules are there. If a RAM slot doesn’t work or your computer doesn’t start up right, it’s probably because some of the pins aren’t making good contact. This can sometimes happen, but you can fix it by reseating the CPU, which is a lot like starting over. If you actually bent some of the pins, fixing them will be a little harder. It’s best to have a professional do the repair work, but if you want to do it yourself, this article will help you fix bent CPU pins.
- If everything looks good, just turn off your computer and enjoy your new processor.
Disconnect Motherboard and take the Cooler out.
The motherboard can stay in the case, but most people take it out because it’s much easier to work with. Unless the motherboard is brand new, you’ll also have to take off the CPU cooler.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Turn off your PC, unplug all the power cables, and move the case to a clean place, like a desk.
- It’s important to watch out for static charge so you don’t break any parts. We suggest that you wear a wristband that prevents static. You can also touch your PC case often to get rid of any static electricity that has built up.
- Open the PC case and take out the screws and cables that are holding the CPU cooler in place.
- Lift the CPU cooler up slowly to take it off the motherboard. If you turn too hard and twist too much, you could pull the CPU and cooler out together and damage the pins in the process. So, once more, try not to be too rough.
- Unscrew the motherboard and pull out all of its cables.
- Take the motherboard out of the case and lay it flat on the desk. If you have the box that came with the motherboard, use it as a cushion.
You may also like: How To Ground Yourself When Building A PC
How to Apply Thermal Paste
No matter what you call it—thermal paste, thermal grease, thermal compound, or sticky grey heat transfer goop—it pays to know how to use it. Even though a lot of CPU coolers come with paste already on them, CPU sizes vary, so the best way to make sure you’re using the right amount is to do it yourself.
But how much is just right? You want a thin, even layer to cover the entire integrated heat spreader, which is the metal layer on top of the CPU that touches the cooler. On Intel chips that fit in LGA 1151 or LGA 1200 sockets, that’s about the size of a pea, but AMD’s bigger Ryzen chips need a blob that’s a little bit bigger than a pea. Alder Lake/LGA 1700 processors are taller than 10th and 11th Gen Intel chips, so they could also use a little bit more space.
I usually just guess the amount, put it in the middle of the chip, and put the cooler on right away. If the weight is put on the paste evenly, the contact plate on the cooler will spread the paste in a nice, even way without any extra tools. But if you want to make sure you cover the whole IHS, you can spread the paste around with a piece of card or a funny-looking small plastic spatula before putting the cooler on top. This also lets you pick up any extra paste. Remember that we only want a thin layer, because too much will keep heat from moving through the processor.
If a cooler doesn’t come with paste already on it, it may come with a small tube of it in the box. It’s not expensive to buy paste, though. A 4g tube of Arctic MX-5 costs $7 and can be used in a number of ways.
How to install a CPU cooler
Please understand that this section isn’t really a guide because there’s no one way to install a CPU cooler. There are different types of water and air coolers, and different manufacturers use different mounting kits and methods. In the future, I’m going to write a more detailed guide on how to install AIO watercoolers, but for now, it’s best to just follow the printed instructions for your specific cooler model.
Still, I have a few tips that work for most air coolers and AIO watercoolers…
- Put everything together outside of your PC. As much as you can. If you have an AIO cooler and want to put the fans between the case and the radiator, you usually need to screw all three together at once. If not, it’s much easier to put everything together on a table than in a dark metal box.
- Make sure to use even pressure when putting the cooler on top of the CPU so that you don’t squash the thermal paste in different places. If your cooler is attached to the socket with thumbscrews, it might also help if you tighten all of them halfway before you tighten them all the way. Going from 0 to 100 on each screw at a time applies uneven pressure, too.
- If, for some reason, you remove the cooler after it has already been in contact with the pasted-up CPU, clean the chip and the cooler, then reapply thermal paste to both. This seems like a waste, but the texture of the used paste makes it hard to get a smooth layer again.
How to put a laptop’s processor in?
Installing a processor in a laptop is a bit trickier than on a desktop because there are a lot more parts to work with and keep track of. You might find our detailed guide on installing and upgrading laptop CPUs helpful.
What to Do Once a New CPU Is Installed?
As soon as you put it into the socket, you should put some thermal paste on it and then put the CPU cooler on top. In the article above, we explain the steps you need to take. Most users like to use benchmarking tools to see how well their system works after the whole process is done. The next step is usually to overclock the CPU.
Is it normal for the CPU to make a crunching or grinding sound when being put in?
Most users find that they have to push down on the lever harder than they thought they would have to in order to install the CPU. During this process, it is common to hear a faint metallic noise. This can make it sound like the pins are breaking, which scares almost everyone, even those who know this is a normal sound.
Assuming you lined up the CPU correctly and dropped it straight down into the socket, this sound is not caused by broken pins. Instead, it is caused by the fingers of the socket being pressed together. This effect is especially noticeable in Intel’s LGA 1700 sockets and the newest 12k series processors.
After I put in a new CPU, my PC won’t start up. What do I need to do?
Most likely, the pins on the CPU are not touching or are bent. In this case, you can either reinstall the CPU or fix the bent pins. The BIOS not being compatible with the CPU is another common cause of this problem. In this case, you can get the latest version of the BIOS. Usually, newer versions work with newer processors, so this should fix the problem.