Intel uses various types of Land Grid Array (LGA) sockets for its processors. So before you even buy the CPU and motherboard, it’s important to check that they are compatible with each other.
For instance, the i9-12900K processor is compatible with an LGA 1700 socket type. So, if you tried to install this processor onto an old motherboard with an LGA 1150 socket, it wouldn’t work out.
Assuming there are no compatibility issues, installing an Intel CPU is quite simple. You release the locking mechanism, correctly align and gently drop the CPU into the socket, and lock it back in place. You’ll find step-by-step instructions to do so in the sections below.
How to Install an Intel CPU
We’ve listed the steps to remove an old CPU, then install a new one, as that will be helpful for most people. If you’re installing a CPU onto a brand new motherboard, you can skip the first section.
Disconnect Motherboard and Remove the Cooler
While you can keep the motherboard in the case, most people prefer to take it out as it’s much easier to work with that way. Unless the motherboard is brand new, you’ll also have to detach the CPU cooler. Here are the steps to do so:
- Turn off your PC, unplug all the power cables, and move the case to a clean workspace such as a desk.
- It’s important to pay attention to static charge to ensure you don’t damage any components. We recommend using an anti-static wrist band. Alternatively, you can also routinely touch your PC case to discharge any built-up static electricity.
- Open the PC casing and remove the screws and cables holding the CPU cooler in place.
- Gently lift up the CPU cooler to remove it from the motherboard. If you twist/turn and apply too much force, you could pull the CPU out along with the cooler and damage the pins in the process. So once again, don’t be too rough here.
- Unscrew the motherboard and remove all the cables as well.
- Take the motherboard out of the case and place it flat on the desk. If you have the motherboard packaging box, it’s better to use it as a cushion.
Remove Old CPU and Install New One
This is the actual installation part. Here are the complete steps:
- Locate the CPU on the motherboard. Push down on the retention arm, pull it to the side, and then lift it up.
- You should be able to lift up the load plate now. On new motherboards, you would also find a black socket cover.
- Grab the processor by the sides and carefully lift it straight up and out.
- Grab the new processor by the sides as well. This is important so that you don’t touch the gold-plated caps at the bottom.
- Check the markings (triangle or dot) and notches on both the CPU and the socket for the correct alignment.
- Once you’ve aligned the CPU correctly, gently place it into the socket. Try not to drop it at an angle. It should fit right in place without applying any pressure.
- Pull the load plate back down, and set the retention arm back in place to lock the CPU down. Most users have found that they had to apply more force than they expected or were comfortable with when locking the new CPU in place. A faint creaking or crunching sound is also common. Finally, the black socket cover in new motherboards will also pop out during this step. Remember to store this cover safely as you may need it for warranty purposes.
Reattach Everything and Test New CPU
Now that you’ve installed the new CPU, all that’s left is to reattach the cooler, motherboard, and everything else and test how well the new CPU works. Here are the steps to do so:
- If the CPU you just installed isn’t brand new, you’ll want to clean the CPU first. Apply some isopropyl alcohol to a microfiber cloth and carefully remove the old thermal paste off the IHS. Once it’s clean, let the processor dry for a few hours.
- Later, reapply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste onto the center of the IHS. If you’d prefer to use another method or pattern to apply the thermal paste, that’s fine too.
- Grab the CPU cooler and align the mounting pins with the holes on the motherboard.
- Drop it in place and push down on two diagonally opposing pins to lock them in place. Repeat this for the other two pins as well.
- Grab the fan plug and connect it to the CPU Fan header on the motherboard.
- Reconnect all the cables to the motherboard and place it back in the case.
- Power up your PC and press the BIOS key at startup to boot into the BIOS.
- Check that all the memory modules are showing up. If a RAM slot isn’t working or your PC doesn’t boot properly, this is likely because some of the pins are not making proper contact. This can happen sometimes, and you can fix this issue by reseating the CPU, essentially repeating the process again. In the event that you actually bent some of the pins, repairing will be a bit more difficult. It’s best to leave the repair job to a professional, but if you’d like to do it yourself, this article on repairing bent CPU pins will be helpful.
- If everything seems fine, restart your PC and enjoy your new processor.
How to Install a Processor in a Laptop?
Installing a processor in a laptop is a bit more complicated compared to a desktop, as you have to work with and keep track of a lot more components. We have a detailed guide on installing and upgrading laptop CPUs that you may find helpful.
What to Do After Installing a New CPU?
Right after installing it into the socket, you’ll want to apply some thermal paste and install the CPU cooler on top. We’ve detailed the steps to do so in the article above. As for what to do after the whole process is complete, most users like to use benchmarking tools to see how well their system performs. Overclocking the CPU usually follows soon after.
Is Crunching or Grinding Noise When Installing the CPU Normal?
Most users find that they have to apply more pressure than they expected when pushing down the lever and installing the CPU. During this process, a faint metallic noise can be heard, which is quite common. This can feel like the pins are breaking, which freaks out pretty much everyone, even those that are aware that this noise is normal.
Assuming you aligned the CPU correctly and dropped it straight down into the socket, this sound is not due to pins breaking but rather due to the socket fingers being compressed. This effect is particularly pronounced in Intel’s LGA 1700 sockets and the latest 12k series processors.
My PC Won’t Boot After Installing New CPU. What Should I do?
Most likely, the CPU pins are not making contact or are bent. In such cases, you can reseat the CPU or fix the bent pins as appropriate. Another common reason for this issue is that the BIOS isn’t compatible with the CPU. In this case, you can update the BIOS to the latest version. Newer versions usually support newer processors, so this should resolve the issue.