Upgrading your computer’s CPU is not a job for the timid, however it is a great learning experience that can help you learn a lot about your computer and in the process help you to make better decisions when you eventually do other upgrades to your system. For those with a moderate knowledge of the way computers work and a desire to eek out a little extra power from their middle aged computer, upgrading your CPU is a good weekend project.
Understanding CPU Upgrades
Upgrading a CPU is not like upgrading a hard drive or an expansion card in your computer. Hard drives and other peripherals are designed to be interchangeable and to work with a variety of computer systems. CPU’s on the other hand are very specific to the motherboard onto which it is connected. A motherboard designed for one of the older Pentium 4 processors will not accept one of the newer dual core CPU’s made by AMD or Intel. In addition, even a motherboard designed for a specific series of CPU chip may not be able to fully utilize a more powerful CPU of the same series without upgrading other aspects of your system. When it gets to that point, most users are better off investing a little more money in a motherboard/CPU combo package available from many vendors. Please note that if your computer was purchased from a major computer manufacturer such as Dell or Gateway it will probably be very difficult if not impossible to upgrade the CPU.
Determining Whether You Can Upgrade Your CPU
The first step in upgrading your CPU is determining exactly what kind of motherboard and CPU you currently have. Look closely at the motherboard for any markings, and write any significant ones down on a piece of paper. Specifically you are looking for the model number and manufacturer of both the CPU and the motherboard. Once you have this information, go to the Internet and do a search for that specific model number or type of CPU. This is where you have to do your homework. Ideally you should be looking for a PDF copy of the owners manual for your motherboard (if you don’t have one already). Search for information on what kind of processors your computer can use, and cross check that with what kind of CPU you already have. If the CPU you have is already near the top end of the list again you are faced with the need to upgrade the motherboard and CPU together otherwise any CPU upgrade will not be worth your time, money, or energy.
Performing the CPU Upgrade
Once you have the replacement CPU and are certain that it will work with your motherboard, installing it is a basic task of removing the old heat sink and fan from on top of the old CPU, removing the CPU itself, and then gently setting the new CPU in place, reversing the other steps. You will also likely need to purchase some thermal grease to seal the CPU to the heat sink failure to do this properly will cause your new CPU to overheat and possibly die an early death.
Upgrading a CPU is a delicate yet fairly simple task. Unfortunately for most people CPU upgrades are not cost effective when you consider the alternatives.