If you build your PC from the ground up, updating your central processing unit (also known as a processor or CPU) shouldn’t be too difficult – simply reverse the procedures you took to install it. However, whether you bought a pre-built gaming PC or got aid from a buddy who is more tech-savvy, digging through your computer’s innards to replace its very heart may seem overwhelming.

The good news is that switching out a CPU is quite simple if you have all of the necessary knowledge and tools. In fact, you’re likely to spend more time preparing for the procedure than you would actually replace the CPU. With that in mind, follow these simple instructions for selecting and installing a new CPU for your favorite gaming or productivity PC. Remember that these images were taken with an Intel CPU; changing or installing an AMD processor would need a slightly different procedure.

How do you discover a suitable CPU upgrade for your old laptop?

1. The easiest method is to Google “[your notebook model] CPU” – it will tell you which CPUs were sold with your laptop during its lifetime.

2. This isn’t the end of the story; you need also to consult the laptop’s repair manual. All CPUs available for the computer would be included in the specs section. For example, I downloaded the Lenovo G560 service manual and saw that the P6200, i3-380M, and i5-430M CPUs were all accessible.

3. You should also check out the manufacturer’s official forum to see which processors have worked for other customers with your laptop model. If you have a thin and tiny laptop, you’re more likely to have a soldered CPU, which means you won’t be able to update it. Some notebooks even come with soldered memory (RAM).

If you’re confident that the CPU you want is mentioned in the service manual and that other users have tried it with your laptop model, you can proceed.

So, let’s get the equipment ready to update your laptop CPU.

Steps to upgrade a laptop processor in 2021

1. Make sure your CPU and motherboard are compatible.

Nothing will put a halt to your CPU upgrade faster than discovering that your computer is unable to support the new processor. The bad news is that you’ll need to do a lot of preliminary research to determine what will and won’t work; the good news is that there are plenty of tools available online to assist you with that study.

In my quest, the greatest tool I’ve discovered is a website called CPU-Upgrade. This tool allows you to look up your motherboard and then see whether Intel and AMD chips are compatible with it. The site isn’t perfect — for example, there are no Lenovo/Skybay motherboards mentioned — but it’s a great place to start your search.

Yes, it will appear intimidating, as there are about 1,000 variables that go into motherboard/CPU compatibility. My greatest advice is to go right in and work in broad strokes. Are your CPU and motherboard compatible? Good! Then you won’t have to worry about the details.

For the record, you can find out what sort of motherboard you have by typing “msinfo32” into the Windows search bar. This will open the System Information screen, where you’ll see BaseBoard Manufacturer (for example, ASUS) and BaseBoard Product (e.g., P7P55 WS SUPERCOMPUTER).

2. Make a backup of your data.

I’ll confess that I’m a little paranoid about this, but my view is that if you’re going to replace a computer part, back up anything important beforehand. Even if you screw up the procedure beyond repair, switching out your CPU should have no effect on your hard drive. (Don’t be discouraged; this is a difficult task.)

When you open your computer case, though, there are a lot of variables at play, and you’ll be pleased you backed up your information if you run into static electricity, screwdriver slippage, or a well-intentioned pet knocking the whole system down a flight of stairs. So take a few minutes to save your data to a different location.

3. Make sure your BIOS is up to date.

Updating your Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) is something you don’t have to do, but it might help you avoid a problem in the first place. Consider BIOS to be the operating system for your motherboard – the software that operates your computer if you don’t have Windows or Linux installed. Your BIOS version, on the other hand, is critical since it may affect settings like voltage and hardware compatibility. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to update your BIOS before installing a new CPU, but it does happen.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to update your BIOS because it all depends on your system. Software packages may be integrated straight into Windows on newer systems; on older systems, you may need to download software to your hard drive and track it down during a restart. (If your BIOS hasn’t been updated in a few years, you may need to upgrade to every version in between yours and the current one first.)

The best option, like with many things, is to Google “(your motherboard) BIOS update” and see what comes up. Just be sure you don’t try to upgrade your system by accident using BIOS software with a similar name. The best-case situation is that it will not function, and the worst-case scenario is that your machine will be bricked.

4. Gather your equipment.

You’ll need a soft cloth, paper towels, rubbing alcohol, and thermal paste to update your CPU. A screwdriver will almost likely be required, however, the type will depend on how your heatsink and computer case are attached. I was able to get by just well with a tiny Phillips head; however, your requirements may differ.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can wear an anti-static wristband. I found it simpler to simply ground myself every now and again. You can accomplish this with anything composed of metal, from a sink faucet to the exterior of your computer case.

You’ll also need a firm place to work on, such as a workbench or even a hardwood floor. (It’s generally best if you clean that part of the floor first.) It’s also never a bad idea to keep loose screws in a bowl. Avoid rugs and carpets; if you’re very superstitious, remove your socks; and don’t wear a fuzzy sweater.

5. Turn on your computer.

Unsurprisingly, you must first turn on your computer before doing any work on it. (Please accept my apologies for the tangle of cables inside my computer; you do your best to keep things tidy, but at some point, you simply accept the chaos for what it is.)

It never hurts to take a can of compressed air and blow the dust off of everything now that you’ve opened up your computer.

6. Disconnect the fan or heatsink.

The heatsink is the component of your computer that links your processor to your fan on one end and your fan to your processor on the other. Instead, you may use a basic fan. The purpose of the heatsink is to collect and disperse heat produced by the CPU. The fan’s job is to circulate cool air throughout your computer. As a result, you’ll need to remove one of them before you can get to the CPU.

The exact method you use depends depend on the type of heatsink or fan you have, but you’ll almost certainly have to remove whatever is holding it in place first. Simply apply common sense in this situation: Unscrew whatever has to be unscrewed, but don’t force it if it doesn’t come loose right away. If you’re having problems removing it, search up the model number online. Someone might know how to securely remove it.

7. Disconnect the old processor from the computer.

The old CPU in its casing can be found beneath the heatsink or fan. To remove the housing, there should be a little metal lever someplace. A word of caution: You may need to first gently press the lever down and to the side. If you find yourself tugging hard on a component, as with earlier phases in this procedure, you’re definitely missing a very simple, gentle approach to remove it.

After you’ve elevated the housing, all that’s left is to remove the CPU. There’s nothing else that can keep it safe.

8. Put the new processor in a safe place.

Gently place your new processor where your old one used to be, which is by far the easiest part of the entire process. Make sure that the two small indentations on the side of the processor corresponding to the indentations in the housing. When the processor sits flat, you know it’s in the right place. The housing should then be lowered and secured with the metal bar once more.

9. Apply thermal paste to the surface.

If you ask around on the internet, you’ll get a lot of different opinions on the “best” way to apply thermal paste. There are lots of techniques, and some evidence in favor of (and against) each one. Drawing an X, creating a cross, spreading it ahead of time, letting gravity do the work – there are plenty of methods, and some evidence in favor of (and against) each one.

The short version is that, unless you’re creating a supercharged, overclocked beast, the way you apply thermal paste won’t make or break the machine. Personally, I used the “grain of rice” approach and formed a little ball in the center of the processor. The heatsink — as well as the processor’s own heat — should spread out over time.

In general, when it comes to thermal paste, less is more, and you can easily reapply it if your computer becomes too hot. It’s the most open-ended portion of the operation, but it’s not the most difficult unless you go insane trying to figure it out.

10. Replace the heatsink or fan if necessary.

Reverse the procedure you used to remove the heatsink or fan. Screw everything back in securely, but not so tight that the cooling unit’s construction bends or breaks.

11. Turn off the computer.

You’ve completed the task! Reconnect your computer to its power supply, turn it on, and double-check that everything is in working order. Your BIOS should detect the new CPU and take you through a quick setup procedure. Simply follow the steps and then restart the machine.

I hope all these steps will help you to solve your Processor upgrading job.



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