How to Upgrade a CPU in 3 Steps

Finding out how to upgrade a CPU is actually a very easy process.  Most of the time spent when doing a CPU upgrade is often spent cleaning off old thermal compound. Even the research and buying on this component is usually a fairly straight forward. Since you already have your motherboard, it's simply a matter of picking a CPU for that motherboard in your budget, then installing it.

TIP! When buying your CPU remember to buy new thermal compound to mount the CPU to the CPU cooler.

The 3 Steps of how to Upgrade a CPU

  • Step 1 - Identify your motherboard
To see what motherboard is installed in your computer, I use a simple tool called CPU-Z.  Using it is very simple.  After going to the website, download the free program, perform the install and then run the program.  Simply click on the motherboard tab at the top of the page, it will tell you the manufacturer, and the part number without you having to open the computer case.

The reason I use this method when showing you how to identify your motherboard is simple.  You'll get the motherboard, it's part number, as well as one other very useful piece of information.  The BIOS revision.  When considering a CPU upgrade, make sure to check and see if an updated BIOS will let you buy different CPU's.  This information will be available for you on the manufacturer's website with your motherboard make and it's part number.
  • Step 2 - Buying the CPU

To choose a CPU when upgrading is exactly the same method I describe when I show you how to build a computer.  Ideally, I always try to get a CPU that has the most power for the money I have to spend.  Doing this is actually really simple.
You'll need to check a CPU benchmark, then open up your browser on the vendor of your choice.

Find a CPU that is approved to work with your motherboard according to the manufacturer's website that is in your budget, and has the highest CPU benchmark score.  This is the most important part of learning how to upgrade a CPU.  If you choose a summary type page on your computer part vendor, it'll take about 10 minutes to find the CPU that offers the most power for your computer and stays in your budget.

  • Step 3 - How to upgrade a CPU, the Installation
Learning how to install a CPU is probably one of the easiest parts of computer building.  It makes people the most nervous because of the amount of force it takes usually to remove the CPU cooler from the CPU.  To make this easier, run the computer for at least an hour playing video, or a video game to get the computer case nice and warm. This will make separating the CPU from the CPU cooler a much easier process.

To separate the CPU from the cooler, simply release the attaching mechanism, you can see a sample picture below.  Instead of trying to lift it directly off, twist and wiggle it until it pops free.  The picture below is of a mount for and AM2+ processor.
The lock is toggled, then unhooked to free this CPU cooler.  Since there are many different ways of mounting the CPU cooler, a little investigation will help you figure out what you need to do to remove your cooler.

cpu cooler mount lock

Once you have the CPU removed and your CPU cooler in hand, get some rubbing alcohol and some q-tips to clean the thermal paste off of the CPU cooler.  Cleanest is best since most CPU thermal compounds don't mix well.  Once it's all clean, mount the CPU, apply thermal paste according to the directions, the put the CPU cooler on and lock it down.  Some additional steps and more pictures on the installation of the CPU cooler can be found on my best CPU cooler page, or a video is available at the bottom of this page.

As an alternative, you can watch how to install a CPU into a new computer video below if you're unsure of exactly what you need to do.  Although the video is of CPU install into a new computer, how to upgrade a CPU is exactly the same.  It sounds like a lot of things to take into account, but the install of a CPU is actually pretty easy.  Honestly, cleaning thermal compound off of the cooler is usually where I spend most of my time.

How To Install A CPU Video

CPU Cooling Installation Video

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