How to Install a CPU on the Motherboard: A Beginner’s Guide


You just bought a new processor, a shiny new motherboard, and you also had the chance to get your hands on a new graphics card in 2021 amid what is possibly the worst GPU shortage in history. Great! And after? Grab all the new components and put them together to build a new computer. The first thing you need to do is run this processor on the motherboard to bring your PC to life. Installing a processor is like putting the brain in your computer. Fortunately, this is a fairly straightforward task and there is no need to stress. We’re here to walk you through the process to make sure everything is in place. In this guide, we will walk you through each step and explain how to install a processor on the motherboard.

Navigate through this article:

Prerequisite: Everything you need

If you’ve decided to start building your PC, there’s a good chance you’ve already got all the essential parts. If not, now is the time to do it. You really only need the CPU and motherboard to complete the steps mentioned in this guide, but we’re going to look at a few other things you might want to grab before you start this step in building the PC:

  • Thermal paste: You’ll need some thermal paste after you install the processor, but it’s good to have it next to you in the process.
  • CPU cooler: It goes without saying that you need a CPU cooler to make sure that CPU thermal power is maintained. It’s not optional and you need some sort of CPU cooler, either a fan cooler or a liquid cooler. This whatever the manufacturer of the processor, its performance or the generation of the processor. A processor will not work without a cooler, and it will crash almost immediately due to the high thermal power.
  • A compatible motherboard: Not all processors work with all motherboards on the market. Many processors are placed in different processor sockets on the board, and they also need dedicated and compatible chipsets to function. The Intel Core i5-12600K, for example, will only work with one of the Z690 motherboards on the market. These Z690 motherboards have the new LGA 1700 CPU socket and they also carry the new Z690 chipset for the new chips. AMD Ryzen 5000 series chips, for example, require an AM4 CPU socket and they only work with X570, B550, B450 chipsets, etc.

And that’s about it for the prerequisites. Installing the processor is a tool-less operation, so you don’t need any tools, yet.

How to install a processor: step by step guide

To note: The whole process of installing a processor on the motherboard is much easier if you do it outside of the PC case. This gives you more room to work instead of having to restrict yourself with the limited space inside the chassis. If you are installing a new processor over an existing version, we recommend that you remove the motherboard first.

  • The first thing you see once you locate the CPU socket on the motherboard is the metal arm next to the socket which is attached to the socket housing. Pull this arm slightly away from the socket to lift it. The arm will lift or release the metal case or frame with it to reveal the empty socket.

Intel Core i5-12600K installed on a Z690 motherboard

  • The next step is to drop the CPU into the CPU socket on the motherboard. It is best to only touch the sides of the processor while holding it. Avoid touching the underside or even the metal cover. Fortunately, there is almost always an indicator on both the processor and the socket that will help you align them correctly. Look for a small triangular indicator at the corner of the processor and the socket and line them up correctly.

Intel Core i5-12600K installed on a Z690 motherboard

  • When properly seated, the CPU should lie flat on the socket, without having to apply any force or pressure.
  • The next step is to lower the metal frame onto the chip. You’re essentially pushing the metal arm back to its original position now. It will require some force, but be careful with it. Press down on the metal arm and retract it. This will lock your CPU in place. And that’s all!

Intel Core i5-12600K sitting on an LGA 1700 CPU socket

  • For AMD processors, the process is essentially the same. However, there is usually no case or metal frame in AMD motherboards. However, lifting the metal arm will cause the socket to slide a bit. Next, you’ll carefully align the CPU on the socket to drop it. Push the metal arm in and tuck it in to secure the chip in place.

How to install a processor: final thoughts

Once you are done installing the processor and all other basic components on the motherboard including RAM, SSD, GPU, etc., drop the motherboard into the case to continue the process. You may need to apply thermal grease and install the CPU cooler before you complete the build. You can check out the essay on how to apply thermal grease to a processor for a detailed understanding.

We have explained the steps using an Intel Core i5-12600K processor, but the process is very similar for almost all mainstream chips. It’s a little different for avid chips like Intel’s AMD Threadripper and Xeon processors, but you probably already know how to set up a processor if you’re using those chips, to begin with. We hope this beginner’s guide has helped you figure out how to install a processor on the motherboard. We suggest you join our XDA computer forums to learn more about construction, parts and general computing.


About Author

Comments are closed.