How to upgrade CPU – remove and replace Intel or AMD processor

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If you’re thinking about bolstering your processing power then you’ll need to know how to upgrade CPU, including the removement and replacement of the chipset. Below, we’ve outlined the steps to take before you begin dismantling your hardware, and step by step on how to remove your processor and replace it with your new one. 

If you want to switch out your CPU because you’ve noticed its temperature getting too high regularly, you might also want to consider getting a CPU cooler or undervolting your CPU as ways to keep the temperature lower without investing in a new processor. Purchasing a cooler may help to prolong your processor’s lifespan, here’s how to apply thermal paste to get your cooler installed correctly. If you don’t know how to see your processor’s temperature, or have felt your PC getting warm, here’s how to check CPU temperature. Now let’s get into it. 

Intel Core i9-14900K

Intel Core i9 14900K

Cores

24 (8P + 16E)

Threads

32

L3 Cache

36MB

Base clock

3.2 GHz ( P-core) ; 2.4 GHz (E-core)

Boost clock

5.6 GHz (P-core) ; 4.4 GHz (E-core)

Socket

LGA 1700

Prep before removing CPU

Before you begin rooting through your pre-built PC or a computer you have personally constructed to pull out and swap its brain, there are a few things you’ll want to know and do before you start fiddling with the hardware. If you have built your PC, a lot of the information you’ll need to begin this process you will likely already know. If you’ve bought a pre-built PC you may not even know what processor you currently have, here’s how to check what CPU you have

Motherboards

It’s important to know what processor you are currently running on, as that will also help you find out what motherboard is in your PC. If you built your desktop, you’ll likely remember what components you used to construct your computer. You will need to know what motherboard you have, and what motherboard you will need to support your new CPU, as unfortunately a motherboard is not ‘one size fits all’. If you are currently using an Intel Core processor, and you want to switch to AMD’s Ryzen, you will likely need to change your motherboard as well.

If you are replacing your processor with an Intel Core, you can use Intel’s own Compatible Products tool to find out what motherboard will be compatible with your new CPU. Or a third-party site like CPU-Upgrade or CPU Specs’ benchmark tool (for Intel and AMD processors) to find the relevant information about your current and new processor, and the necessary motherboard you will need. If you don’t know what motherboard is currently in your PC you can use Windows System Information Panel to find out. 

Back-ups

Backing up your date is optional, but it may be a good idea to get into the habit of saving the essentials before you start changing any piece of hardware, just in case. If you’re an experienced PC builder and swap out hardware frequently, you may be confident enough that you don’t need to backup every time, but especially if this is a first for you, ensuring everything is saved beforehand could be a godsend if something does go wrong. The best idea for saving all of your important files is either an external hard drive or USB, or a cloud based backup, so you know exactly where your stuff is if you were to accidentally bump into some static electricity. 

Tools and work space

You’re going to want to set up on a clean, hard surface like a workbench or even your floor (so long as it has been cleaned). Its important to have a clear workspace because you don’t want lint, hair or dust getting into your hardware while your PC is cracked open, as this can cause issues down the line. So don’t do this on carpet or wearing a particularly fuzzy jumper. 

In terms of tools, you’ll need a screwdriver to remove your computer’s side panel and to remove your heatsink if you have one – what type of screwdriver will be determined by the screws used to secure these components, so your screwdriver needs may vary. If you have a heatsink/cooler installed, you’re going to need Isopropyl alcohol, a lint-free cloth, cotton swabs and fresh thermal paste. 

If you haven’t cleaned your PC in a while, it might be a good idea to grab some compressed air or an air blower so that you can clear any dust that has built up, since you’re going to be inside your computer anyway. 

Any fiddling with your hardware should always be done while the computer is turned off and unplugged from its power supply, to avoid frying your motherboard or getting electrocuted. If you are concerned about static electricity, you can invest in an anti-static band that you can wear while replacing your PC components, just to be on the safe side. 

AMD Ryzen 9 7900X3D

AMD Ryzen 9 7900X3D

Cores

12

Threads

24

L3 Cache

140MB

Base clock

4.4 GHz

Boost clock

Up to 5.6 GHz

Socket

AM5

How to upgrade CPU

  1. Turn off your computer, after about 20 seconds to ensure the shutdown is complete, unplug any adjoining accessories (like a monitor) and disconnect your PC’s power supply. 
  2. Unsurprisingly, you’ll need to get into your computer, so you’ll likely need the screwdriver to remove your PC’s side panel. 
  3. Depending on whether you have constructed your PC (and how you have constructed it) or if you have a pre-built computer, you may have to remove a heatsink or fan first to be able to reach your CPU. This should only be a matter of carefully unscrewing where necessary, and gently removing components out of the way. 
  4. If you have a cooler, remember not to reuse thermal paste once the cooler has been removed – here’s how to remove thermal paste from CPU
  5. The processor you want to remove should then be accessible once the heatsink and/or fan are safely out of the way. The CPU should be secured into its socket, and can be raised by gently pressing the lever (which should be to the side of the CPU’s socket). This will raise the housing of the processor so that you can then lift the processor out. If you find yourself tugging on it, you’ll probably need to maneuver the lever a bit more as this shouldn’t require brute force. 
  6. If your new processor fits into the same motherboard as your old processor, all you need to do is simply pop your new CPU into the now empty slot. It should sit flat if put in correctly. Then secure the socket back into place. 
  7. You’ll then be able to reverse your steps by securing your fan or heatsink back into place. As said above, you don’t want to reuse old thermal paste so if you are replacing your heatsink, check out how to apply thermal paste to ensure you reinstall it correctly. 
  8. Then just close the side panel, screw it back into place, and begin plugging all of your PC accessories back in. To ensure your new thermal paste is spread properly, which is done when the thermal paste is warmed up, you’ll want to run your computer for a while after this process. 
  9. After your PC is switched back on, you might want to consider running a stress test or a demanding game, and checking your CPU temperature to ensure everything is working properly, here’s how to check.

What do you do if your new CPU doesn’t fit the socket of the old one? This will be a slightly more complicated route than the above step by step. If you are upgrading from an AMD to an Intel processor, or upgrading to a newer AMD Ryzen, you’ll have to upgrade your motherboard too.

Can I just upgrade my CPU?

In theory, upgrading your processor (from an Intel i7 to an i9) should be as straightforward as removing the old and putting in the new. However, upgrading from a Ryzen 7 to a Ryzen 9, or switching from AMD all together, replacing it with an Intel CPU, you’ll then need to upgrade your motherboard accordingly. 

Can I upgrade my CPU without changing the motherboard?

Yes, but you may find you are restricted to what CPUs you can switch to. There are several sites such as Intel’s own Compatible Products tool, or CPU-Upgrade that can tell you which processors are compatible with your current motherboard. 

About the Author

Meghan Coon

Meghan Coon is a Tech & Hardware Writer for Videogamer