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Install the CPU (Step 5 of 21 in building your own computer)

Installing the CPU is a pretty straight-forward process. The real risk is to the CPU. Doing this step too fast or carelessly can result in damage to the processor. Therefore, don't get nervous. It is an easy step, but do it with care.

There are multitudes of interfaces for CPU's today: All look very similar, only differing by number of pins and various voltages. There are two major players in the processor world: AMD and Intel. Therefore, depending on the processor you will be using, the CPU installation will be different. Therefore, this step will be divided into two sections.

To install a processor using this type of interface, follow this procedure:
1. Check the pins. Turn the chip over and inspect the pins. Are they bent? They should all stick straight up. If many of them are bent, then it is best to request a replacement processor. If only a couple is bent and the bend is not that much, then you may be able to use a mechanical pencil with out the lead to gently bend the pins back into place. Do so VERY carefully over fend them and they will break off.

2. Open ZIF Socket. This is done by grabbing the lever on one side of the socket and opening it. Pull the lever from the closed, level position, to the open, vertical position. You may need to pull the lever out a bit before it will open. Do this slowly and don't force it. You don't want to break the socket. On the way up, you may experience a little more force. This is normal. The top part of the ZIF socket will slide over a bit.

3. Orient The Chip. This involves locating Pin 1 or chip pattern on both the chip and the socket. This is easy to do. The mark may be a little dot on one corner, a slightly notched corner, or a mark at one of the pins under the chip. On the socket, there is usually a notch on one corner, or a big "1". These corners will be matched up for correct installation.

4. Insert Processor. Bearing in mind the orientation determined in Step 3, insert the chip into the socket. With a ZIF socket, the chip should install very easily. It should almost fall into the socket with all pins lining up. That's why they call it the Zero Insertion Force socket. If not, the socket is probably not open all the way. If you do not have a ZIF socket (God forbid!), you need to exercise extreme care. Lay the chip on the socket. Make sure all pins line up. Then, slowly push the chip into the socket. Use your thumb and push on one side of the chip until it starts to go in. Then proceed to another side and repeat. Do this around the chip several times until it is completely installed.

5. Visual. When done, there should be basically no gap between the bottom of the processor and the socket.

6. Close ZIF Socket. Just close the lever. You will probably feel some resistance. This is normal and it should close anyway. If you really need to lean on it, though, check to be sure the chip is installed correctly. When down, make sure the lever snaps into place. You're done.

About the Author: Chuck Lunsford is an owner and developer of He offers advice on how to get design and build your own personal computer. Visit his website and learn more about designing a computer notebook for personal or business use.

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