Home > PC Assembly > Install CPU

How to Install a CPU on the Motherboard (4 Steps)

Beginner's Guide to a Safe, Secure Installation (Fitting CPU Onto Motherboard Outside the Case)


These steps on how to install a processor are part of our main how to assemble a PC tutorial. Refer to that guide if you need to learn the steps before and after installing your CPU (such as getting the motherboard ready to install).

Published On: Sep 16, 2019

Learning how to install a CPU onto the motherboard is very straightforward, but there are couple tips to know before and during CPU installation to ensure a properly-installed and secure processor, and to avoid damaging something. CPUs are fragile so you're going to want to take your time with this part to make sure you do things correctly.

In this CPU install walkthrough we explain how to install an Intel CPU, but for AMD CPUs it's essentially the same process (see the FAQ at the end for more on this). In our example photos we show how to install a CPU onto the motherboard outside the case, but the steps are the same if you already have the motherboard installed in the case.

Before proceeding with the CPU installation steps below, just keep in mind the following safety precautions:

  • Always handle the CPU with great care
  • Only ever hold a CPU it by its sides - don't touch the contacts on the underside of the CPU.
  • Keep your CPU in the anti-static safety bag that it came with until the moment you're ready to install it. Don't leave it lying around in the open

See Also: How to Choose a CPU (Features Explained)

Step 1: Locate the CPU Socket

You can't miss it - look for the square socket somewhere near the middle of your motherboard that has a little grey lever next to it:

If you can't find the CPU socket on your motherboard, perhaps building a PC is not for you ;p

Step 2: Open the CPU Socket Using the Lever

Now you need to gently pull the lever next to the CPU socket upwards to open up the CPU socket. To do so you'll need to first unclip/unlock the lever by moving it gently to the side a little so that it's free to then be lifted up.

Lift the lever to the side and then up

Your CPU socket is now open and ready for you to fit the CPU

Step 3: Match the Pins and Lower CPU into Socket

If you look closely you should see a small arrow/icon in the bottom left hand corner of the CPU socket. This arrow shows you which way the CPU fits into the socket, as there will be a matching arrow/icon on the CPU itself.

Before grabbing your trust CPU, ground yourself by touching the metal part of your case or another metal object (if you're not using anti-static equipment like a wrist-strap or mat). Now you can finally remove the CPU from its case and carefully hold it by its edges. It's worth mentioning again that you shouldn't ever touch the delicate underside of the CPU, and try to avoid touching the top of the CPU as well.

Carefully lower the CPU onto the motherboard socket with the metal part facing up, but don't force it at all. All you need to do is gently lower it onto the socket; no push and no force is required and it should naturally sit in place if you've aligned the arrow in the bottom left hand corner to the arrow on the motherboard. If it doesn't easily fit into place, slide it around very gently until it does, or double check that you've aligned it the correct way.

Gently lower the CPU into the socket. No force is required.

Step 4: Secure the CPU

Now all you gotta do is remove the plastic cover on the top of the CPU socket, lower the frame down by gently pulling down the lever, and then carefully but firmly press the lever back into its locking position. Well done, the brains of your new battlestation is now in place and ready to serve its master. As you can see, installing a CPU is dead easy and shouldn't take you more than a few minutes max. If you need to install your other parts such as the CPU cooler, see our full guide to building a PC for beginners.

Next: How to Install a CPU Cooler and Apply Thermal Paste

CPU Installation FAQ

How Do You Know if the CPU is Installed Correctly?

If you align the CPU pins properly with the CPU socket, it's hard to mess up the installation as the CPU will naturally slide into place without any force required. If the CPU is installed properly, if you try sliding it around the socket there will be no movement whatsoever - or a very, very minuscule amount of movement. If the CPU moves a fair bit, it might not be installed properly.

Can You Install a CPU the Wrong Way?

No - the great thing about installing processors which makes things nice and easy is there's only one way to install them. The CPU will have a certain number of pins that line up with the exact same pins on the motherboard. If you try to install it the wrong way around, it won't slide into place until you forced it in, which would break the pins and your ego (yeah...don't do that).

Is Installing an Intel and AMD CPU the Same?

We used an Intel processor in this CPU installation tutorial we'll cover how to install an Intel CPU with a socket LGA 1151, however it doesn't matter what type of CPU you're installing as the steps to install a CPU are very much the same. If you're curious though, or are here to learn how to install a AMD CPU, the difference lies in the arrangement of the little contact pins. Intel CPUs usually have the contact pins on the motherboard, whereas AMD CPUs tend to have the contact pins on the CPU itself. But overall, the general steps are the same.

When installing an Intel CPU, you simply (carefully) drop it in flat into the motherboard. With AMD you typically have to first hook the edge of the CPU under the lip on the motherboard's CPU socket, and then you lay it down flat. Only a slight difference, but keep that in mind if you're using an AMD CPU as our example uses Intel. Before removing your CPU from its case, you want to open the locking frame on the CPU socket located on your motherboard by carefully pulling the lever slightly out to the right, and then pulling it back so that the CPU pins on the motherboard are now visible. Keep the plastic cover on the CPU socket for now. 

Need Help or Want a Critique of Your Parts-List?

If you have a question, or want a quick second opinion of your potential parts-list before buying to get ideas on cutting costs or picking better parts, comment on the main Gaming PC Builds page and we'll help a gamer out.

General feedback on any aspect of the site is also always welcome too (and much appreciated in advance).

For more comprehensive, ongoing help/advice with planning, building, troubleshooting and/or tweaking your first custom PC, all owners of the "Master" or "VIP" edition of our full DIY book (The Gaming Build Blueprint) get direct access to our dedicated 1 on 1 support email (reserved for our customers only).

Anyway, hope this guide helped and good luck with your build or upgrade!