How to Install a CPU: Basic QuickStart Guide


This is a basic overview on installing a CPU and may be all the guidance you need if you're already fairly confident with PC hardware or if you've already built a PC before and need a quick refresher. See our complete guide on how to build your PC for much more detailed instructions on how to install a CPU (and all your other parts) that includes clear, high-quality images taken from our latest 2018 real-life build to help you more easily and precisely follow all the steps, as well as full guidance on setting up a safe workspace, avoiding anti static electricity, planning a build, tools, troubleshooting, software installs, maintenance, and more.

Let's get into the basic steps to installing a CPU in your gaming computer. Different types of CPUs and motherboards may have slightly different steps to install, but the overall process is roughly the same, so this overview may be all you need especially if you're already kind of tech-savvy. 

The CPU/processor is regarded as the brains of your PC and is fittingly one of the most delicate components of all, so you must take care with installation and make sure to do things slowly. Plus, as when assembling any computer part, be wary of static electricity and always regularly ground yourself throughout the install (and before touching any parts), work in an area that doesn't attract static electricity, or wear an anti static wristband if you want to be as safe as possible.

See Also: How to Choose the Best CPU for Gaming

Firstly, before removing your CPU from its anti-static bag where it should remain until the very last moment before installation, you'll need to locate and familiarize yourself with the processor socket on your motherboard. The CPU socket is square and with many pinholes on it, and it'll be protected be a bit of metal that's attached to a lever. Now, raise the lever on the socket to open it to reveal the pins. Never touch these pins as they're very delicate. 

Before just dropping in your CPU haphazardly and installing your CPU, you'll want to make sure you drop it in the correct alignment, so check the CPU manual for details on the specifics of your particular ship. There should be a little arrow on the CPU that will match up with an arrow in one of the corners of the CPU socket on the motherboard. There's only one way that the CPU will fit in.

Ground yourself and then remove the CPU from its bag, making sure to carefully hold it only by its edges. Avoid touching the front or back of your CPU. Now slowly and carefully drop it into the socket in the correct way, and it should easily fit in (it'll only need a gentle push down to be firmly secured). Don't force anything as the pins are very delicate as mentioned before.

Some CPUs will make a slight snapping or clicking noise once it has been installed all the way in, while some will not. Once you're sure it's fitted in properly, close the lever on the CPU socket to firmly secure it in place on your motherboard.

Now that CPU installation is done, there's more to do. You'll need to also install your CPU cooler (the heatsink and fan), which will either be the stock one that may come with your CPU or a higher quality aftermarket CPU cooler one that you selected yourself for overclocking purposes (or if your'e building a top-tier rig and simply want the best cooling and noise/heat reduction possible).

As well as installing the cooler you may also need to apply thermal paste onto the CPU beforehand so that the cooler works at maximum effectiveness. However, note that sometimes paste is pre-installed onto the cooler. If you want full instructions on CPU cooler installation and everything you need to know about thermal paste, see our full computer building tutorial/eBook.