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Can You Upgrade or Replace a Laptop CPU?

written by: Jesma•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/15/2011

Is it worth the time, money, and effort to upgrade or replace the CPU in a laptop? Can it even be done? Find the answers to these questions and more.

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    Laptops are notorious for going out of date quickly. A recent survey determined that the average lifespan of a laptop (before failing or being replaced) is no more than four years. Additionally, when a laptop is no longer pulling its weight it is a lot more noticeable than on a desktop - fans slow down, dust and other outside sources wear on the circuitry, and things just don't perform the way they used to. In these economically difficult times, a person in desperate need of a new laptop may consider upgrades or replacement parts for their existing one instead of going out and buying new. In my guide to laptop upgrades, I listed the CPU, or processor, of a laptop as a component that I wouldn't recommend you attempt to upgrade, simply because the increase in performance to cost ratio is rather imbalanced. Replacing a CPU that has failed, however, is a viable option if you have a little technical know-how, or at the very least an adventurous willingness to step outside your comfort zone and follow a guide on the internet into the depths of your laptop. Note: Some laptop CPUs are soldered onto the motherboard, and therefore cannot be replaced. Check your owners manual or contact the laptop manufacturer to learn more.

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    Finding a Replacement CPU

    Half of the battle in replacing a faulty CPU in a laptop is finding one to replace it with! CPUs are very specific, and you have to match certain specifications when looking for a new one. The three main pieces of information you need are:

    • Socket
    • Power Requirements
    • Front Side Bus (FSB) or System Bus Speed

    This information can usually be found in the laptop user manual, on the manufacturer's website, or by calling the laptop manufacturer. Once you have this information, you can purchase a CPU. From where? The manufacturer may or may not sell you a CPU. You may have to find an online retailer by putting "[the model of your laptop] CPU" into a search engine.

    Another method of finding a replacement CPU for your laptop is to find the same laptop on eBay. You can often find a laptop with a broken screen or hard drive being sold for very little money because the seller considers it unusable. So long as the CPU is still in tact, you can buy the whole thing and salvage the part from it.

    Another bit of information that will be useful in your search for a replacement or CPU upgrade is which processor speeds have been offered with that same model laptop, either in more recent times or sold as upgrades during the initial purchase.

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    Installing the CPU

    Installing a CPU in a laptop when you have little or no prior experience with disassembling or repairing laptops can be extremely difficult and stressful. I recommend you only accept this undertaking if you are adventurous and not afraid to screw it up worse than it already is. Online guides, like this one from PC World, or my "How to Disassemble a Laptop" series will help you in your quest.