Oh No, Bent Pins!
Most PC technicians and enthusiasts have had that gut-punching moment when they go to install a delicate CPU only to discover that it just won’t sit. Bent pins are the single most common reason for CPU failure - and the sad part is, it isn’t even a real failure, just an unfortunate accident that will often render a CPU useless. Many CPUs are designed with hundreds of tiny gold pins covering their “bottom” surface. These are perfectly aligned to all fit tightly into the CPU socket. If even one is out of place, you can’t install the CPU.
How Pins Get Bent
Several hardware retail sites clearly dictate in their return policies that if a returned CPU has bent pins, the return will be rejected. This is because in the majority of cases, bent pins are the direct result of carelessness. In truth, 90% of the time bent pins on a CPU are completely avoidable. Because of their very delicate nature, even slight mishandling, like placing it face down, dropping it, or bumping it against something can cause one or more pins to bend.
Sometimes, though, bent pins really aren’t your fault. As a PC repair technician, I worked on lots of older computers that had been put together then not changed for several years on end. The thermal grease that is used to seal the connection between the CPU and heat sink, over time, can turn into something more accurately described as thermal cement. On more than one occasion, while trying to remove a stuck-on heat sink, I have ripped the CPU out of the socket right along with it. Sometimes there is no harm done, but a couple of times this has resulted in rows of bent pins. Trust me, there is nothing more frustrating than going on a 30-minute repair job and having it turn into a 3-hour ordeal because, despite your best efforts, the CPU pins get bent.
Laptop CPU Challenges
As if dealing with bent pins on a desktop processor wasn’t enough, imagine what a problem it is for laptop CPUs. Laptop CPUs are much smaller, and even more delicate. They have practically no weight, which makes handling them even more difficult. Thinner, smaller pins mean that the chance of laptop CPU pins getting bent is even higher than desktop CPUs. Additionally, once a pin is bent, the light weight and extremely small size of laptop CPUs makes it exponentially more difficult to repair.
Repairing Bent Laptop CPU Pins
Regardless of whether you’re dealing with a laptop or desktop CPU, repairing bent pins is an arduous task. You have to be able to individually realign each bent pin. Here is the best method that I have found for straightening bent laptop CPU pins.
You’ll need a magnifying glass, for starters. A hand held one won’t work, either. It has to be a hands-free magnifying glass that one might use for reading, or in a workshop. I don’t recommend attempting to put the CPU in any kind of vice. The risk of crushing it, or having it suddenly flip vertical while tightening it down is too great.
Holding the CPU in one hand, very carefully, use a credit card to very gently nudge pins back into their correct position. Make no mistake - this is a long process, and can be very frustrating. You may very well over compensate and bend them too far back, or you may find one stubborn pin that just won’t respond. If you have a difficult pin that you need bent back, you can use a flat head
screwdriver to individually bend it. Just remember, the pins will buckle under even the slightest pressure, so be very careful. Another way that you can correct an individual pin is with a mechanical pencil. The thickness of the pencil lead is about the same as an average CPU pin. The image here (courtesy of Maximumpc.com) shows how this method works.
The credit card method of correcting bent laptop CPU pins works most of the time, but it is difficult and time consuming. If there is any way you can have the CPU replaced then you may want to just send it back. Some prefer dealing with RMA frustration over the clumsy hand repair of bent pins.