How to Install a CPU When Building a Computer - Installing an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor

How to Install a CPU When Building a Computer - Installing an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
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Easy to Do, but Don’t Get It Wrong

Installing a CPU is easy, but if you make a mistake you could simultaneously damage your processor and motherboard. The trick is to have

everything figured out before you start, and stop and check to make sure you are doing it right as you go. Start by comparing the manuals for your motherboard and CPU. If you are installing a Core 2 Duo CPU from Intel, it is pretty standard. Your motherboard will have a LGA775 socket where the CPU will sit (different CPUs fit in different sockets), shown in the yellow square in the first picture, where one can see the plastic cap protecting the tiny connections underneath.

Figure out, using the little arrows on one of the processor’s and on one of the socket’s corners, the direction in which the chip will sit. In our (lousy, I apologize, I found it difficult to get high detail in the dark confines of the case) second picture, this is in the bottom right corner, indicated by a yellow square. One can also tell from small protrusions in the edges of the socket and the matching divots in the edges of the CPU that it will only fit correctly in one direction.


Take precautions to avoid damage from static electricity. Push the lever alongside the socket down, then away from the socket, and then pull it up and out of the way (to the right in our picture). Now the socket’s frame should be free to swing open in the opposite direction (to the left). Remove the protective plastic cap from the frame. Check the socket for damage.

Make sure you know which way the CPU is supposed to sit, and remove its protective plastic cap. Check the CPU for damage. Place it straight down into the socket and make sure it is sitting correctly (this is the state of things in the picture) before you carefully swing the frame back over it.

If everything looks good (the frame may not be all the way down, that’s ok), go ahead and push the lever back into place under its little hook beside (below in our picture) the socket. Make sure the bend in the lever’s hinge (along the right side of the socket in the pic) catches on the edge of the frame, pressing it down against the CPU.

Congratulations! You installed a CPU, but it won’t last too long without a cooler.

Installing a Stock Intel CPU Cooler

You probably noticed that most of the box your CPU came in was home to a heat-sink and fan assembly. Installing these can be really finicky. Before you even take the cooler out of the box, note the grey stuff on the bottom part that will actually touch the CPU, don’t smudge this. It is messy if you get it on anything, but more importantly you need it to be free of debris and stay spread the way Intel spread it at the factory. You see, the grey stuff is thermal interface compound; it helps heat move from the CPU into the heat sink. Without it, the cooler can’t do its job.

First make sure the black knobs at each corner are turned so that the slot is towards the middle of the cooler. The little white plugs to which


they are connected won’t go in if you don’t do this. The plugs go into the four plain holes around the CPU socket, found in the yellow rectangles in picture at right.

Line up the plugs and holes. The orientation of the cooler doesn’t matter; turn it so that the wire for fan power can reach the CPU_Fan or similarly named power connector on your motherboard (check the manual if you can’t find it, it is in the red rectangle in our first picture), but not so that there is a bunch of slack that will get in the way.

Make sure the fan’s wires aren’t tangled under the cooler, then press on the corners across from one another to seat the plugs in the holes. This can require some pushing and shoving to make sure that the plugs went in correctly and the cooler is sitting flat.


DO NOT turn the knobs! The arrows are tempting, but you only do that if you want to take off the cooler. Make sure the cooler is flush with the board, and give it a jiggle, not quite a tug, to make sure it will stay on when you switch on the PC and the fan turns on. Remember, it only needs to hold itself in place; you won’t be doing chin-ups off the thing so no reason to yank on it.

Don’t forget to connect the fan’s power cable to the motherboard (as in the fourth picture). Make sure you use the right fan connector (as indicated by your motherboard manual) since many motherboards will report an error and refuse to proceed if a fan is not detected on the CPU.

Now relax. You have done the hard part and the rest of the build gets easier from here.

This post is part of the series: Building a PC

We show you how to build PC, step by step, with pictures.

  1. Building a PC: Open Your Case and Get to Work!
  2. Building a PC: Time to Install the Motherboard
  3. Building a PC: Installing a Core 2 CPU
  4. Building a PC: How to Install a Power Supply Unit
  5. Building a PC: Installing Memory
  6. Building a PC: Installing an Optical Device
  7. Building a PC: Installing a Hard Drive
  8. Building a PC: Installing Graphics and Other Expansion Cards
  9. Building a PC: Installing Fans
  10. Building a PC: Power Connections for the Motherboard and Fans
  11. Building a PC: Connecting the Hard Disk and Burner
  12. Building a PC: Connecting the Case’s Switches and Audio
  13. Building a PC: Connecting the Case’s Front Panel Ports – USB, Firewire, and eSATA
  14. Building a PC: Closing the Case
  15. Building a PC: Connecting Peripherals