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How Do I Choose the Best CPU Upgrade?

A computer motherboard.
A Central Processing Unit (CPU).
A heatsink is the part of a computer designed to move heat away from a computer's central processing unit.
A CPU.
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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2014
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Replacing the Central Processing Unit (CPU), or processor, of a computer can be the best way to increase the speed and quality of a computer without having to buy an entirely new system. There are many factors to consider, including the capabilities of the current system, budget, the location from which to purchase the CPU upgrade, and more. The best upgrade for a particular situation will be found through research, based on the computer's limitations and also depending on one's needs. Help from a local computer shop may also be necessary.

The reason for a CPU upgrade is a major factor when doing an upgrade. If a bad CPU is being replaced, then simply getting a one that works can be considered to be an upgrade. This is where it may be beneficial to replace it with a CPU that works better than the original. The other reason to upgrade is simply to get the fastest processor that is possible for a system.

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The main limitation to the best upgrade possible will be money, which will be less of a factor with older computers. A newer computer will most likely be able to incorporate the newest CPU, and these can be the most expensive. Older computers, however, may only be able to have older CPUs installed. The good news, especially for the budget-minded, is that older CPUs can often be found at a fraction of the cost of newer models, while still being much faster than the one that is currently installed.

Certain types of motherboard are only compatible with certain types of processor, depending on the socket type and maximum clock speed. These pieces of information are vital to upgrading the CPU. It is important to know as well that the maximum clock speed found in a motherboard's manual may be lower than the actual one, making it possible to install an even faster unit.

One of the easiest ways to do a CPU upgrade is to simply buy the newest model of the CPU that is being replaced. Many times, the newer models of a CPU will still be compatible with the same motherboard that the current one is installed in. This is also the best option if the user is content with the current product, but still wants to do a CPU upgrade.

It is important to note that doing a CPU upgrade alone is not necessarily the easiest way to upgrade a computer. A CPU, as well as the motherboard itself, can be easily damaged when removed from a motherboard. Often, it may be less expensive and more beneficial to replace the entire motherboard and processor at the same time. This is especially the case when upgrading an old computer, which can be improved with a machine that is still older, but much less pricey than a brand new system.

There is always the additional option of having a CPU upgrade done by professionals. This may be necessary, especially for those with little or no experience inside a computer. There are usually plenty of local computer shops, as well as larger chains, that specialize in performing computer and CPU upgrades.

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Logicfest
Post 4

@Terrificli -- But shouldn't I be the one to determine whether I should upgrade my CPU or buy a new laptop? It is just wrong for a computer manufacturer to make that choice for me.

It seems to me that soldering in CPUs is just a ploy to make a bunch of computers obsolete so more can be sold. Whether that move is good for consumers is a secondary consideration.

Terrificli
Post 3

@Markerrag -- It may be a good thing that you can't swap out CPUs in laptops easily or at all. Laptops endure a lot of abuse and really should be replaced every few years if they are used as intended for mobile computing.

Here's why those things need to be replaced. Hardware failure rates are pretty high in mobile laptops compared to desktop computers. The weakest link in the mobile systems is the hard drive (don't take my word for it -- ask someone who works on computers for a living).

So, if swapping out CPUs was a simple matter, then it is very likely you would have a lot of people regretting that move when their hard drives inevitably failed. In other words, forcing people to buy new systems rather than upgrade them may be for their own good.

Markerrag
Post 2

@Soulfox -- That is very true with budget desktops and far too many laptops. In fact, one of the major complaints about netbooks is that they couldn't be upgraded at all due to those soldered in CPUs (and other components, when you get down to it).

It is far too bad that some companies made the decision to solder in CPUs rather than socket them so they could be swapped out at will. That is a shame because it forces people to buy new hardware when they might be better off spending less money and swapping out a CPU.

Soulfox
Post 1

A huge obstacle to upgrading has to do with the way manufacturers tend to regard PCs as disposable commodities that have to be replaced every few years. A lot of them are not built with upgrading in mind at all.

How can you tell? If you have a CPU soldered to the motherboard, the chances of upgrading that CPU are slim to none. Before getting too far into deciding whether to upgrade, check out and see if that is possible or a soldered CPU will make things difficult.

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