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How do I Identify a CPU?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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A computer processing unit (CPU) is the main processing chip in a computer. It is usually located on the motherboard, the main processing board in the computer. Identifying the CPU can be done by installing and accessing software utilities that give information about the hardware in the computer. A CPU that cannot be identified by software will often have identifying markings on the processing chip itself that generally reveal its manufacturer and model information.

For a Windows® user, the easiest way to identify a CPU in the computer is to access the system part of the control panel, which displays information about the CPU installed in that system. The control panel can be accessed through the Windows® start menu or using keyboard shortcuts. To get to the system panel quickly, press the "Windows®" button simultaneously with the "pause" or "break" button. The "Windows®" button is usually located between the ctrl and alt buttons on the left of the spacebar and marked by the Windows® logo. Pressing Windows® and pause will open the system panel.

Hardware inventory programs can also help you identify a CPU if the information from your operating system is incomplete or incorrect. Types of programs designed to identify hardware in a computer include SIW, Everest® and CPU-Z®. These programs will give you more detailed information about the identity and specifications of your computer hardware, including the CPU. Identifying characteristics of a CPU include its manufacturer, its processor group or family, model name, and speed.

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It becomes important to identify a CPU when the chip needs to be replaced. Knowing how to identify a CPU can help you buy the right replacement CPU chip for your motherboard. It is also helpful when shopping for new computers, as the value of a computer depends greatly upon the type of CPU processing chip that is installed in the new computer.

To remove the CPU from the motherboard, turn off and unplug your computer. Then, detach the heatsink by triggering the heatsink clip and removing the heatsink assembly from the heatsink bracket. The heatsink is the CPU cooling unit and is attached directly on top of the CPU. Once the heatsink is removed, trigger the small lever on the heatsink bed to release the heatsink.

As a last resort, many computer repair shops or computer hardware store employees may help you identify a CPU at no charge. If you would rather not remove any computer hardware, find a computer repair or hardware shop that will help you identify a CPU if you take the computer to them. Ensure that the shop will help you for free. Some shops may charge a diagnostics fee to help you identify a CPU.

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