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A printed circuit board, commonly referred to as a PCB, is used in computers, cell phones, televisions and most other devices that operate electronically. The PCB is made of a stiff, nonconductive material. The circuits are then printed onto it with special machinery, using the appropriate layout for the particular board being made. Along with the conductive lines that connect the different parts of the board, the PCB has places for components to be mounted directly to the board. In many situations a PCB socket is used to provide a mounting location on the board for various integrated circuits, often called ICs or chips.
A PCB socket has rows of pins on its underside. Different sockets have different numbers of pins, depending on the type of IC that it is to be used for. On the top side of the socket are rows of holes that correspond to the pins. The socket is made of nonconductive plastic. Each of the holes allows access to the pins beneath, so that when a chip is placed in the PCB socket each of its legs will be touching one of the legs of the socket.
The PCB socket is mounted directly to the printed circuit board by putting each of the socket legs into a hole on the PCB. These holes are connected to other components on the board by means of the printed circuits. Once the socket is mounted on the board, it is soldered in place, either by hand or by machine.
After the PCB socket is soldered to the printed circuit board, it is ready to receive the integrated circuit. Each pin of the IC is carefully aligned with the holes on the socket, then the chip is pushed into place. Once the chip is in the socket, it works the same as if it was attached directly to the circuit board.
In the manufacturing stage of the printed circuit board, using a PCB socket adds an extra step to the process, but it serves an important purpose. If the integrated circuit needs to be replaced for any reason, whether due to failure or upgrade, it can simply be popped out of the socket and a new chip put in its place. If the PCB socket is not used, replacing a chip requires that the old chip be de-soldered, which can cause damage to the circuit board, and the new chip must be soldered in. The PCB socket is much easier to use and carries almost no risk of damaging the printed circuit board, since no soldering is required.