Installing an AMD processor

In the January 2002 edition I went through the process of installing a Pentium 4 processor. It was a fairly basic process, made easier by the fact that Pentium 4 chips now use a heatsink retention mechanism superior to that of Pentium III chips. This month we look at a similar process, but using AMD's Duron processor - I will show you how to install an AMD processor into a Socket A equipped motherboard.

AMD processors are perhaps the most popular among budget buyers: they are not as expensive as their Intel counterparts and, for the most part, provide equal - if not superior - performance for everyday computing tasks.

This performance also makes them desirable for enthusiasts, gamers and professionals. AMD's range consists of the Duron, Athlon XP and Athlon MP, and this guide can be applied to all.

The Socket A design consists of 462 pins, and many of the new motherboards out now can accept both Duron and Athlon XP processors. The Athlon MP, which requires a compatible motherboard, is aimed mainly towards the corporate space and can even be used in multiprocessing environments.

THE TOP DOWN
Benefits Faster overall system performance.
Cost AMD Athlon XP chips range from around $310-$700, Athlon MP chips range from $450-$700 or more, Duron chips range from $120-$200. Heatsinks can range from $20-50 or more.
Experience Level Advanced
Time Required The whole installation can take up to half an hour or more.
Recommended Tools Flat head screwdriver, nutdriver, antistatic wrist strap, antistatic mat.
Where to shop Adelong, Forte, UMART.

PREPARE YOUR SYSTEM

First, make sure that your system is unplugged from the wall outlet. Second, ground yourself. CPUs are very delicate components and can be damaged by static electricity. I recommend you buy an anti-static wrist strap and follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to properly ground yourself.

You should install the CPU while your motherboard is secured to your case chassis. However, if you have a case that makes this awkward, you can perform the installation while it's out of the case by lying it on a solid table with a flat surface, on its antistatic bag or an antistatic mat.

Of course, you should also remove any expansion cards and memory, and place them in a safe place.

Note: when handling the CPU always hold it by the edges and try not to touch the pins.

CHIP ORIENTATION

You will now need to locate and familiarise yourself with the key components involved: the CPU and the CPU socket. Most importantly, you need to know which way the chip is inserted.

The CPU's orientation is clearly identifiable on the top of the chip by a small square printed dot in the bottom left cut corner. When the CPU is seated in its socket, this dot will reside near the '462' writing. When referring to the socket, the part with the writing that identifies the socket as 'Socket 462' is the top of the socket.

On the underside of the chip, the pins on the edges that are angled at 45§ should be aligned towards the corresponding holes at the top of the socket.

To install the processor, lift the lever on the socket to its release position. Then, align the processor as described above and gently guide it into it.

Make sure that it is seated correctly and secure the lever by pushing it down.

ATTACHING THE HEATSINK

Unfortunately, in most cases, when you purchase your CPU it may not come with a cooling device so you will have to buy the heatsink and fan package separately. Different heatsink retention mechanism styles are available, so you're well advised to consult the guide that comes with yours for the exact way to install it. The two types require the use of a flat head screwdriver for the one on the left, and a nutdriver (a screwdriver that has an end for driving in nuts) for the one on the right.

When you are ready to install the heatsink, quickly remove the plastic from its underside to expose the thermal material that will make contact with the processor. The next thing to check is the orientation of the heatsink. Like the CPU itself, it must line up correctly.

It is important to identity the top and bottom of the socket, as the hooks located on the ends of this socket will be used for the retaining mechanism. As mentioned previously, the top of the socket is the end that reads 'Socket 462'. The long end of the heatsink clip (retaining mechanism) will need to be attached to this end. This end can be identified by the little 'step' in the heatsink.

Place the heatsink flat on the CPU when you have it lined up correctly and hook the retaining clip to the bottom of the socket. With your heatsink now partially attached, again make sure that the heatsink is sitting on the CPU's rubber pads correctly, as hooking the retention mechanism can move it slightly out of place.

Note: it is important that the heatsink does not actually rest on the socket itself when you seat it.

You need to be extremely careful when attaching the other end of the clip to the top of the socket, as a sudden slip of your tool will most certainly damage your motherboard should it come in contact with it and scratch it. Some newer AMD-based motherboards contain tiny plastic strips stuck to the motherboard just below the socket hooks, although they are unlikely to prevent any damage should a slip occur. Also, be aware of any electronic components around the CPU socket. On my motherboard there is a coil component very near the CPU socket: this made it very difficult for me to attach this heatsink, as the nutdriver was coming into contact with it as I pushed down.

What may help in this case is a smaller size nutdriver or even a flat head screwdriver, so analyse your situation and select the appropriate tools. If a nutdriver can be applied to your heatsink clip, use it! They are safer to use as they offer superior control and, unlike flat head screwdrivers, the lack of a sharp edge decreases the chances of severe damage by tool slippage.

To secure the clip, push downwards and towards the socket so that it can latch on to it. Never apply pressure directly to the top of the heatsink, only to the clip itself.

The next step is to attach the fan to a connector on your motherboard. Never run your CPU without a heatsink and fan, as this will almost certainly destroy it.

DETECTION

Your processor should be automatically detected by the motherboard as soon as you boot up, but consult your manual for the correct procedure on setting the clock multiplier and bus frequencies for your particular system. This is usually done though the BIOS, though some motherboards may still require physical jumper settings to be manipulated.

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