PC Gear Lab

What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard?

The time has come for you to build your very own custom PC. This will be one of your greatest achievements, especially considering that you probably haven’t been building custom PCs enough to get accustomed to all the nitty-gritty details that go with it.

If you’re reading this, let’s go ahead and assume you want a new CPU for a particular motherboard and aren’t sure exactly how to go about it.

“What CPU is compatible with my motherboard” is perhaps the single most important question you should ask when building a custom PC.

The simple is that the motherboard manual does not specify the list of processors it support because there can be far too many. Instead, it tells you the SOCKET it supports. Different processors have different sockets.

Knowing the socket type should give you the answer to you question. However, there are a few more things to take note off.

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Compatibility Pitfalls

Computer manufacturers are smart and they know that their users and customers are smart as well – mostly.

It is not uncommon for users to get carried away when building a PC and with all the excitement, end up purchasing a high-end CPU only to find out it won’t go into their motherboard.

OEMs know that not all products are built to work together. This could be a physical limitation or even software concerns. For example, outdated components cannot be compatible.

And to ensure that users don’t try to mix up different components and possibly incur damage both monetary and physical, motherboard manufacturers specify different socket types for CPUs they can be used with.

What is CPU Socket

What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard
CPU placed on top of a CPU socket on a motherboard.

A CPU socket is a provision on a computer motherboard that provides the right mechanical and physical components which can facilitate electrical connections between the CPU and the motherboard. Simply, it is where the CPU sits on the motherboard.

There are different socket types and they have different connector placements. This ensures that only the CPUs with the appropriate connectors can be used with the motherboard.

What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard

While knowing the CPU socket on the motherboard is the best way to learn about compatibility. knowing a few more things can refine your search for the right CPU.

1. CPU Manufacturers

Knowing about the compatibility issues can raise some questions like, who gets to decide what goes with what?

Two top manufacturers for desktop CPUs are Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). Physically, these two chips are very incompatible.

This means that if a motherboard is built for an Intel Chip, don’t even think about buying the latest AMD Ryzen processor.

From a software standpoint, the chips can almost do the same thing, with benchmark performance varying with the different models. However, you can’t use either on the same board.

2. Pin Count

With Intel, the naming of sockets is commonly based on the number of pins that the socket has. In this effect, an Intel LGA 2011 socket has 2011 contact points.

While you are not expected to count all the pins on the socket, this is still interesting to take note off.

3. CPU Socket Types

lga-vs-pga
Land Grid Array and Pin Grid Array processors

There are three common socket type patterns in use today. There’s the Ball-Grid Array (BGA), Pin-Grid Array (PGA) and Land Grid Array (LGA).

Knowing what type of socket your motherboard support automatically dismisses or filters out the rest of the socket types from your search.

BGA Type

You can tell the difference between these two by inferring from the names. The BGA type uses the underside of the chip for making connections. These CPUs are made with solder balls at the bottom to allow mounting onto motherboards.

With the BGA socket type, the CPU gets permanently soldered onto the motherboard during production. This is very common for laptops where the CPU isn’t separable from the board.

PGA Type

On the other hand, a PGA CPU has a numerous set of connecting pins at the bottom of the chip. These pins are what gets plugged into a socket and allow the completion of the circuit.

For this type, the pins on the CPU and the holes on the motherboard have to match. This ensures that no incompatible components are used together.

LGA Type

There’s also the LGA (Land Grid Array) pattern. In this kind, the pins used to connect the motherboard and the CPU are placed on the socket itself. The CPU is then placed on the socket, allowing it to contact the pins.

This type is commonly used by Intel where you see processor socket types like the LGA 2011 etc.

Common Sockets in Use

Both Intel and AMD produce several CPU lineups which unsurprisingly fit into very specific sockets.

Intel Sockets

LGA 2066 socket 3
LGA 2066 Socket

Intel mostly uses LGA socket.

The LGA 775 socket was designed by Intel for Quad-core processors. This includes the likes of the Pentium D and Pentium 4 Prescott processors.

In 2009, Intel unveiled the LGA 1156 socket, codenamed Socket H. This was designed for the Core-IX series of processors. For this line of processors, the LGA 1156 socket was built for the more mainstream Core I3, I5, and I7 CPUs.

The current mainstream processors use the LGA 1151 sockets. Therefore, processors like the 9th generation Intel Core i3, i5 and i7s all use the LGA 2011 sockets.

The power Intel Core i9 from the tenth generation i.e Core i9-10929X desktop processor support the LGA 2066 socket.

AMD

The AM4 socket from AMD is the latest socket that supports the latest Ryzen with processors in the Ryzen 2nd and 3rd generation lineup.

The AM3 Socket was released in 2011 and offers support for some of the older CPUs including those from the Phenom II lineup.

Confirming Compatibility

When it comes to compatibility, having some knowledge about socket types can go a long way in ensuring you don’t end up purchasing a component you can’t use.

The best way to ensure that you only buy a CPU that is compatible with your motherboard is to check the manufacturer’s website, for either the board or the CPU.

How the issue arises when you have no idea about the model number of your motherboard.

What to Do When You Do Not the Model of Your Motherboard?

Check CPU Model

The simplest thing to do here is to check what CPU is installed. Searching for the CPU model on the internet will reveal to you what socket the motherboard has.

Check the Device Manager

Checking the Device Manager on PC by accessing it via Control Panel can also reveal some information about the motherboard chip set as well as the processor installed.

Get in Touch With Customer Service

If you do not have the CPU installed, and you just have the motherboard in hand and have no idea what motherboard you have, getting in touch with the customer service would be the best way to go.

CPU Socket Adapters

A few years ago, manufacturers came up with a way to use certain CPUs with incompatible boards. An adapter was used as the go-between for the interface.

This is a difficult thing to pull off with modern CPUs however because currently, chips are packed with features and using an adapter could end up crippling some of the CPU’s features.

You have to be doing some serious engineering to figure out how socket adapters work.

Also, the adapters aren’t cheap.

Conclusion

So the simplest answer to the question what CPU is compatible with my motherboard is find out what socket it uses.

Different CPU sockets exist to keep up with the constant development of CPUs. New CPU architectures are in development and they will eventually be released with different physical and software requirements.

As a result, motherboards are built with a specific CPU architecture in mind which translates to very specific CPU sockets.

Compatibility issues start to arise when users try and use unspecified chips on their boards.

As such, it is important to have prior information on the compatibility of your motherboard before purchasing a CPU to avoid any inconveniences later on.

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