Articles Laptops

How To Upgrade A Laptops Processor (2021 Replacement Guide)

If your laptop is opening applications and installing new files much slower than usual, it may be time to upgrade the central processing unit. This will help you increase its speed and prolong its lifespan, so you don't have to replace the whole laptop outright.

Here, we’ll give you the lowdown on processors and step-by-step guides on how to replace one. By the end, you should be well prepared to do this yourself with minimal assistance.

The easiest way to describe a laptop’s processor is as the brain of your computer. Otherwise known as the CPU (central processing unit), the processor is the component that handles the billions of calculations your computer runs through every second. It directs the machine’s other components and is what keeps everything running smoothly.

Identifying your laptop’s processor is fairly simple. Any laptop typically comes with a sticker outlining your laptop's various specs, including the processor make, model, and clock speed. Also, you can go into your computer's settings, and under the System tab, you will find an About section detailing your processor and other hardware specs.

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When Is the Right Time to Upgrade Your Laptop’s Processor?

Since your laptop’s processor is what determines its speed, finding out when is the right time to upgrade is pretty straightforward. It all boils down to your laptop’s performance.

Laptop Is Too Slow

If doing anything on your laptop involves waiting more than 15 seconds, then your laptop might be too slow. It could be a sign that your processor is out of date and is due for an upgrade. With current-gen processors, opening and closing various applications should be quick and easy. Old processors will slow all of this down to a frustrating level.

Laptop’s Hard Drive Doesn’t Work

Your laptop’s hard drive is what stores all of your files and allows you to open them when you want. If the hard drive just flat out refuses to download new files or retrieve old ones, it is usually a sign that your processor is working incorrectly. The processor is what instructs the hard drive to work, so a slow processor might be the cause of a malfunctioning hard drive.

Start-up and Shutdown Are Too Slow

If you’re waiting too long for your laptop to start-up, or it takes 10 minutes to restart or shutdown, then you may need to replace the CPU. The processor is what runs through the necessary calculations to turn your laptop on and off, and a long wait time is indicative of a processor due for an upgrade.


How to Know if Your Laptop’s Processor is Upgradable

Unlike desktop PCs, which are highly upgradable, laptops are much more difficult to fiddle with. They are usually tightly sealed units, making it hard to access and replace certain parts, processors included. Sometimes, processors are even welded to the laptop's frame, which makes it impossible to replace.

Despite the difficulty, it doesn’t mean that you can never upgrade your laptop’s processor. If your laptop allows it, you can replace your processor with a newer gen model. However, you have to make sure that your laptop’s other components are compatible with the new processor. A good tool to use for this is Crucial, which can show you what components are compatible with specific processors.


Choose the Right Processor for Laptop’s Upgrade: Factors to Consider

Different processors have different characteristics, chief among which is speed. Keeping in mind the following will give you a comprehensive idea of what any processor can do.

  • The Cores (single-core/multi-core) 
    Processors have one or more cores that help execute actions and perform calculations. Having more than one core allows the computer to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. The more cores your processor has, the faster it will be.
  • Cache 
    Your CPU will have a small amount of devoted memory, known as the cache. This is separate from the computer’s RAM and is what allows the laptop to retrieve files in the processor very quickly.
  • Socket Compatibility 
    All CPUs are located on the laptop’s motherboard. Motherboards have sockets that allow various components to plug in and run. Certain CPUs and motherboards are incompatible with one another, so determining socket compatibility is crucial to deciding on a processor.
  • Integrated Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) 
    Processors sometimes have integrated GPUs, which help the computer render and display images and 3D models. Integrated graphics are typically less powerful than dedicated graphics cards and aren't always necessary for a laptop to run efficiently. Look for a processor with integrated graphics but is also compatible with a separate GPU for the best possible performance.
  • Frequency 
    CPU frequency, measures in hertz (Hz), determines the speed at which your processor runs. While in the past, a higher frequency directly equated to faster performance, nowadays, this is not the case. You need to look at a CPUs clock speed in addition to the frequency to determine whether it is faster or not.
  • Thermal Design Power 
    Since the processor is the main component in a laptop, it is also the primary heat source. Your CPU's thermal design power specification will directly determine how much heat it gives off and what cooling systems are needed to accommodate it. Inadequate cooling systems can lead to a system-wide failure when the CPU (and laptop as a whole) gets too hot.

How To Replace Laptop’s CPU: Step-By-Step Guide

Replacing your laptop's CPU is a challenging task that could take most of the day. To prepare for this, make sure that you wipe your surfaces down with alcohol wipes. Remember, your biggest enemy here is dust, so a sterile environment is the best. You should also wear vinyl gloves if you have them.

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As the task is a little complex, we highly advise that you watch a video guide. Watch it once without doing anything, then have it running again during the task so you can pause and rewind when you come to the crucial steps.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much does it cost to replace a laptop CPU?

The cost for upgrading and replacing a CPU will vary. Depending on how new the CPU model is and its power, you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 to $1000 for a high-end processor.

Can I upgrade my laptop processor from i5 to i7? What about i3 to i5?

Whether you can upgrade from an i5 to an i7 processor will depend on your motherboard's socket compatibility. If the i7 processor has different sockets, then you might not be able to. Also, upgrading i3 to i5 is much more challenging as i3 CPUs are typically welded to the motherboard and also have much different socket requirements.

Do you need to reinstall Windows after replacing the CPU?

In most cases, there is no need to reinstall windows after replacing the CPU. However, if you encounter slow performance or crashes after you’ve upgraded, you should perform a fresh install.

How long does it take to replace a laptop’s processor?

If you know what you’re doing, it could take just under an hour to replace a laptop's processor. However, it could be longer or shorter, depending on your skill level.

What happens if you install the CPU incorrectly?

A processor should fit easily into the motherboard if they are compatible. If you install it incorrectly, your computer won’t start, and you risk damaging the computer's components.

Is installing a CPU hard?

Installing a CPU is hard. There are many components that you might have to unscrew and remove in order to get to the motherboard, so it takes a fair level of skill and knowledge to install it correctly.

Can I upgrade the CPU without changing the motherboard?

You might be able to replace the CPU without changing the motherboard if the socket compatibility is correct. However, if your new CPU is incompatible with the motherboard, you’ll need to replace it.


Conclusion

Hopefully, any confusion you may have had about replacing your laptop’s processor has been cleared up. You should be well-equipped to upgrade or replace your processor yourself, without the help of a qualified computer expert.