You have decided that you want to upgrade your CPU, but you ask yourself the question, “Can I upgrade CPU without changing motherboard?” The short answer is yes, but your options are limited.
Swapping your CPU for a better one is usually as simple as taking the heatsink off, taking out the old CPU, putting in the new one, adding thermal compound, and finally putting the heatsink back on. The actual problem here is compatibility. Many factors play a role in CPU and motherboard compatibility, the most important of which is the socket. For example, you cannot install an AMD Ryzen processor (AM4 socket) into an AM3 socket motherboard.
Even if the socket is the same, it is not a guarantee that your CPU is compatible with your motherboard. This is largely on Intel’s side as they do a poor job of making their new CPUs compatible with older motherboards and vice versa. For example, you cannot put a 9th-gen Intel Core (Coffee Lake Refresh) CPU into an older 200-Series LGA-1151 motherboard nor into a newer 400-Series LGA-1200. It only works with the 300-Series LGA-1151 motherboards.
If you wish to learn more about compatibility and what motherboard and CPU combinations work (both Intel and AMD), and a better answer to the question, “Can I upgrade CPU without changing motherboard?“, then keep on reading.
Can I upgrade CPU Without Changing Motherboard?
First things first, you cannot put any CPU you want into your motherboard. If you are using an older motherboard, for example, a Z97 that uses the LGA 1150 socket, then you need to check what the best CPU is that your motherboard supports. You can do that by checking the manufacturer’s website. Try to find your specific model and check the CPU compatibility list to see what CPUs can be used with your motherboard.
Always Do Thorough Research Before Updating And Make A Backup Of Your BIOS
There is another important factor when it comes to upgrading your CPU without changing the motherboard, which is the BIOS. Some motherboards add support for a CPU generation that came out long after the motherboard did, but they need a newer BIOS to run them. Once again, refer to the manufacturer’s website to make sure what BIOS version you need. Bear in mind that updating your BIOS can sometimes make your old CPU incompatible, though it is very rare. Always do thorough research before updating and make a backup of your BIOS.
Always Have To Check The Motherboard’s Manual
It can also happen that a motherboard cannot support a CPU even from the same generation as the one you have due to power consumption. Motherboards are responsible for supplying the CPU with enough electricity to ensure proper work. If you have a very cheap, low-end motherboard, it is not a good idea to install the best and most powerful CPU that is available from that generation. You risk underpowering it or even breaking something. That is why you always have to check the motherboard’s manual.
AMD or Intel Motherboards
When it comes to more recent AMD motherboards and CPUs, things are quite simple. AMD has been using the AM4 socket since the launch of Ryzen and they still are using it on the new Ryzen 5000-series as well. AMD has promised that all B450 and better motherboards will support the newest Ryzen processors that are to be released later this year, but you will need to update your BIOS. Beta versions will be available next year, so you will have to wait a while to see how things work out. Also, if you are running an older AMD motherboard and plan to buy a 3rd-gen Ryzen, you need to update your BIOS to make it work. Even the cheapest and oldest A320 motherboard works with AMD 3rd-gen after updating.
This in stark contrast to Intel, which has made it very difficult to upgrade the CPU without changing the motherboard. It is a bit more complicated than with AMD, so you will have to check your motherboard model’s page to see what CPUs it supports.
Best CPUsFinal Thoughts
So, can I upgrade CPU without changing motherboard? The answer is yes. CPU and motherboard compatibility is important and you want to make sure that your motherboard can support your new CPU. Always check the manufacturer’s site and see if it supports the CPU you are interested in. Also, always check what BIOS version you need before upgrading.