To determine what CPU is compatible with your motherboard, you need to find out what socket your motherboard uses. The socket is the interface between the CPU and the motherboard, and they have to use the same type in order for your computer to work.
In the rest of the article, we’re going to learn what a CPU socket is and look at four of the most common sockets used today. We’re also going to learn a few methods for finding out what socket your motherboard uses and therefore what CPUs are compatible with it.
What is a CPU Socket?
In simplest terms, the CPU socket is the interface between the CPU and the motherboard. This is how the CPU and the motherboard communicate with one another. Each of these sockets have physically different structures, so they are incompatible with one another on even the most fundamental level. In order for a CPU to be compatible with your motherboard, they have to use the exact same socket.
The two manufacturers of CPUs are AMD and Intel, and they each have their own sockets. It is important to remember that simply differentiating the companies is not enough. Even though AMD predominantly, though not exclusively, use one socket, Intel has many, and each of these are incompatible with the others.
As of time of writing, if your motherboard is an AMD, the socket it’s using is probably their AM4 socket. First released in 2016 to provide one interface where before the company offered many, the introduction of AM4 has made it easy to find the right CPU for AMD motherboard owners.
It’s still important to remember that this isn’t their only socket. AMD’s Threadripper CPUs use different interfaces, and there’s no cross-compatibility there. AMD will also be releasing the AM5 socket in 2022, which is intended to replace AM4 as the standard for the company’s CPUs.
Intel LGA 1151
Although the oldest of the three Intel sockets we’re going to look at, unless you’re buying a new, high-end CPU, the biggest part of the Intel processors you could potentially buy use the LGA 1151 socket.
First launched in 2015, the microarchitecture that the LGA 1151 socket supports includes a number of CPUs from the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, Pentium, and Celeron brands. This may sound like it covers almost every Intel CPU on the market, so it’s important to remember that only some models from each of those brands use this socket, not all.
Intel LGA 1200
The LGA 1200 is the direct successor to the LGA 1151. Launched in 2020, it also took over from the lesser-used LGA 2066 as a socket that newer Core i9 processors use.
Intel LGA 1700
The LGA 1700 succeeded the LGA 1200 only a year following its release. The youngest socket at time of writing, the LGA 1700 is built for CPUs using Alder Lake architecture, which includes models from most of the most common Intel CPU brands, including the newest Core i9s.
How Do I Find Out Which CPU Socket is Compatible With My Motherboard?
Before buying a new CPU, it is crucial to find out what socket your motherboard uses so that you can buy a CPU with the same type. There are a number of different ways that you can do this, depending on which approach you’re more comfortable with. We’re going to look at a standard approach, a user-friendly approach, and a traditional approach.
System Information (Windows 10)
The classic way to find out what CPU socket your motherboard supports is to check the model of either your existing CPU or the motherboard itself in the Windows System Information app. To access this app in Windows 10, simply type in “System Information” in the start bar and hit Enter.
Within this app, select the “System Summary” page from the list on the left. The text on the right will tell you your CPU and motherboard models to the right of the “Processor” and “BaseBoard Product” labels, respectively. You can then enter these models into a search engine and bring up their specifications, including the sockets used.
Different editions of Windows will present the app in slightly different ways, which can make it difficult for novice users to navigate. Furthermore, unconfident users may find it daunting to find the right information among all the specifications that come up.
If you’re not a power user, programs like Speccy can be used to give you this information directly. The free version of Speccy is powerful enough to let you know what CPU socket your motherboard uses.
The first way to do this is to load up the program and open the “Motherboard” page by clicking on that text in the left panel. On the right panel, you should see your socket listed with the motherboard’s model to the right of the “Model” text.
If this is not available, you can click on the “CPU” text in the left panel to bring up the page for your existing processor, which will always have the same socket as your motherboard. The socket will be listed to the right of the “Package” label.
The above methods require varying degrees of technical knowledge to use, which is not appropriate for every user. Speccy is also only available for Windows operating systems at the moment, so it won’t work for users who run macOS or Linux, for example.
For everyone for whom the above methods are not suitable, the best solution is to find the manual for your motherboard. The original manufacturer’s instruction manual would have arrived in the same box as your motherboard, or if you bought your whole computer as one desktop, with the rest of your documentation. This manual will have the most accurate information since it’s coming directly from the manufacturer.
When trying to find out what CPU is compatible with my motherboard, I always begin by finding out what socket my motherboard uses. We’ve learned today not only the importance of this, but also how to find this information through a variety of methods to suit every skill level.