Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 156 / SEPTEMBER 1993 / PAGE S4

How to install an upgrade kit. (microcomputer processor upgrade) (Compute's Getting Stated With: Upgrading Your Processor)
by Richard O. Mann

How do you install an upgrade chip? Very carefully. Make that extremely carefully.

There are three steps to the process: find the right upgrade kit for your system, pull the old CPU chip out of the computer, and insert the new chip into the socket. Only the final step is really easy, and you have to be careful with it, too.

Find the Right

Upgrade Kit

Upgrade chips generally come in kits designed to make the process of swapping out the chips as easy as it can be. Some upgrade vendors sell kits designed for individual models of computers. These are the easiest to use, because most of the individualizing has already been done for you. With these kits, you literally can pull off the old chip, insert the new one, and close the case.

Other vendors sell kits that cover whole classes of computers. With these, you'll be altering jumper settings and occasionally running software fixes. They can be a little more challenging.

Talk to the upgrade vendor and be sure the kit you're getting will work with your computer. You may need to contact your computer's manufacturer as well to get all the specs on your current machine. Be sure you get a kit that's going to work - it's worth being paranoid about this. Also find out if you need a BIOS upgrade,

Another thing to check before buying is the location of the CPU chip in your computer. If it's located under the hard drive or in another crowded spot, the swap may be unduly difficult or even impossible.

Of course, if you have an OverDrive socket in your computer, none of this will be a problem. You don't even have to pull the old chip out.

Carefully Remove the

Old Chip

You'd think you could just unplug the old chip, right? Read the instructions and use the chip-puller tool that comes with the kit. Don't ignore the cautions about grounding both yourself and the computer before working on it. Take them very seriously.

One corner of the old chip is notched where the right angle of the corner has been cut away. This is to make sure you get the right pins in the right holes. Note where the notch is and mark it somehow so you can't possibly forget.

Experience shows that the chips rarely pop right out. After all, these chips have 168 or 169 pins, all of which have to be firmly seated for the computer to work. As you use the computer, the chip heats and cools, expands and contracts, with every on-off cycle. It tends to become firmly attached to its socket.

The chip puller is usually an aluminum many-toothed tool that you slide between the pins of the chip. Tug gently and try to ease the chip out of the socket. Move from one side of the chip to the next, slowly easing up a fraction of an inch, working around the chip. It may take three or four times on each side before the chip comes loose.

If you're really lucky, you have a computer with a ZIF socket. Zero Insertion Force sockets have a little lever built in that lets you remove the old chip and reseat the new one.

Once you have this precious little computer brain out in your hand, what do you do with it? Not much. There's little market for outdated and well used chips.

Insert the New Chip

Be careful handling the new chip. If you should bend a pin on the old chip as you remove it, that's not too bad, but bending a pin on your pricey, new CPU could be a disaster.

Get the notch on the new chip aligned just as the notch on the old one was. Set the chip into the socket, taking as much care as possible to get the pins into the right holes. When you're sure the pins are all aligned correctly, apply gentle pressure to the chip to fully work it into the socket. Be sure it's seated properly - firmly in place, thoroughly into the socket.

Then put the rest of the computer back together, and following the directions from the upgrade vendor, power up the system. If you' don't get frying noises and smoke, you've done it right. Even experienced technicians will tell you that they've fried an occasional motherboard or chip by not getting everything just right.

Experience also shows that despite their claims, many of the upgrade kits aren't totally clear in their instructions. There are too many variables with all the many varieties of clone systems out there to get everything exactly right for every system. Expect trouble, take care, and do the upgrade at a time when telephone support will be available.

Enjoy Your Screamer

If the chip upgrade path will work for you, it can significantly extend the life and utility of your computer. You, too, can have a true screamer - even in your old PC case.