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How to upgrade your motherboard the easy way

Follow our guide to ensure you don't run in to problems

You've taken the plunge and bought a hot new motherboard. Here's how to upgrade your motherboard, swap your hardware, and prep your system so that you won't have to reinstall your apps.

Motherboard installation

Before you drop in the new motherboard, check the standoffs that accept the mounting screws. Make sure they're installed - some may have come out when you removed the original board. Also confirm that they're properly aligned vertically.

Unpack the new motherboard, making sure to remove the CPU socket protector before proceeding with CPU installation.

Don't forget to install the ATX I/O back plate, or you'll find yourself removing the motherboard to install it.

Now it's time to prep the new motherboard. Just to make life interesting, on my system I decided to use a high-end CPU cooler, the Thermalright Ultra120. That requires the installation of a mounting plate on the backside of the motherboard.

If you're using a stock Intel cooler, you can skip this step; the Intel cooler uses expansion pushpins to lock down the cooler, so no mounting plate is necessary. Just be certain that the pushpins line up properly before you press down.

The Thermalright mounting plate fits snugly; but don't push too hard, as the motherboard itself has a mounting plate for the LGA1366 socket.

Flip the board over, making sure the cooler mounting plate doesn't fall off. Now gently insert the CPU into the socket, confirming that the notches on the side of the CPU circuit board align with the tabs on the socket.

Attach the heat-sink mounting brackets, screwing down gently - don't screw the brackets too tightly. Then spread a thin layer of thermal paste on the surface of the CPU heat spreader to ensure robust thermal contact with the heat sink.

Prior to installing the cooler, install the DDR3 memory modules into the appropriate sockets. I chose my specific set of DDR3 modules partly because they're relatively low profile, and don't have extra-tall heat sinks of their own; otherwise, the Thermalright heat sink wouldn't have fit.

The Ultra120 heat sink attaches with two spring-loaded screws. Make sure the center pin on the screw mound nests into the dimple on the upper side of the heat sink.

The image above doesn't show the 120mm cooling fan that attaches to the heat sink; that part just slides on with a simple plastic clip.

NEXT PAGE: Making the connections

  1. How to avoid problems
  2. Preparing for the swap
  3. Check your storage settings
  4. The upgrade
  5. Motherboard installation
  6. Making the connections
  7. Post-upgrade follow up
  8. Cross-chipset upgrades


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