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Building the Perfect Bleeding-Edge PC, Part 2
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Populating the Motherboard

With the case prepared, the next steps are to populate the motherboard by installing the processor and memory. It's much easier to complete these steps before the motherboard is installed in the case. You're also less likely to damage the processor, the memory modules, or the motherboard itself if you keep the motherboard on a firm, flat surface while installing the processor and memory.



We confess that we were a bit nervous about installing a Socket 775 Pentium 4 processor for the first time. Much has been made of the supposed fragility of the LGA775 socket. In effect, Socket 775 reverses the standard arrangement of having the pins on the processor and the holes in the socket. With Socket 775, shown in Figure 3, the socket provides an array of pins that mate to corresponding contacts on the body of an LGA775 processor, shown in Figure 4.

LGA775 socket
Figure 3. The LGA775 socket

LGA775 processor
Figure 4. The underside of the LGA775 Pentium 4 560 processor

As Jerry Pournelle says, we do these silly things so you don't have to ...

Just for the hell of it, we decided to see for ourselves how "fragile" the LGA775 socket really is. It looked pretty robust to us, but there was only one way to find out. So we sat at the kitchen table, dropping our Pentium 4 560 into the socket, clamping it down, releasing the clamp, and removing the processor. Lather, rinse, repeat. After 50 (careful) insertion cycles, we finished building the system. It fired up normally.

We don't recommend you repeat our experiment. The LGA775 socket is, after all, rated for only 20 cycles. But we found that the frenzied criticisms of Socket 775 have no basis in reality. Sure, you have to be careful installing the processor, but that's true of any processor. Use reasonable care installing it, and you'll be fine.

Conspiracy theorists claim that Intel, tired of replacing processors with bent pins under warranty, decided to move the fragile pins to the socket, offloading the warranty headaches onto motherboard manufacturers. In fact, that makes no sense. Intel itself is the largest motherboard manufacturer, and replacing a motherboard under warranty is more costly than replacing a processor. Various articles have also claimed that Socket 775 is good for only 5 (or 10, or 20) insertion cycles, with the implication that the older Socket 478 is essentially indestructible. In fact, Socket 478 and Socket 775 are both rated for 20 insertions, so neither is more durable than the other. Even on our test benches, we've never worn out a socket or a processor, and we don't expect that to change with Socket 775.

To install the processor, first remove the plastic pick-and-place cover that protects the socket. Inspect the socket to verify that no pins are bent, no foreign matter is present, and that the socket is otherwise ready to receive the processor. Disengage the load lever and rotate the load plate up past vertical to get it out of the way. Align the processor over the socket as shown in Figure 5, with the two notches in the processor circuit board mating with the keying tabs in the socket (visible to the lower left and right of the processor). Once you have it lined up perfectly, simply drop the processor gently into place.

Installing the Pentium 4 processor
Figure 5. Dropping the Pentium 4 processor into place

With the processor seated fully, rotate the load plate back down until its upper surface is flush with the upper surface of the heat spreader on the processor body, as shown in Figure 6. Verify that the load plate is seated fully and that the locking tab is positioned correctly to be engaged by the cammed portion of the load lever.

Closing the Pentium 4 socket
Figure 6. Lowering the load plate into position

Once you're certain that everything is aligned properly, pivot the load lever back down to horizontal and lock it under the hook that extends from the body of the socket, as shown in Figure 7.

Securing the Pentium 4 processor
Figure 7. Clamping the loading plate to secure the processor

For retail-boxed processors, Intel supplies a premeasured amount of thermal compound in a syringe. Press the plunger to deposit the full load of thermal compound in a small pile at the center of the heat spreader, as shown in Figure 8. If you are using an OEM processor, you must supply your own thermal compound. (We generally use Antec Silver, which is widely available online and in retail stores.) Use about the same amount of compound as shown in the figure. If you use too little, the processor will run hot. If you use too much, the excess will squish out around the socket, making a mess.

Applying thermal compound
Figure 8. Applying thermal compound

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