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For most laptops, you can’t upgrade their CPU. That’s because laptops have their CPUs soldered onto the motherboards. This attachment is permanent, so no upgrades can be made at all.
Older models often come with CPU sockets (similar to desktop PCs), so they can be upgraded. Such older laptops’ sockets are designed in a specific way. As a result, their CPUs must be replaced with compatible CPUs made by the same manufacturer. You’ll need to confirm if such an option is available.
But that’s not all. You may run into BIOS compatibility issues even with socketed CPUs. Your laptop manufacturer may have locked its BIOS to a specific CPU. This means your laptop will fail to run even after successfully replacing the CPU.
Beyond these primary issues, there are other important points to consider. We’ll cover all of those, so continue reading until the end.
Table of Contents
- Things to Know Before You Upgrade CPU
- So, What Exactly Can You Upgrade in a Laptop?
- Questions Frequently Asked about CPU Upgradability
Things to Know Before You Upgrade CPU
As laptops age, they tend to drop in performance, especially speed. So it’s natural for most people to want to upgrade their laptop’s CPU once the machine gets old. For example, if you’re a gamer with an older machine, you’ve likely wondered whether your laptop is upgradeable.
But there are other, easier ways to enhance your machine’s speed and performance. Plus, if you don’t upgrade your CPU correctly, you may run into serious problems.
So pause to consider the following 5 things before trying to upgrade a CPU.
1) Start with Upgrading Your Laptop’s RAM
One of the best ways to speed up your system’s performance is to upgrade its RAM. RAM upgrades are both cheaper and more convenient than CPU replacements.
Many manufacturers install one RAM stick into their laptops, even though the machine may have two RAM slots. Check if your laptop has room for an extra RAM stick and add it if possible. The second RAM could significantly boost your system’s performance.
You can also replace the existing RAM with a faster one if it isn’t soldered onto the motherboard. The DDR5 RAM is typically faster than DDR4, though the latter is not slow either.
2) How to Overclock a Laptop Processor
Another excellent and pocket-friendly option to level up your laptop’s performance is overlocking its CPU.
Overclocking adjusts your CPUs speed to perform calculations quicker than the manufacturer specified initially. (See how to check the clock speed of your machine)
CPU overclocking will increase your laptop’s usable life by keeping up with more demanding software. As a result, your system will be able to handle your growing needs and you won’t have to buy a new laptop for a longer time.
This process typically causes your laptop to heat up, though. But the good news is that overclocking is generally very safe. That’s because modern laptops automatically shut off or power down once they get hot beyond a safe level.
Here are the simple steps to overclock your laptop’s CPU:
- Confirm that your CPU’s temperature remains stable with only the basic apps running. If your laptop gets too hot while idle, fix the overheating issues before proceeding.
- Set a performance benchmark so you can monitor CPU performance improvements after overclocking. You can use tools such as 3DMark and Cinebench for benchmarking. These tools will test and report on several processing metrics.
- Enter your system’s BIOS settings. You can do this by pressing the BIOS key your laptop’s manufacturer has specified.
- Manually increase the CPU Core Ratio (also called the CPU multiplier) and save your settings.
- Restart the laptop and rerun the benchmark test to check for performance gains.
- Repeat the process. Keep adjusting the Core Ratio until you consistently get better results relative to previous benchmarks (without overheating).
3) Check CPU Compatibility before Upgrading
There’s a chance your laptop can’t perform CPU upgrades. Contact the system’s manufacturer to confirm that your laptop can be upgraded. There are three things to check with the manufacturer:
- The machine’s motherboard physically matches your preferred new CPU
- The motherboard’s BIOS supports the new CPU. BIOS incompatibility can cause your system to run erratically or not boot at all
- The system will be able to handle the increased temperatures once you add the new CPU
4) Do Upgrades Void Laptop Warranty?
Whether or not upgrades void a laptop warranty depends on the manufacturer and the components upgraded. Some manufacturers might void the warranty, so it’s best to check their policy first — either by reviewing the warranty or contacting customer service.
5) How Long Do CPUs Last?
Most CPUs can run without failure for about a decade. Of course, the actual lifespan depends on the overall health of your machine, but the range is typically 8-11 years.
However, from a practical standpoint, a CPU’s longevity may be irrelevant. That’s because newer machines make older ones quickly seem obsolete.
So, What Exactly Can You Upgrade in a Laptop?
The 3 components you can most readily upgrade are the RAM, storage/SSD, and battery.
CPUs and GPUs are typically not upgradeable.
Your best approach would be to do enough research to confirm if you can upgrade each component. Your laptop maker’s support staff is a reliable source of such information. Plus, you can check reputable blogs, Amazon pages, and forums with discussions about such upgrades.
See also this page for more details about upgrade options in a laptop.
Questions Frequently Asked about CPU Upgradability
Is It Worth Upgrading from i5 to i7?
i5 can handle basic tasks and light gaming. However, if your system consistently lags despite performing recommended upgrades, you may want to switch to an i7.
Can I Replace AMD Processor with Intel in a Laptop?
No, an AMD processor isn’t replaceable with an Intel processor. An AMD motherboard’s sockets aren’t designed to fit an Intel processor. The only solution would be to replace the entire motherboard.
Can I Add an Additional CPU to My Laptop?
Adding another CPU to your laptop isn’t viable. That’s because multicore CPUs already act like multiple independent processing units running together. In addition, there is no chance of adding an external CPU because such CPUs don’t exist.
However, you can add an external GPU to improve your system’s performance.
What Are Upgradable Laptops?
For some laptops, you can easily upgrade all the components. These so-called modular laptops have CPUs and GPUs that function through plug-in cards.
Laptop CPUs can be upgraded in older models with CPU sockets.
Newer laptops’ CPUs are normally impossible to upgrade. And even when upgrading is doable, you must ensure the new CPU is compatible with your system.
In contrast, desktop CPUs are easy to upgrade, but desktop PCs aren’t that convenient to use in the first place.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Laptop Clock Speed Guide