What is a CPU socket?

The CPU socket is the connector built into the motherboard where the CPU is installed. It has a mechanical mechanism to keep the CPU in place or to release it in case you need to extract it. In laptops, the CPU is usually soldered directly to the motherboard and therefore cannot be replaced. The sockets have a matrix of contacts that allow the CPU to be connected to the motherboard.

Nowadays the two main CPU manufacturers, Intel and AMD, use different sockets which are not compatible with each other. A motherboard is therefore either compatible with Intel’s CPUs or with AMD’s CPUs. These manufacturers sometimes introduce new sockets when they launch a new generation of CPUs, which limits their compatibility to certain generations only.

In 2022, AMD desktop processors use either the AM4 or the AM5 socket while the FCLGA1200 and FCLGA1700 sockets are used by Intel’s desktop CPUs (older CPUs used the FCLGA1151 socket).

  • The AM4 socket has been used by AMD for its mainstream CPUs since 2016. It supports the Ryzen and Athlon CPUs based on the Zen, Zen+, Zen 2 and Zen 3 architectures as well as some older microprocessors based on Bristol Ridge architecture. This socket has 1331 contacts and the pins of the Pin Grid Array (PGA) are located on the bottom of the CPU. 
  • The AM5 socket was introduced by AMD in 2022. It is used by AMD CPUs starting with the Zen 4 microarchitecture. It has 1718 contacts and the pins of the Land Grid Array (LGA) are located on the socket like Intel’s latest sockets.
  • The FCLGA1151 socket (also known as H4 socket) was used by Intel for its consumer CPUs between year 2015 and 2019 (Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake families) and it is still used in many computers in 2021. It has 1151 contacts and the pins of the Land Grid Array (LGA) are located on the socket
  • The FCLGA1200 socket appeared in 2020 to support Intel’s Comet Lake and Rocket Lake CPUs. It replaces the FCLGA1151 socket used by previous generations. As its name suggests, it has 1200 contacts and the pins of the Land Grid Array (LGA) are located on the socket
  • The FCLGA1700 socket has been introduced in 2021 to support Intel’s Alder Lake desktop CPUs.  It is also used by the Raptor Lake desktop CPUs introduced in 2022. As its name suggests, it has 1700 contacts and the pins of the Land Grid Array (LGA) are located on the socket

The installation of the CPU in the socket or its removal is relatively easy but must be done carefully to avoid damaging the contacts. We will see how to do it in separate post.

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