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Switching Processors

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms, System Tune-Up Help

Charles asks:

Can I switch from 32bit processor to 64bit processor?

Hi, Charles.  If I’m reading your question correctly, you’re asking if you can change the processor in your PC from a 32-bit processor to a 64-bit processor, and not switch back and forth between the two processors, right?  The reason that I ask is because, as far as I know, there’s no way to install two processors on a PC at once.  That would require having two motherboards.

The short answer is that it depends on your motherboard.  An older motherboard can’t physically have a 64 bit processor installed on it.

The longer answer is this.  If your motherboard can handle a 64 bit processor, then yes, you can switch out your old processor for a new one, as long as the processor is compatible with the motherboard. You CAN do this yourself, but if you haven’t had some experience at changing items out on a motherboard, I would recommend leaving this to the pros.  The following goes for desktops.  For laptops, the motherboard and processor are typically proprietary to the computer, so you’ll just have to buy a new laptop.  Actually, even for a desktop, it may be less money and trouble in the long run to just invest in a new computer so that all of the parts are designed to work together.  Also, before you attempt this, make sure that you’ve backed up your old PC and have a copy of Windows on hand, you may have to reinstall.

If you want to do it yourself, here’s how you do it:

1) Completely disconnect your computer from external power.  I know that this seems like a “no-brainer”, but I have met some no-brainers – so there you go.

2) One side of your computer case should open easily, this is usually the side with the fan.  Open it.

3) Unplug the CPU fan from any connectors and very carefully unscrew it from the motherboard.

4) Remove the CPU fan and open your CPU clasps.  This is usually a clip that you just have to open.

5) Gently remove the old processor.  These are held in place partially with a special compound called “thermal paste”.  Your new processor should have come with a tube.  If it didn’t, buy some.  You need it.  The thermal putty on the old processor may have dried, in which case you just lift the old processor out.  If it hasn’t, you will have to gently work the processor loose.

6) Put a generous amount of thermal putty on the underside (the blank side) of your new processor, and fit it in place.

7) Reverse the above steps to close your CPU clasps, reinstall your fan and put your machine back together.

Voila!  If the computer gods have blessed you, you now have a working 64-bit machine.

I cannot stress enough, however, how easy it is to mess your machine up, so it’s always best to leave these things to the pros or buy a new machine.

Hope this helps.

~Randal Schaffer

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5 Responses to “Switching Processors”

  1. Cliff says:

    You failed to mention that changing to a 64bit processor doesn’t change the installed programs to 64bit. They will stay 32bit, including Windows. Otherwise, good article.

  2. Jadesqr says:

    Very informative, Randal.
    Would never thought it possible to switch 32-bit to 64-bit processor in the same motherboard. Sure wish dissidents would express their concerns when they toggle a ‘THUMBS DOWN’, it might help the rest of us to learn.

  3. randal says:

    Hi Jadesqr,

    Thanks for the input. That’s why I was so careful with my “mays” and “mights”. I’ve only actually seen it done once. I think that the motherboard has to be designed to accommodate either.


  4. randal says:

    Thanks for the add to my article, Cliff. You’re absolutely right. It also doesn’t help with any of your 64-bit incompatible hardware. Although what my research tells me (and feel free to add new comments here if my research is flawed) is that most 32-bit programs run fine on a 64-bit machine. I had an old program that I installed on my first 64-bit machine and got an install error message that it might not work properly on this machine. Never had a problem with it.


  5. randal says:

    Hi, Helen.

    The big question for me is “Are you running the 32-bit Vista on the same machine that you had the 64-bit XP installed?” The reason that I ask is that the machine that’s running your Vista may not be a 64-bit machine. If it doesn’t have a 64-bit processor in it, then you cannot run the 64-bit program.

    As to which one is “better”, I would say that I expect 32-bit to eventually go the way of 8-bit and 16-bit. I think that, as time progresses, you will find it harder and harder to find 32-bit programs. So ultimately, yes you will need to switch to a 64-bit system and OS. But that time is not yet.


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