If you’ve ever shopped for processors and motherboards, you might’ve encountered terms like ‘sockets,’ ‘LGA1200,’ and so on. Let’s demystify what those terms mean. Moreover, I’ll also cover how to fix bent pins on both types of sockets.
A socket or a slot is usually a combination of mechanical and electrical parts that allow for connecting a microprocessor to a circuit board (motherboards in the case of PCs). Thanks to these sockets, we can drop-in a (compatible) CPU upgrade into the same motherboard with ease.
Now, there are several types of these CPU sockets. Each has its own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages.
LGA vs. PGA
When it comes to modern desktop computers, there are two types of sockets. You can think of them as opposites of each other. There is another type of socket, too – BGA (Ball Grid Array). But it’s not very relevant to modern desktop computing and PC building, so I won’t be covering them.
LGA (Land Grid Array)
In recent years, Intel has become known for this type of socket. You might have heard of Intel Core processors and Intel motherboards coming with sockets like LGA 1156, LGA 1200, LGA 2011, and so on.
So, what does LGA or Land Grid Array mean? It is the name given to one type of surface-mounting packaging for Integrated Circuits (ICs). In this socket, pins are placed on the motherboard socket rather than on the chips. Consequently, LGA processors look something like this:
LGA 775 Intel Pentium 4 Prescott CPU (Wikimedia)
Notice how there are only flat gold contacts on the chip? No pins.
The pins are housed on the motherboard instead.
Many say that an LGA socket is ‘safer’ because you can’t damage your CPU pins this way. However, as someone who has managed to drop their Intel CPU on its edge right into an LGA socket, I can tell you – only the location of the damage changes.
That said, I guess the processor is usually the more expensive part, so better you damage a motherboard rather than damage CPUs.
PGA (Pin Grid Array)
The Pin Grid Array or PGA has become an AMD hallmark (even though their HEDT platform does use LGA sockets) thanks to its extensive use on their consumer platforms. Even their newest generation of Ryzen processors’ socket, AM4, is PGA.
You can think of PGA as the opposite of an LGA socket, i.e., pins are on the processor chip.
Here’s what a PGA processor looks like:
As you can see, all the pins are on the processor chip. On the other hand, a PGA socket on the motherboard looks like this:
An easy way to recall what kind of processors LGA and PGA indicate is by using their names – Land Grid Array and Pin Grid Array.
LGA – Land, i.e., Flat – CPUs without pins, Motherboard sockets with pins.
PGA – Pins, i.e., Not Flat – CPUs with pins, Motherboard sockets without pins.
Fixing Bent LGA and PGA Socket Pins (if you messed up)
Bent pins can cause a variety of peculiarities. It could range from not detecting your memory and not booting at all to running just fine. Why? Because it depends on your luck. If you’ve messed up a reserved pin that’s set aside for a future processor, you won’t have a problem with running what you have now.
If you’ve messed up and your poor motherboard socket/CPU looks something like this, well, all hope may not be lost yet. There’s usually an easy fix.
Here’s what to do:
- Check to make sure none of the pins have broken clean off. If they’re all still there, excellent, move on to the next step. If one or more pins have broken clean off, you might have to resort to more risky measures, as shown in this video.
- Check what way the pin is bent. If you’re unsure, look at the socket from as flat an angle as possible.
See the gap in the first image?
A word of warning – if one or more of those pins are severely bent, trying to straighten them might break them. Pins could also snap if you overcorrect and then try bringing them back again. BE GENTLE.
Fixing Bent PGA Pins
Now, there are a few things you can use to straighten PGA pins. A Precision tweezer, the thinnest credit (or any rigid plastic) card you can find, or even a thin-enough screwdriver are viable options. Although many swear by tweezers, I find I’m too clumsy to handle something that requires that much precision. I prefer the card/screwdriver method.
Straightening Bent PGA Pins on AMD Ryzen (Hardware Canucks)
Just stick the screwdriver/knife next to the offending pin(s) and slowly push it(them) back into line. You can see an example of how to go about doing it in the image above.
Fixing Bent LGA Pins
Unfortunately, fixing LGA pins can sometimes be an arduous task. It might require some nifty ‘lifting’ maneuvers.
Bent Z390 LGA Pins (Northridge Fix)
In the above image, you can see the pins not only need to face the correct direction, but they also need to be lifted to match the other pins’ height. Here’s when a screwdriver or credit card might not be enough. Grab tweezers, a sewing needle, or a very thin pocketknife to get those pins straightened out.
Keep in mind, they might not bend back into place perfectly, and your final result could look something like this:
Bent Z390 LGA Pins (Northridge Fix)
Try to get them as close to perfect as possible, and don’t fiddle with them too much because you risk a clean break with every little tug/push.