Unless you’re wealthy, wasteful, or just lucky, it’s not easy to build a PC right now. Silicon shortages, pandemic-strained supply chains, and insane at-home-gamer demand are cross-threading with people who couldn’t buy a console and are switching to PC. All of that feeds panic-buying. That may move motivated buyers into used markets, which can be scary, considering how fragile PC parts can seem.
One of the most fragile parts is the core of your PC, the CPU. Its connection to your motherboard is a grid of pins that can bend if dropped or dinged. This is why you’ll sometimes see listings for newer CPUs that claim to be non-working because of bent pins. All hope is not lost! Bending back CPU pins is a somewhat obscure, slightly tedious process, but totally possible. That’s why I made a guide for it.
It all started when I saw a Ryzen 7 2700X for sale on eBay, listed as “For Parts or Not Working” with bent pins, for about half the normal price. I remember considering if this was a crazy, foolish project, but I must’ve blacked out for a second, because suddenly I had a tracking number in my inbox.
Despite my purchase-button bravado, I had concerns: Would I be left with a dud? Would I break a pin completely off, trying to fix it? Could I physically fix something that seemed so mind-twisting-ly tiny and complex? This whole thing could turn out a waste of money. Luckily, I work at iFixit, so at worst my impulse buy could be considered a $90 tuition fee for a Bending CPU Pins 101 course. After I passed, and did additional research, I wrote a guide to fixing bent CPU pins.
How to Fix Bent CPU Pins
One of the scariest parts of building your own…
The reason people freak out when something is wrong with one of the 1,331 of pins on the bottom of a CPU is that these pins bend easily. Most CPU pins are gold-plated copper, and both of those precious metals are very soft. Installing a CPU in a motherboard often involves a moment where you put some force into a lever arm to lock the chip in place. If the chp is aligned incorrectly, or you’ve handled them roughly, you can damage the pins. It may seem like the end of the road, but it isn’t always.
Before we talk about how to work out CPU pin kinks: We’re only tackling pins on CPUs today, which these days means mostly mainstream AMD processors. We won’t get into the opposite scenario, where Intel (or AMD Threadripper) chips align with an array of pins in the motherboard socket itself (a “Land Grid Array,” or LGA).
Another caveat: while you can bend CPU pins back into proper alignment, they’re like paper clips: one too many times and they snap off. Pins can also be soldered back in place, but that’s a whole other ballgame. Some CPU pins can be dummy pins, as manufacturers will use a single socket type across numerous chip generations. If you break a pin off during your repair, there’s a chance the pin didn’t do anything in the first place. You can’t be totally sure until your first boot, so proceed with fixing other bent pins.
Luckily, pins can be fixed! Especially if they’ve only been bent once—your chance to bend them back without them snapping off are decent. That’s also a very good reasons to read item and condition descriptions carefully, and ask questions of sellers, if you’re thinking of trying to rescue a used CPU.
People use craft knives, mechanical pencils, and tweezers to bend back CPU pins. In order to keep entire rows straight, I prefer using long trapezoidal razor blades to span entire rows. The thickness of these box cutter replacement blades seem to match the distance between pin rows on a CPU, allowing you to move entire rows minute amounts. This is especially helpful if you’ve dropped a CPU and bent an entire side of pins (JayzTwoCents uses this method). If you’ve got a tricky single pin to bend, tweezers (maybe a lightly modified pair) can nudge it into place just enough so the razor blade can finish the job. But go slow, and real easy.
The beauty of AMD’s current PGA socket design is that once most pins are straight enough to fit the holes on the motherboard socket, they can be coaxed back into near-perfect alignment by closing the socket arm on the motherboard. The socket “grabs” the pins, further straightening them. If you’ve fitted your CPU into your socket such that it sinks in and sits flush, and no pins snapped off when you levered it into place, you’re in the clear. You may now proceed giving yourself a headache by sourcing and installing your other parts!
It’s a daunting process, especially if you’re not experienced building PCs, but the rewards can be great. Especially when the alternative is giving up on a processor with a tiny defect and heading back to the PC parts market once more, hat in hand. You can’t control global supply chains from your desk, but you can bend a little metal with a razor blade.