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CPU Sockets Roundup

A CPU socket is used to connect a computer's CPU (Central Processing Unit) to its motherboard. Modern CPUs use the PGA (Pin Grid Array) package. With a PGA, the underside of the processor is covered with an array of metal pins. To install a CPU, the pins are inserted into a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket mounted on the motherboard.

A ZIF socket has a lever to open the metal pin contacts in the socket so that the processor can be dropped into place without using force. After the processor is dropped into position, the lever is used to close the socket, creating good electrical contact between the PGA pins and the socket.

The Slot Package

For a short time, processor manufacturer's found that a socket could not handle the heat generated by the processor, nor did it provide enough real estate for the L2 cache size desired. They began using a slot, similar to an expansion card slot, rather than a socket, to mount their CPUs.

Slot 1 Socket

Intel used "Slot 1" to mount their Celeron and Pentium II processors, and "Slot 2" to mount their Pentium II and Pentium III processors. AMD used "Slot A" to mount their Athlon processors. These "Slot" processors tended to jiggle loose, especially during shipping. Processor manufacturer's soon returned to using a socket to mount the CPU.

The Socket Package

Socket 370

Intel replaced the "Slot" CPU interface with "Socket 370" for their Celeron and Pentium III processors. The "370" refers to the number of holes in the socket for CPU pins.

Slot A  Socket

AMD replaced "Slot A" with "Socket A" for their Duron, Sempron, and Athlon Thunderbird and XP/MP processors. "Socket A" is also known as "Socket 462" because, although there are 453 pins in the socket, nine pins are blocked to prevent insertion of Socket 370 CPUs.

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