Can I Upgrade My Laptop Processor from i5 to i7?

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Technically, it IS possible to upgrade your laptop processor from i5 to i7.  However, the general notion is that it is not possible to make an upgrade on a laptop due to the way the CPUs are placed on a laptop’s motherboard.

If you have an Intel Core i5 in your laptop and you want more CPU power, then upgrading to Intel Core i7 is the next logical decision. However, the process of upgrading the CPU on a laptop is not anywhere near as simple as upgrading the same on a desktop.

So as far as the question “can I upgrade my laptop processor from i5 to i7?” goes, the answer is affirmative, however, the technical know-how involved makes it too difficult for an average user to carry out this task.

The reason why upgrading the CPU on laptop is complex has to do with the CPU surface-mounting on laptop vs desktop. On desktops, the CPUs can be detached from their socket on the motherboard. On laptops, however, the CPUs are almost always soldered to the socket on their motherboards.

In rare instances where your laptop has removable CPUs, then the upgrade should be fairly simple. However, that is, unfortunately, not the case on majority of the modern day laptops.

Most of the laptops, unfortunately, feature the BGA socket for their laptop. Meaning the processors are soldered onto the socket and hence upgrading them is a pain to say the least.

So Can I Upgrade My Laptop Processor from i5 to i7?

Generally, you can’t. As mentioned earlier, CPU laptops are majority of the time soldered to the motherboard. Therefore, unless you have a laptop model that supports detachable CPUs, upgrading is NOT possible.

Understanding CPU Surface Mounting Methods

Can I Upgrade My Laptop Processor from i5 to i7
Pin Grid Array processors (with needles sticking out) Right; Land Grid Array (with flat contacts) Left

There are there types of surface mounting techniques for CPUs:

  • Land Grid Array (LGA): Detachable with flat contacts. Most Intel desktop CPUs have this type of surface mounting.
  • Pin Grid Array (PGA): This mounting type has visible pins on the CPU. AMD CPUs for desktop use this type of surface mounting arrangement. This mounting type is also detachable.
  • Ball Grid Array (BGA): This mounting type is found on most LAPTOP CPUs. With BGA, the CPU contacts are SOLDERED on to the motherboard. This not detachable.

Also Read: LGA vs PGA Surface Mounting

So to Summarize:

If your CPU has a BGA (ball grid array) mounting type, then the general notion is that you cannot replace them. Unfortunately, most of the laptop CPUs are BGA type.

In the BGA mounting type, the processor is permanently connected to the motherboard. For this purpose, there are small solder balls under the CPU while the motherboard has small solder pads on it.

So, removing a BGA-based Core i5 processor and replacing it with a BGA-based Core i7 processor needs a high level of expertise and equipment.

In rare instances if your CPU has a PGA or LGA mounting type, then you should be able to upgrade it from Core i3 to Core i5 or Core i5 to Core i7 as long as they share the same socket type as well.

Also Read:

CPU Sockets and Processor Upgrade

To reiterate, CPUs with LGA and PGA sockets are upgradable, and this allows you to upgrade from Core i5 to i7 using those sockets.

However, you have to make sure that both the older and the newer processor also have the same socket on the motherboard.

Figuring if Your CPU is BGA, LGA or PGA

The easiest way to figure out the surface mounting type of your laptop CPU is to head over to the its technical specs.

For instance, the following CPU, Intel Core i5 10310U, has the following specifications:

Intel Core i5 10310U socket type
Intel Core i5 10310U surface mounting is BGA. Source: Intel

You can see here that this CPU has the socket FCBGA1528. The BGA indicates the surface mounting type i.e Ball Grid Array. Hence, this CPU is not upgradeable.

The following shows the specs for Intel Core i5-3210M.

Intel Core i5-3210M
Intel Core i5-3210M uses the FCPGA988 socket according to the Intel website.

You can see from the specs that this laptop based CPU uses the PGA or the pin grid array surface mounting type. Hence, this is upgradeable.

Also Read: Can You Use NVIDIA Graphics Card with AMD Processor?

Making Sure the Socket is Also The Same

Surface mounting type is just one part of the equation. You also have to make sure that both the older and the newer CPU use the same socket.

For example, if you have an existing Core i5 CPU that’s based on socket FCPGA946 (with 946 pins), then the Core i7 you need to upgrade should also have the same socket and number of pins. A Core i7 based on FCPGA988 (with 988 pins) won’t fit into the FCPGA946 socket.

A Possible Upgrade Example

Intel Core i5-3210M
Intel Core i5-3210M uses the FCPGA988 socket according to the Intel website.

Here we give an example of a possible upgrade from Core i5 to i7.

Suppose you have a laptop with a 3rd generation dual-core Core i5-3210M processor. Upon checking its specifications on the Intel website, you find that the model utilizes an FCPGA988 socket.

You can search the internet and find a 3rd generation i7 processor that uses the same socket. You can also search on the website of the laptop manufacturer to see if there are variants of the same laptop with a i7 processor.

In this case, a possible recommendation here would be to upgrade the 3rd gen COre i5-3210M with the the 3rd generation quad-core Core i7-3630QM processor as they both use the same socket and are detachable.

Also Read: How to Check if CPU is Overclocked?

TDP Concerns Over the Upgrade

You need to check other factors too before upgrading (such as TDP) and that’s why we recommend that it should be done only by experienced persons.

TDP stands for Thermal Design Power and it is an indication of how much power the CPU uses and how much heat it would dissipate.

The TDP for a Core i7 is higher than that of a Core i5. For instance, the Intel Core i5-3210M has a TDP of 35W, but the Intel Core i7-3630QM has a TDP of 45W.

Hence if your laptop does not have the adequate heat dissipation capacity than installing a Core i7 on a laptop with Core i5 originally can cause heat issues.

Also Read: Figuring Out What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard?

The Cons of Upgrading from Intel Core i5 to i7

There are also certain cons of the processor upgrade from Core i5 to i7.

The process can be delicate and there’s no guarantee that the new processor would work up to its full potential stably. You may need a BIOS update as well.

There’s a risk that the new i7 CPU may not match the cooling device. Moreover, it may not support the heat dissipation of the upgraded CPU as mentioned earlier.

Additionally, the upgrading procedure may void the laptop’s warranty and there is a chance of damage and malfunction.

Your laptop’s battery life may get shortened as the i7’s power consumption is comparatively higher as compared to i5.

You may also have to pay a large sum of money to get a Core i7 CPU all without a guarantee that it would work.

Also Read:

Final Words

Here we talked about what many people want to know when their laptop just doesn’t have enough juice for their work: can I upgrade my laptop processor from i5 to i7?

The upgrade can be possibly done if you have a CPU with PGA or LGA surface mounting and you take care of other factors such as CPU socket.

However, there’s no guarantee that it would work stably and at full in the long run.

Therefore, it’s often recommended that you get a new laptop with a more capable processor that would suit your requirements instead of going through the hassle of upgrading.

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Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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