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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Physical Characteristics | Processor Sockets and Slots ]

Processor Insertion Problems and the ZIF Socket

Much the way standardized sockets weren't an issue until the 80486 and OverDrive processors became popular, so too wasn't the matter of inserting and removing processors to and from their sockets. The manufacturer inserted the processor once into the socket and that was that. The advent of the OverDrive processor and standardized sockets meant that suddenly users were trying to pull processors out of these sockets and insert new ones.

If you've ever tried to extricate a stubborn 486 chip from one of these old-style motherboards, or put an OverDrive chip in its stead, you know how difficult this is to do. The processor fits very tightly into the socket. The old chip must be meticulously loosened and pried out, and the new chip carefully but forcefully pushed into its place. Make a mistake, lean too hard on one corner or at the wrong angle, and you could easily break a pin on the processor and end up with a very expensive dog brush. :^) Break a pin off in the socket and you might be watching both the processor and motherboard make the slow sad journey to the garbage pail! Considering how fragile and expensive processors are, having to do this much work to put them in a socket was kind of crazy.

To combat this situation, the zero insertion force or ZIF socket was created. A standard socket is designed to make a tight connection with inserted pins, which is why it is difficult to insert processors into it. A ZIF socket is designed with a special lever to either tighten or loosen the socket's connectors. Lift the lever, and the socket loosens, allowing the processor to be inserted or removed easily (with "zero force"). Lower the lever and the socket tightens, assuring a secure fit for the processor. (Incidentally, EPROM programmers and similar devices used this sort of technology for many years before it was introduced on motherboards; I have no idea why it took them so long to figure it out).

Next: Regular vs. OverDrive Processors

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