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Will a computer boot without a CPU installed?

The CPU is a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

motherboard cpu socket
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

If your computer suddenly won’t boot, it’s time for some troubleshooting to figure out the problem. Most guides tell you to take everything but the CPU and one stick of memory out, to see if it boots. That lets you rule out parts like your storage drives and graphics card, but what if the problem is something else?

What if the problem is your CPU? Can’t really test that, can you? How do you rule out your motherboard as a point of failure without having a CPU? What if you need to update your BIOS? Can you even turn on your computer without a CPU installed? Will it boot?

So, can I boot my PC without a processor installed?

Short answer: No

See, the CPU is one of the first things your computer checks for when it goes through the Power On Self Test routine. No CPU, no boot. That doesn’t mean it won’t power on though, so you can still check if your PSU and fans work. On some motherboards, you can even update the BIOS without a CPU installed, usually on more expensive, enthusiast models. Look for things like BIOS Flashback if you want this functionality.

Other than that specific use case, your computer won’t boot without a processor installed. It’s the brain of the computer and just like your body, it won’t work very well without it.

What do you think? Have you ever had PC issues? How did you check to find the problem? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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