Can You Leave Your CPU Uninstalled (In A Half-Built Motherboard)?

Even the best-laid PC building plans can run into unexpected errors. What should you do if you’re stuck with a CPU installed on an unfinished motherboard?

You can leave your CPU installed on your motherboard while in storage. You should make sure that your CPU motherboard combo is stored in an anti-static bag and placed in a safe box that will not get humid or damp. Remember to use an anti-static wristband when you take these components out to finish the assembly.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about leaving a CPU installed on a half-built motherboard.

Why Some People Leave Their CPU on an Unfinished Motherboard

A Ryzen 5900X installed in my Asus motherboard with Noctua CPU cooler brackets installed
A Ryzen 5900X installed in my Asus motherboard with Noctua CPU cooler brackets installed

It might seem surprising, but is actually a few good reasons why people leave their CPU on an unfinished motherboard.

The biggest reason is that either all of your parts haven’t arrived or a part arrived damaged. You might be part way through assembling your PC only to realize that a graphics card, storage drive, or even part of your heat mitigation was damaged in the package. This might leave you stranded with a partially assembled CPU and motherboard and nowhere to go.

We’d be lying if we said that building a new pc isn’t fun. While you should wait until all of your parts arrive to start your assembly, sometimes we just can’t resist. This can occasionally leave us with partially assembled motherboards that need to be temporarily stored as more parts show up.

Will Leaving a CPU on a Motherboard Damage Your PC?

Leaving your CPU on your motherboard will not damage either of these components of your new PC. As long as you store your motherboard and CPU in an anti-static bag in a dry climate, you can store them for long periods of time without worrying about damage. Just make sure you treat these parts gently as they can be easily damaged by static, being dropped, or water damage.

We tend to overestimate how sensitive our PC components are it’s any kind of physical contact. This is what’s caused a persistent rumor that leaving a CPU on a motherboard could damage either of these components. Here’s one way to take a look at this.

Your motherboard and your CPU probably spend months, if not longer, inside of their packaging waiting to be purchased and opened. They’ve been perfectly fine all that time stored in a box and a little more storage time isn’t going to do any serious damage.

It’s the additional handling that can cause damage. Dropping components can break them, exposing them to humid or wet conditions can damage the circuitry, and all that extra touch creates the risk of static buildup. Those are really the biggest threats to a partially assembled PC build.

Tips for Keeping Your CPU and Mobo Safe in Storage

An ASUS TUF Gaming B550M Plus motherboard for AMD Ryzen
An ASUS TUF Gaming B550M Plus motherboard for AMD Ryzen

So, you attach your CPU to your motherboard and now you need to leave your partially assembled PC in storage until more parts arrive. What should you do to make sure everything is safe until you can finish the build?

We’re going to go over the biggest tips for how you can make sure that your CPU and mobo stay safe while they’re in storage. Will also touch on a few things that you should absolutely not do that could break your brand new tech.

Invest in an Anti-static Bag

Static is going to be your biggest and most common adversary while your CPU and mobo are in storage. Static builds up when you walk on your carpet, take your clothes on and off, and during pretty much every action we take throughout the day. All it takes is a poorly time static shock and a key aspect of your motherboard could get fried:

Your motherboard likely came in an anti-static bag. This bag protected your motherboard from errant static charges that could have damaged it while it was in storage and being shipped. Putting your motherboard and CPU back into this anti-static bag is a great way to keep them protected.

There’s one problem here though. If you’ve already attached your CPU fan, it might not fit in this anti-static bag. This is why you should consider buying an aftermarket anti-static bag that is large enough to accommodate all of your components.

And an Anti-static Wrist Strap

An anti-static wrist strap is going to cost you around $30 for the high-end, industry-approved model or $5 for the bargain variety. Depending on your PC build, the cost of this anti-static band could be around 0.0025% the total cost of your PC.

Anti-static wristbands represent a very affordable investment that will protect the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars you’ve put into your PC. These bands work by grounding the static that builds up on your body. This diverts that electric current away from expensive PC parts and towards the earth.

Picking up an anti-static wrist strap also gives you an important tool for later. You’ll be upgrading components eventually and this wrist strap is a key tool when it comes to swapping out parts on your motherboard.

Store in your PC Case

Here’s another option that’s definitely going to be worth the smaller amount of hassle it causes.

Putting your motherboard into your PC case isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish, but it is one of the safest places to store your motherboard. If you’ve got your CPU attached, but you’re still waiting on other pieces, a great place to store your CPU and motherboard is in your computer case.

This will keep your tech protected from dust, water, and any risk of fall damage. This does mean you’re going to have to take it back out when it comes time to fully assemble all of your components, but two of the central pieces of your PC build are going to be safe and sound while you wait.

Clean off the Thermal Paste

Thermal paste TIM put onto the AMD Ryzen CPU
Thermal paste TIM put onto the AMD Ryzen CPU

Sometimes we realize we can’t finish a PC build right in the middle of putting things together. You might have already put some thermal paste on your CPU before you realize you’re going to have to put it in storage while you wait for more parts to arrive.

Thermal paste won’t do any damage to your CPU, but you should still clean it off before putting it in storage. Your options are either to finish installing your CPU fan or remove the TIM all together.

Thermal paste will dry over time and be a bit harder to clean off than when it is fresh. There’s also the small chance that excess thermal paste can brush off and smear onto our mobo which can cause problems down the road.

Remember, “clean and dry” is the motto for storing PC components and that includes removing excess thermal paste.

Avoid Scratching Your IHS

There are two sides of your CPU. One is the side with all the pins that you’ll be connecting to your motherboard and then there’s the other side that you’ll wind up connecting it to you or CPU fan or heat mitigation.

It should go without saying, but never touch the side of your CPU that has the pins. These pins are very delicate and bending even one out of shape can make your CPU unusable. It’s best to install your CPU onto the motherboard right away to protect these sensitive pins.

The other side of the CPU is much more durable. This is called the IHS or integrated heat spreader. This is some very important heat mitigation that’s built into your CPU that will ultimately get attached to your CPU’s fan.

You should avoid scratching the integrated heat spreader while your CPU and motherboard are in storage. Minor scratches won’t cause any trouble, but serious scratches can reduce the effectiveness of this heat mitigation and lower the computing power of your PC.

DO NOT Connect the Power Source!

Now we’re going to talk about two things you should absolutely not do when you’re storing a CPU and motherboard.

The first thing that you should never ever do is connect the power source until your PC is ready to come together. Your motherboard can be powered up without having any components attached to it, but you should avoid running the CPU motherboard combo.

There’s a few risks here, but most of them come down to overheating and electrical damage risks. It’s also very risky to run your motherboard before it’s housed inside of the PC. It’s better to err on the side of caution and to wait to power things up until you’re ready to put all of your components together.

Never Run Your CPU Without Heat Mitigation!

The top fan of my Noctua NH C14S CPU cooler for my AMD Ryzen CPU
The top fan of my Noctua NH C14S CPU cooler for my AMD Ryzen CPU

Here’s another thing that you should never do while your CPU and motherboard are waiting to be fully assembled. You should never run your CPU without proper heat mitigation.

Your CPU can overheat extremely fast. This part of your computer is running all of the core calculations that make your PC work. Your CPU needs its fan in order to stay at safe operating temperatures.

Running your CPU without heat mitigation is a recipe for disaster. Your CPU can quickly overheat and, if you’re lucky, your computer will just crash. If you’re unlucky, you might wind up bricking your brand new pc.

How to Make Sure Your CPU is Fine After Storage

The first thing that you should do is a quick visual inspection. Take a look at the motherboard CPU combo and make sure that there’s no obvious damage such as scratches, loose components, or any cracks on the board itself. After passing the visual inspection, feel free to assemble your PC.

Your next test is a bit of a field exam. Booting up your PC for the first time will be, effectively, a proof-of-concept that everything is working properly. If you’re able to get your operating system configured and running, there’s a good chance that everything is fine.

If you want to be 100% sure that there was no damage to your CPU or motherboard while in storage, now’s the time to break out benchmarking software such as Cinebench or 3DMark. This can help you get a sense of the maximum performance of your CPU as well as the other components of your PC build. You should also be running a CPU heat monitor to make sure that there weren’t any problems with your heat mitigation while in storage.

cropped A picture of me Tristan
About Tristan Perry

Tristan has been interested in computer hardware and software since he was 10 years old. He has built loads of computers over the years, along with installing, modifying and writing software (he's a backend software developer 'by trade').

Tristan also has an academic background in technology (in Math and Computer Science), so he enjoys drilling into the deeper aspects of technology.

Tristan is also an avid PC gamer, with FFX and Rocket League being his favorite games.

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