Definition of "processor:" A CPU that has to be attached to a motherboard. May or may not have integrated graphics. Does not contain other computer parts such as memory (other than parts crucial to the functioning of a modern processor such as registers and cache), sensors, connectors (other than the socket), etc.

Definition of "individually:" Is not contained as part of a mandatory bundle. Is not a part of a "system on a chip" or other similar constructs.

Definition of "can be purchased by the average joe:" Does not require a corporate contract. Does not require a phone call to the company. Does not require a bunch of hoops to be jumped through. Can be bought at a quantity of 1.

Companies that are included in "x86:" Intel, AMD, and other minor x86 manufacturers. (Even though other architectures by Intel such as IA32, etc. are completely different from x86, I am not interested in them)

Other preferable things: Motherboards, Memory, and all of the other components required to make a working personal computer (luxuries excluded) to be available.

This question was asked out of curiosity, but it may have practical applications as I am a very casual hobby operating system developer looking to dabble in non-x86 architectures.

I find it hard to believe that x86 is the only computer architecture that you can actually purchase individual components for and build a personal computer. If that is the case, that is really a shame =(

Further clarification: I am looking for a socketed CPU

  • "Does not contain other computer parts such as memory," - does a memory cache and a couple of registers count? Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 1:56
  • No. All processors must contain that (that is a crucial part of the processor) Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 1:56
  • I could imagine a CPU without an L1 cache. The line delay doesn't hurt you as much at 100 kHz. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 1:57
  • Yea, a CPU without cache is possible. Please excuse my imprecise language :) Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 2:00
  • What hardware skill level are you looking for? There are non-x86 non-microcontrollers out there that you can buy individually (mostly ARM designs), but you'll need at least moderate electrical engineering skills to connect one to its peripherals -- nobody makes socketed non-x86 mainboards any more.
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of any non-x86 consumer-level CPUs, ie. ones where you can simply purchase and slot together all the parts for a computer.

Various ARM CPUs can be purchased individually, and OpenCores has some CPU designs that can be loaded up on an FPGA, but these aren't end-user-friendly: they require sufficient electrical-engineering skills to design a mainboard for connecting the CPU to things like memory or a video controller, or at least the assembly skills to build someone else's design.

The only non-x86 CPUs I'm aware of that were ever even remotely available to consumers in "build-your-own-computer" form were the DEC Alpha (discontinued in 2001) and the PowerPC (you could cobble together something from Apple spare parts until about 2005).

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