After a long wait, I decided to bite the bullet and order a ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket adapter suitable for 386 CPUs through Digi-Key. The manufacturer is Aries Electronics and the part number is 196-PRS14001-12, as established some time ago. The main motivation was plug-testing of a pile of 386 CPUs, which is not much fun with standard 386 LIF (Low Insertion Force) sockets.
To be precise, this is an adapter which plugs into a conventional LIF socket and provides a ZIF socket with a classic lever for a PGA chip.
The one big downside of the product is price. The adapter cost me 65 Euro plus VAT, and the minimum order quantity was two units. That adds up quickly. In addition, the item isn’t stocked and it took well over a month to arrive.
The primary upside on the other hand is that the adapter really works, and it saves a lot of time, frustration, and bent pins. Testing twenty 386 CPUs is a matter of minutes and requires no tools, no force, and if anything, straightens the pins of the processors.
The adapter is well made and the lever can be operated very easily. 386 CPUs with straight pins can be inserted and removed effortlessly. Compare with the classic approach:
Such a CPU extraction tool does work, but one has to have one first (the pictured tool came from an Intel 486 OverDrive kit). Even then, it can be problematic if there’s not enough space to use the tool, and care is needed not to bend the pins.
The ZIF adapter isn’t perfect either. The list of disadvantages is substantial, but most of those are relatively minor inconveniences:
- All 196 pins are populated and the adapter won’t fit in a standard 386 socket; the center pins must be bent to allow the adapter to be installed.
- The adapter is sized for 15×15 pins (rather than 14×14 of a 386), hence there will be unused holes; extra care must be applied when aligning the CPU.
- The adapter is relatively bulky and may not fit in the desired orientation; in the worst case, it may not fit at all.
This is what the adapter looks like after it’s been mangled to fit in a 386 socket:
Without that, it’s just not possible to install the adapter.
Pin 1 is not marked on the adapter and the user must pay attention to the orientation of the CPU. This is slightly inconvenient but necessary, since the adapter may only fit in certain orientations depending on the board layout.
The following image shows the adapter installed in a 386 board, including a CPU. The two redundant rows of holes are apparent.
The adapter has been successfully tested with Intel, AMD, Cyrix, and Texas Instruments 386-socket processors. It worked flawlessly with all of them, with bus speeds up to 50 MHz (with an overclocked Am386DX-40).
For Sale: One Aries Electronics 14×14 ZIF PGA socket adapter model 196-PRS14001-12 as described above, unused (no bent pins). The price is 75 Euro plus shipping. Please leave a comment if interested. Buyer within the EU preferred.