Socketing a microcontroller is quite useful and often underrated. Socketing any component has a single purpose: To make it easier to remove said component later. The most popular kind of sockets are the Mill Max Low Profile Sockets.
If you're looking for instructions on how to install sockets, please refer to How do I socket a microcontroller?
There are some common reasons why you'd want to socket a component:
- The USB port on a Pro Micro is easily damaged, as it's only fixed to the PCB from the top side, instead of all the way through. When the port fails, being able to easily remove it saves a lot of time and reduces the risk of damaging the main PCB.
- An unsocketed microcontroller is very difficult to remove. You need to desolder all 24 microcontroller pins cleanly for you to lift the microcontroller up. It's often easier to clip the header legs off, possibly destroying the microcontroller and PCB in the process.
- To counteract the above points, people often use an Elite C controller, which has a very sturdy USB port. As the Elite C controller is relatively expensive compared to the Pro Micro, people like to socket them to be able to reuse the controller if they decide to try a different keyboard.
- Development on new microcontrollers is ongoing. Some people socket their current controller so they'll have the option to replace it with a wireless microcontroller later. Though those wireless replacements aren't readily available at the moment, they will be in the coming year.
Of course, socketing a microcontroller takes some more work than using it just with pin headers. The peace of mind of being able to easily replace the controller is more than worth it for most people, though.
What about pins?
At splitkb.com, we also offer Mill Max pins to go with the low profile sockets. They're not required, as you can use diode legs as we explain in the tutorial on how to socket your microcontroller. However, we do offer the pins for several reasons:
- The pins are made from a sturdier material than diode legs. They won't bend quite as easily, making quick work of installing the pins, and allowing for more dependable microcontroller reuse.
- The pins are premade to the right size, saving the step of cutting the diode legs. It's convenient!