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CPU Heatsink – A Detailed Guide

Let's Cool Off Your Gaming Rig in Such Scorching Heat!

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CPU Heatsink - A Detailed Guide

If you want the best CPU heatsink guide, you’re at the right place! How well-versed in hardware are you? Most people have heard of a computer’s major components: hard drives, CPUs, and RAM. You’ll discover more about graphics cards if you investigate computer hardware. But, are you familiar with the term “heatsink”?

When it comes to computer hardware, heatsinks aren’t a common topic. It’s also not something you’d use to make a PC purchase decision around! But, those unfamiliar with PCs or who haven’t looked inside their’s are unaware of what heatsinks are.

So in this article, we’ll tell you all there is to know about CPU heatsinks.

So, let’s get right into it!

What Is a CPU Heatsink?

What Is a CPU Heatsink?
What Is a CPU Heatsink?

The device’s name indicates the function of the heatsink; the heatsink is a component of your computer intended to remove heat from other, more important parts of the machine. The components of your computer get very hot when it is operating. Hence, the job of the heatsink is to remove the heat and let it dissipate before the temperature causes the components to fail.

They are most often present on the CPUs and graphics cards, some of the components in your computer that generate the greatest heat. Keeping these components at a comfortable temperature is of the utmost importance given their high cost at the higher price levels.

Heatsinks may take a wide variety of approaches to heat dissipation.

Passive Heatsinks

Passive Heatsinks
Passive Heatsinks

The appearance of a passive heatsink is comparable to that of a radiator. However, heat can quickly transfer away from components that need cooling down due to the heatsink’s substance’s conductive nature. These heatsinks are incredibly dependable because they cannot theoretically get damaged in any way.

In addition, since there is no fan involved, they provide a cooling solution for completely quiet electronics. Due to the unfortunate absence of a fan, it is necessary to cover a broad surface area to assist in removing heat. Passive heatsinks need sufficient space and a steady flow of fresh air to function at peak efficiency.

Active Heatsinks

Active Heatsinks
Active Heatsinks

These days, active heatsinks are present in the vast majority of PCs. They not only remove the heat from the environment but also disperse it on their own, enabling them to function independently. The active heatsink that uses a fan to dissipate heat is the most prevalent.

In a perfect world, these heatsink fans would blast the heat into an airflow, carrying the heat away from the machine. They are quite efficient on their own, but if the fan breaks down or gets blocked up with dust, it will cause a significant decrease in the overall efficiency of the system.

Liquid cooling is an option that individuals and professionals in computing occasionally choose, especially those who push their components to the limit. When this process occurs, components get cooled by a flow of confined coolant, which removes heat from the processor.

The heat then gets transferred by the coolant, which transports it to a radiator, where a fan dissipates it. They effectively eliminate heat but come at a high cost and might be difficult to install properly. So, starting with computers, you don’t need to worry about using one.

How Hot Does a CPU Get Without a Heatsink?

How Hot Does a CPU Get Without a Heatsink?
How Hot Does a CPU Get Without a Heatsink?

Your CPU will overheat if you do not use a heatsink and fan assembly to keep it cool. If you don’t keep an eye on it, the temperature of your central processing unit (CPU) might reach 100 degrees Celsius. However, your computer will suffer severe damage because no component in your system can operate or perform correctly when the temperature is that high.

Without the heatsink, your central processing unit can only operate for between 5 and 10 seconds. Therefore, it is not a good idea to attempt to operate your CPU without a heatsink because it will significantly harm the central processing unit.

Operating a central processing unit (CPU) without a heat sink is dangerous. Do not even do this since it might cause severe harm to your central processing unit by frying the transistors. That’s because when too many apps run in parallel, the CPU will create a significant amount of heat. Therefore, a heat sink is a necessity for the central processing unit.

Occasionally, the computer creates so much heat that it causes the transistors and other components to melt. However, manufacturers design most contemporary CPUs to power down on their own once the temperature approaches 80–100 degrees Celsius. This powering down occurs to prevent harm to the central processing unit.

As a result, the component’s temperature will increase since it will not have a heatsink, which will cause the heat to spread throughout the whole component.

It’s enough to make you break out in a cold sweat if you run your CPU without the heatsink: you could see smoke shooting out of your CPU. 

Things to Consider When Looking for a Suitable CPU Heatsink

Here are some things to consider when looking for a suitable CPU heatsink:

Your Budget

Your Budget
Your Budget

An obvious initial consideration is the amount of money you have to spend. If you’re updating your heatsink, then your budget is simple. The only thing that matters is how much money you have to spend.

However, if you’re putting together a new computer system, you’ll need to allocate the proper funds to your heatsink. The heatsink you choose should be able to cool the CPU you’ve chosen adequately. You also don’t want to overspend and waste money that could have gone toward upgrading other important components.

Other criteria discussed here can help you establish how much of your money to put aside for a CPU heatsink. However, as a general rule, the hotter your CPU performs (whether at stock settings or when overclocked), the pricier the heatsink you’ll need.

Your Specific Use Case

Your Specific Use Case
Your Specific Use Case

You may be interested in overclocking your CPU and achieving high-performance levels. As a result, you’ll need to fork out extra money to acquire the best heatsink.

Are you creating a low-cost gaming PC and not intending on overclocking it? For example, if your budget is too low to get an entry-level heatsink, you may continue with the default heatsink that comes with your CPU.

Generally, a standard heatsink is sufficient for most users, and some of the new Ryzen CPUs’ stock heatsinks are good enough for light overclocking. However, it is also important to note that AMD’s new Ryzen CPU heatsinks can match the power of entry-level third-party heatsinks. This aspect is an important aspect of the Ryzen CPU coolers.

Suppose you won’t be using your computer in a way that requires additional cooling. In that case, you don’t need to spend much money on a high-end heatsink if you’re trying to save money.

You’ll need a more powerful cooling solution to get the most out of your CPU.

Air Cooling vs. AIO Coolers

Air Cooling vs. AIO Coolers
Air Cooling vs. AIO Coolers

Choosing whether to use air or liquid cooling is a major issue for system designers, and we’ve outlined all the advantages and disadvantages of each.

However, here are the primary advantages and disadvantages of each kind of cooler to help you determine which one is best for you:

Pros of Liquid Cooling

Unlike the greatest air coolers, high-end liquid coolers and specialized liquid cooling configurations can achieve greater temperatures than air coolers.

Liquid coolers get a lesser impact than air coolers. Consequently, they do not often conflict with RAM, chassis fans, or other parts close to the board’s CPU socket.

Cons of Liquid Cooling

Liquid coolers provide a better value for money per unit of performance than air coolers.

Liquid coolers need more upkeep and have a greater risk of leakage.

Pros of Air-Cooling

Air coolers, on the whole, provide excellent value for the money spent on them.

Air coolers are easy to maintain and have a longer lifespan than other cooling technologies.

Cons of Air Cooling

Typical air coolers aren’t suited for extreme cooling configurations.

In other cases, the larger, more expensive air coolers might make it difficult to install (memory, case fans, motherboard components, etc.)

TDP Rating

TDP Rating
TDP Rating

A cooler’s thermal design power (TDP) is a key determinant of whether or not it’s the best choice for your system. The following is an excerpt from the article on Wikipedia:

Under any workload, only a computer’s cooling system can remove so much heat as the thermal design power, also known as the thermal design point, of a computer chip or component (typically a CPU or GPU).

TDP is a number you’ll see on both the processor and the cooling system you purchase. For example, a CPU cooler with a lower TDP rating than your processor will be unable to cool your processor adequately.

If your cooler’s TDP rating is somewhat lower than your CPU’s TDP rating, it may still work well since your processor won’t always reach its maximum heat output.

Nevertheless, it would be best if you made it a point to check that the cooler’s temperature dissipation power (TDP) rating is higher than your CPU’s TDP requirement. This factor is a crucial consideration if you intend to overclock your machine.

You can find the TDP ratings for your CPU and your cooler on the spec sheets. (which are on the websites of either the store or the manufacturer)

CPU Socket

CPU Socket
CPU Socket

Most manufacturers build their coolers to be compatible with most CPU sockets. However, there are still few on the market that only suit a single kind of socket. So before making a purchase, check to see whether the central processing unit cooler you’re thinking of getting is suitable for the board and processor combination you already own or plan to acquire soon.

Your CPU or motherboard’s spec sheet and your CPU cooler’s spec sheet provide this information.

Clearance

Clearance
Clearance

Make sure that your CPU cooler is compliant with your motherboard’s socket, but also that it is compatible with the following:

Height

Some CPU coolers are just too tall to fit in certain cases. So before buying a CPU cooler, read the specs to ensure it will accommodate your cabinet and then confirm the height on the user manual of the CPU cooler.

Bulkiness

Due to their size, many high-end air coolers might pose clearance concerns. Due to their bulkiness, they may also dangle over the top PCIe lane, requiring you to place your GPU in a lower lane. Which, in turn, can get in the way of the DIMM slots on your motherboard and conflict with taller memory kits. Check whether a large air cooler may conflict with other components before purchasing.

Radiator Size

When it comes to liquid cooling, the radiator’s width is the most critical factor in clearance. AIO cooler radiators come in a variety of sizes. However, not all cabinets can manage the precise size of each radiator. Therefore, ensure that the radiator width of the AIO cooler you would like to purchase can fit in the case before you buy one. So, check the specs of the computer system you are considering.

Aesthetics

Aesthetics
Aesthetics

When selecting a CPU cooler, aesthetics play an important role. AIO coolers have a sleek, low-profile design that some builders like. Other builders like the appearance of bespoke liquid cooling installations because of their aggressive design. Regarding air coolers, some people enjoy the aesthetic of a large and bulky high-end air cooler.

The easiest way to decide on a CPU cooler style is to look at final constructions done by others and determine which one you favor. And if the rest of the cooler style meets your requirements, go for it.

Sound Levels

Sound Levels
Sound Levels

Several PC builders spend much effort making their computers as quiet as possible. The CPU cooler is among the loudest parts of a computer, especially the fans attached to it.

Coolers with bigger fans tend to be more silent than those with smaller fans. That’s because bigger fans don’t need to spin as rapidly to generate the same cooling level as smaller fans (which means they are quieter).

As a result, coolers with 140mm fans typically operate at a lower noise level than coolers with 120mm fans. However, coolers with multiple fans may run at lower speeds since more fans are operating to keep the cooler cold.

Is a Heatsink the Same as a CPU Cooler?

Is a Heatsink the Same as a CPU Cooler?
Is a Heatsink the Same as a CPU Cooler?

Depending on whom you ask, they are essentially the same. For example, a heatsink is a part of the cooling system for the central processing unit (CPU). The CPU fan’s heatsink is a rectangular piece of metal. In most cases, an aftermarket version of a CPU Cooler is what people use. So you’ll get a heatsink and fan with an assembled CPU.

The purpose of this assembly is to keep the CPU cool even while running at stock/default or with just a minor overclock.

To keep your CPU cool under high loads, such as advanced OC levels, aftermarket variants such as the ever-popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo are available. Even greater heat reduction/elimination is possible with water cooling. However, it is more costly and necessitates a much more condensed arrangement.

Is Heatsink Better Than Fan?

Is Heatsink Better Than Fan?
Is Heatsink Better Than Fan?

Electronic components generate heat, which a heat sink effectively removes from the system.

When it comes to draining heat from the components of a computer system, a fan isn’t particularly good at it.

It’s possible to acquire both the efficiency of a heat sink and its ability to dissipate heat over time if you combine it with a fan.

The drawbacks of a fan include the fact that it is both unattractive and time-consuming to keep clean. The best option for most applications is a heat sink with proper sizing.

How to Install a Heatsink on CPU?

How to Install a Heatsink on CPU?
How to Install a Heatsink on CPU?

Follow these steps:

After removing the film covering the heat sink’s surface, clean the central processing unit (CPU) top. Based on the thermal compound, you may also be able to clean the bottom of the heat sink.

Put the back plate on the motherboard, so it is attached to the back of the area where the CPU socket resides. The heat sinks produced by AMD and Intel will each come with a back plate.

Attach the bracket to the socket if one is provided for the heat sink. Alternatively, if you use an Intel standard cooler, just place the heat sink on top of the CPU and twist the pins into the holes in the back plate. This step will complete the installation.

If installing the heat sink requires using a bracket, position the heat sink onto the CPU and connect any latches or screws required to keep the heat sink in place.

The heat sink will need to be mounted to the top of the CPU so that it does not move, and you can hold it in place with a little twist of the hand. Therefore, it is important that the screws not be too tightened. For example, the CPU fan header is next to the CPU socket, and you can easily link it to the power cable from the fan.

You must use the appropriate fan header since the bios are the one that controls it. So, for example, suppose the bios cannot detect the fan connection. In that case, it will generate an error message when you attempt to post the computer.

How to Remove Heatsink From CPU?

How to Remove Heatsink From CPU?
How to Remove Heatsink From CPU?

Follow the steps given below to remove a CPU heatsink successfully:

Heatsink With Spring Screws

Heatsink With Spring Screws
Heatsink With Spring Screws

All computers come with a factory-installed CPU cooler, but custom third-party coolers are also available.

It is common for the cooling unit to get fastened to the CPU via bolts. If you have a four-screw CPU cooler, then follow these instructions:

  1. Let your PC run for at least 10 minutes to prevent the thermal paste from sticking before doing anything else.
  2. Disconnect all of the cords from the PC case and shut down the system. Attempting to open the CPU cooler while the power is still on is a bad idea.
  3. Please note any additional RGB wires connected to the cooler and remove them.
  4. Using a suitable screwdriver, begin unscrewing the CPU cooler screws diagonally. Don’t use too much power while loosening screws if you encounter resistance. Remove the motherboard from each screw one at a time, working your way around the board.
  5. Twist the CPU cooler to the sides until the connection between the heat sink and the CPU socket gets dislodged. It should not take much effort to break the thermal paste seal if you let your PC warm up beforehand.
  6. When removing the heatsink, take care not to damage the CPU during the removal process.

Heatsink With Retention Brackets

Heatsink With Retention Brackets
Heatsink With Retention Brackets

Follow these procedures to remove an attached heatsink using a snap-on metal bracket.

  1. Ensure your CPU has been operating for a while so that it may soften any rigid thermal paste.
  2. Unplug every cord from the casing of your computer and shut it off.
  3. Pull up on the lever on the CPU cooler to release the cam with a little force
  4. Disconnect the CPU cooler’s retaining clamps from the side.
  5. To release the thermal paste, spin the CPU cooler in the opposite direction of what you normally do.
  6. Lift the CPU cooler with as little effort as possible.

How to Clean CPU Heatsink?

How to Clean CPU Heatsink?
How to Clean CPU Heatsink?

Use a dry, lint-free tissue to clean the heatsink’s base and the CPU. However, for more comprehensive cleaning, you can use a lint-free tissue soaked with either a light solution of washing-up liquid or isopropyl alcohol. Do not submerge the CPU or the heatsink under any circumstances.

Final Words

The heatsink is one of the components of a computer that is rarely ever brought up in conversation. Despite this, it is essential to maintain a computer’s overall health and stability. According to research, heatsinks are crucial to a computer. We sincerely hope you now have a much clearer understanding of what heatsinks are, why they are so important, and how we use them on a computer.

Have you ever constructed your own PC from the ground up? How much consideration do you pay to the heat sink if such is the case? Do you seek products of the highest possible price and quality, or have you found that the more affordable options meet all of your needs?

Also, since you’re already reading this article, you may want to look at the Best AM3+ CPU in 2022!

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