CPU Cooler Overview

In the old days, you put a heatsink on top of your processor, made sure some air flowed over it, and you were done. Those days are generally long gone.

AMD FX coolers

I have owned 3 AMD FX processors. The OEM coolers are blow down types, and do a decent job of cooling the processor. They are not suitable for overclocking. The coolers I have predate the AMD heatpipe coolers. The 70mm fan idles at 3000 rpm, which is ok for some applications, but too noisy for a media computer. One thing that is great is that AMD has used the same mounting system for AM2, AM3 and AM4 processors. I have had many AMD processors and the heatsinks are all comparable with each other. Not sure why Intel needs to have a new mounting system for almost every new processor. The AM2 form factor came out in 2006.

AMD Wraith Prism

My media computer uses an Asus m578L motherboard which has a AM3+ socket. The OEM cooler I was using was idling at 3000rpm which was a bit noisy. However, due to AMDs great cooler compatibility, I was able to use the new AMD Wraith Prism cooler which came from a Ryzen 7 3800X processor. This cooler fit in my media computer case, unlike the CoolerMaster TX-2, which is my go-to cooler for AMD processors. The Wraith has 4 heatpipes (not the enhanced new 6 heatpipe version) and a 105mm fan. There is a USB and RGB ports in the fan to control the RGB LEDs. For my leet FX 4100, the fan idles at about 1000 rpm and is nearly silent. It also cycles through a wide variety of colors which would be nice in a clear case. This cooler is far better than any previous AMD OEM coolers I have ever seen. It is also larger. It was a bit of a tight fit to install it in my micro-ATX motherboard in the case, but after removing the RAM, I was able to get it installed. I am sure it would be easier to install in a full sized ATX motherboard, or to install when the motherboard was out of the case. Not an inexpensive cooler, but very well engineered. Highly recommended.

I have owned 3 AMD FX processors. The OEM coolers are blow down types, and do a decent job of cooling the processor. They are not suitable for overclocking. The coolers I have predate the AMD heatpipe coolers. The 70mm fan idles at 3000 rpm, which is ok for some applications, but too noisy for a media computer. One thing that is great is that AMD has used the same mounting system for AM2, AM3 and AM4 processors. I have had many AMD processors and the heatsinks are all compatible with each other. Not sure why Intel needs to have a new mounting system for almost every new processor. The AM2 form factor came out in 2006.

Intel Windtunnel HSF for Prestonia Xeon

When I got my first Pentium IV based Xeon system, I looked around for a decent heatsink. The Intel Windtunnel was reasonably priced, and the reviews said it performed pretty well. I bought a pair. They can have the fan mounted two ways, either blowing air from one end of the heatsink to the other, or blowing air down on the heatsink. The first method is clearly superior and designed for 2U rack mount servers. It does require lots of free space on the motherboard for the fans to fit on the side however.

I used the Intel Windtunnels to cool the LV Xeon. My motherboard wasn't even close to having enough space to mount the fans on the side. Therefore, I mounted the fan on top of the heatsink and to blow air down. This isn't nearly as efficient an airflow pattern, but it does cool the voltage regulator on my motherboard. It works ok. It has a pretty loud 60mm fan (I think it was 6000rpm normally, and 4000 under light load when the motherboard slowed it down). Newer versions of the windtunnel come with 38mm thick fans, while mine were 'only' 25mm thick. I eventually replaced the fan with a 60-80mm fan adapter and a 3000rpm 80mm fan. It worked as well as the 60mm fan, and was much quieter.

CoolerMaster 3U Xeon Heatpipe HS for Prestonia Xeon

I had heard that the coolermaster 3U heatpipe coolers were the best available for the LV Xeon. I eventually bought a pair and installed them. You have to remove the motherboard from the case to access the rear of the motherboard to change the backplate. It was a bit of work. I secured the same 80mm fans to the heatpipes via copper wire, as I didn't have monster fans inside my case as rack mount server cases usually do. I also added a really small 40mm fan to cool the voltage regulator on the mb. This has reduced the cpu temperature by a few degrees C. It isn't a big difference, and isn't worth the price increase over the Intel Windtunnels, unless you want a quieter computer.

CoolerMaster 3U Xeon Heatpipe HS for Nocona Xeon

I had heard that the coolermaster 3U heatpipe coolers were the best available for the LV Xeon. I eventually bought a pair and installed them. For the Nocona, the bolts go through the motherboard and into the motherboard tray. I used the Asus adapter plates with adhesive to attach to my motherboard. I secured the same 80mm fans to the heatpipes via copper wire, as I didn't have monster fans inside my case as rack mount server cases usually do. I bought my coolers used. The previous owner had managed to cross thread a bolt and it broke off in the threaded stud on the cooler. A few gentle taps with a punch and it popped out without damaging the threads. I have asked coolermaster for another bolt. It should arrive real soon now, and then I will install the coolers.

CoolerMaster TX-2 Universal CPU cooler

A few months ago, there was a sale on these coolers for some crazy price. I bought four of these coolers. The cooler works with recent Intel and AMD procesors. There are 3 heatpipes and a bunch of plates of aluminum, like the above coolermaster heatpipe coolers, only taller, and with more heatpipes. There is a 92mm fan with a exhaust shroud to direct some of the air to the motherboard to help cool the voltage regulators. The fan spins at 1800rpm, and has 3 pins. I would prefer a 4 pin PWM fan, but at the price, I can't complain. I have the BIOS set to spin the fan slower when under light loads, and the fan is currently spinning at 1300 rpm. It is pretty quiet. The heatsink works great, and keeps my phenomII quite cool. I decided to use it over the factory cooler because the fan was much bigger and ran much slower, hence quieter. Highly recommended.

Intel 2U passive HS for Nocona Xeon

intel_2u

When I got my Asus NCCH-DL motherboard, it was designed for the Nocona Xeon. The Nocona is a higher clock rate processor that consumes more power. So Intel needed a bigger cooler. They specified 4 holes in the motherboard that are roughly 3/8 of an inch in diameter. The heatsink doesn't attach to these holes. Rather the heatsink attaches through these holes, to the motherboard tray. For those motherboard trays that don't have mounting studs in the right place, there is a plate with adhesive that Asus (and others) sell, that comes with an alignment guide to put the plates (dual processor) in the correct place on the motherboard tray.

Anyway, the Intel 2U passive cooler is a massive piece of copper, weighing just over 2.5 lbs. There are many thin fins soldered to a plate which is roughly 1/4 inch thick. This plate has 4 captive bolts that go through it, and attach to the motherboard tray studs. I operated my xeons without fans for a few minutes, and I found that the upper one was getting a bit warm for my tastes. I don't have a 3U case, nor do I have screaming fans to blow massive quantities of air over the heatsinks. Fortunately, I had two 80mm slow, quiet fans and some thin, solid copper wire. I removed the heatsinks, and ran the wire around the heatsink, inside of the captive bolts. I then ran the wire through two holes in the fan. I did the same for the other side. After twisting the wire a few times, the fans were securely mounted to the heatsinks. Now the processors run nice and cool, and are much quieter than they would be in a typical 3U case.

Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 Threadripper / Epyc cooler

I bought an AMD EPYC system, and I bought this cooler for it. This is the most expensive cooler I have purchased at $87.49. It has a 14cm fan and 12 heatpipes. It comes with a 6 year warranty, and is rated to cool 180 watts. With a second fan it can cool 250 - 280 watts. The fan is rated at 1500 rpm, but in use it often idles at 400 rpm. The fan is a Noctua fan, which is designed to be very quiet while flowing a decent amount of air. Installation was straightforward, following the excellent instructions.

Supermicro SNK-P0035AP4 and SNK-P0040AP4

These are 4U supermicro active coolers for the X8 and possibly the X9 series of motherboards. They have 92mm fans which are not very quiet. The lowest speed I have observed them at is 1800rpm. The good news is they are very reliable fans. Another plus is the fans are reversible in the coolers. For the X8DTL motherboard, I first had one blowing back and one blowing up (due to close spacing issues) before I realized that the fans are reversible. Now I have one fan blowing into the heatsink and the other sucking air from the heatsink, and the cooling is all from front to back. i have had 6 of these coolers, and they are generally reasonably priced and very robust.

Heat Sink Clips

For the Pentium socket 5 and 7 and the Pentium III and AMD K7 chips, life was tough. The typical heat sink had a springy clip to hold it down to the motherboard. One end hooked onto the socket, and the other usually required great pressure to attach. Intel and others finally wised up, near the end of the Pentium III era. I have some Intel PIII heatsinks that have a 'hinge' at one end, with a place for a finger to aim as well as compress the clip to hook onto the CPU socket. Previous to that, screwdrivers were often employed, and if they slipped (as happened far too often) would crash into the motherboard, often with bad results. I eventually learned to use a needlenose pliers or micro-needlenose pliers instead of screwdriver in order to be sure nothing would slip and crash into the motherboard.

As processors drew more power, the cpu's got hotter, the heatsinks got bigger, and a more secure method for securing the heatsink became necessary. There are a variety of solutions. The Pentium IV based xeons have 4 holes through the motherboard (though the size of the holes vary depending on the if the xeons are Prestonia, Nocona or something newer). For the Prestonia Xeon, there are clips on plastic guides that either clip down on either end of the guide as well as the middle of the guide, or for some aftermarket guides there are clips that fold down 90 degrees to secure the heatsink. For the Nocona Xeon the holes mate with threaded studs that are attached to the motherboard tray. Then four screws are tightened down between the cpu and the motherboard tray, bypassing the motherboard. This is needed as some Nocona heatsinks like the Intel 2U passive cooler weigh 3 lbs. The Core-2-Duo HSF has 4 pushpins to secure it to the motherboard.

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