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What is a CPU Cooler? 3 Types of Cooling

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In this post we will discuss what is a CPU Cooler. It’s not one thing, it’s usually two things that make a CPU Cooler. But let’s start with something i came across.

Don’t know if you opened your desktop tower to see what’s inside, but you might have noticed something saying Intel or AMD and you thought that whole thing is the CPU.

Not really!(Well first time i opened the tower and saw the Intel logo i thought that whole thing was the CPU).

What is a CPU Cooler - AMD CPU 2
AMD CPU with Cooler
What is a CPU Cooler - Intel CPU 2
Intel CPU with Cooler

Webopedia has a good definition of CPU Coolers so let’s take a look at it:

“A CPU cooler is device designed to draw heat away from the system CPU and other components in the enclosure. Using a CPU cooler to lower CPU temperatures improves efficiency and stability of the system.  Adding a cooling device, however, can increase the overall noise level of the system. “

https://www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/cpu-cooler.html

Well, the noise can be high when there is a high CPU load, but i don’t think it will be problem.

Well if you don’t add a CPU Cooler, you risk of overheating the CPU.

But let’s see what makes a CPU Cooler. There are two types of cooling. Air Cooling and Liquid/Water Cooling. Well there is third but it’s Software Cooling. Not really any hardware there. I will mention about this too.

Air Cooling

What is a CPU Cooler - Fan 2

That’s the typical and most common type of cooling. In the CPU case, Air Cooling consists of a Heatsink and a Fan.

Well we all know and love the Fan. But the Heatsink is less known so let’s talk about that.

Heatsink

What is a CPU Cooler - CPU Heatsink 2

“A component designed to lower the temperature of an electronic device by dissipating heat into the surrounding air. All modern CPUs require a heat sink. Some also require a fan. A heat sink without a fan is called a passive heat sink; a heat sink with a fan is called an active heat sink.Heat sinks are generally made of an aluminum alloy and often have fins. “

https://www.webopedia.com/TERM/H/heat_sink.html

Most preinstalled CPU Cooling is a Heatsink with a Fan.

Note: The Heatsink and Fan might need to be cleaned once in 3 years maybe because dirt concentrates there and the heat might not dissipate well.

I didn’t clean my heatsink and fan for 10 years and the computer shut down automatically because of temperature.

Same applies with graphics card which also might have a heatsink and fan.

Water/Liquid Cooling

What is a CPU Cooler - Water Cooling 2

This cooling method is more effective than air cooling but also more expensive (well quite a lot more i can say).

If you won’t make a high end desktop tower, you don’t need liquid cooling.

Also you might need liquid coolers if you plan to overclock the CPU.

Let’s see a piece from a pcworld article:

“One big downside of water cooling is its comparatively high cost, especially if you’re looking to build a custom setup. While most traditional upper-end CPU coolers cost somewhere between $50 and $100, building a liquid-cooling setup can cost far more. For example, EKWaterBlocks’ top-tier H3O 360 HFX water cooling kit costs a whopping $360. (The price is converted from euros, so the 360 in the name may be coincidental.) “

https://www.pcworld.com/article/2028293/liquid-cooling-vs-traditional-cooling-what-you-need-to-know.html

Well i checked the link it is now more expensive.

Software Cooling

What is a CPU Cooler - Soft Cooling 2

“Soft cooling is the practice of utilizing software to take advantage of CPU power saving technologies to minimize energy use. This is done using halt instructions to turn off or put in standby state CPU subparts that aren’t being used or by underclocking the CPU. While resulting in lower total speeds, this can be very useful if overclocking a CPU to improve user experience rather than increase raw processing power, since it can prevent the need for noisier cooling. Contrary to what the term suggests, it is not a form of cooling but of reducing heat creation. “

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cooling

So far i saw in the forums that soft cooling is used mostly in laptops, cause they usually have less cooling capabilities than desktops.

Conclusion

What is a CPU Cooler - Tornado 2

So we saw in quite depth what a cpu cooler is. Air cooling is the cheapest and most valued for its price.

You can utilize all fan slots in your case for maximum air flow.


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George

10 Comments

  1. I do game somewhat, but I use my ps4. I know lots of people that game on their computers, so I am not that surprised that there i a need for a cooling fan. Your website really gives the 3 options in a very well laid out plan and you explained all 3 very well.
    If I was a computer gamer, I would also opt for the air cool option. Expense is always an issue, but I guess if you own a super expensive computer, you may like the other 2 options
    Thank you for shedding some light on this topic. Good job.

    • Thanks. Soft cooling is software cooling so you don’t need to buy anything.

  2. Wow, very nice content up here about CPU cooler. Actually I’ve read about this before but not as detailed as this. Firstly, the software cooling is the high point of this post for me because I never knew a software could help in reducing the heat generated by the PC and I would love to lay my hand on such softwares. Besides I didn’t know liquid coolers could be this expensive. Though I make use of a follow come liquid cooler for my PC but I’m very much concerned that I might not be able to avoid it again when I outrun the one I’m using at the moment. Thanks

    • Soft cooling is mostly used in laptops because they heat up easier. I suppose you have a good gaming PC since you are using liquid cooler. Thumbs up for the good PC!

  3. This is interesting to read and know about. Because today almost everyone uses computer and average hours used in a day on a computer is up to 6 hours or even more and that multiply by 365 days. I think everyone does require to get theirs clean up. Personally, I have never think of that if not now. 

    And I have been using my pc now for almost 8 years. No wonder it gets hot sometimes and makes some funny sounds. You know what’s funny? Whenever I hear these sounds, I either heat my pc or look around and take a paper to fan it.

    Thank you George for that piece of information. Knowledge is the key. Thanks

    • Yes. To know before is better than to know late. Well i learned late after 10 years of not cleaning and it was shutting down. I got a normal fan to cool till i learned how to open it up and clean it.

  4. The topic was covered very nicely. One suggestion would be to discuss the role of the “heat sink” in the cpu cooling process. It is the primary means by which the heat generated by the cpu is conducted away from the cpu for either disapation into the atmosphere (fan) or other cooling mean (Water).  

    A short story for you, in a former life I was in charge of the information systems group of a Fortune 100 company. We bought a larger computer (IBM) that was water cooled. My data center manager had under-estimated the cooling required which meant that we had to order a new refrigeration unit. To allow us to use the new computer until we were able to install the larger refrigeration unit, we connected the computer cooling up to the city water. We utilized 10,000 gallons of water a day!

    As added insight to the cpu-cooler requirements for the laptop computers, the heat generated by a cpu is a function of it’s speed, pr stated another way, the number of things it was capable of doing per second. The faster the speed, the more heat. As cpu speeds increased by leaps and bounds, the cpu functions started to be disbursed over multiple cpus. This had the effect of lowering the work load of each cpu. Hence, reducing the need for large CPU-coolers.

    Overall, an excellent job of explaining a relatively complex subject.

    • Thanks a lot Ray for your suggestion. It is always a pleasure learning something more and you(who has plenty of experience) contributing your opinion helps a lot. You can always share a picture of that IBM computer (if you have one!).

  5. Hi, I read your article very carefully. I am really very excited to read your article and I learn many important things about CPU cooler through your article . CPU cooler is device designed to draw heat away from the system CPU and  Using a CPU cooler to lower CPU temperatures improves efficiency and stability of the system.Your website really gives the 3 options in a very well laid out plan and I like to used liquid cooler for my PC . I know lots of people that game on their computers, so I am not so surprised that there is a need for a cooling fan. Thanks for sharing this post. 

    • No problem. You using a liquid cooler must mean that you have some “heavy artillery” PC. Good job and if you want, you can share any detail of the cooler that you want (How long you have it, did it present any problems etc). Cheers

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