A CPU cooler keeps the PC cool by drawing heat away from the processor and other components enclosed within the casing.
While most computers today tend to generate as little heat as possible, the temperatures are still high enough that they can cause damage to the components housed inside the PC.
Does High Temperature Damage the PC?
Anything that runs on electricity generates heat. So, this means that your PC also produces heat since it has components that rely on electric power.
While the components inside your PC generate heat, some parts, such as the CPU and GPU, tend to heat more than others.
All PCs come with specific CPU and GPU clock speeds. You can increase these clock speeds and make your PC run faster. So, when the clock speeds increase, it essentially means that you can run several games and other graphic-intensive applications simultaneously.
Now, you have several ways to reduce the heat generated by your PC. Some users do it with the help of a technique called ‘underclocking.’ Underclocking your CPU and GPU reduces the heat transferred between the different components, but performance also takes a hit.
Is Using a CPU Cooler a Good Way to Reduce CPU Heat?
The primary purpose of using a CPU cooler is to prevent the PC from overheating.
A CPU cooler does two things: First, it keeps the operating temperatures of the PC down, and second, it prevents damage to the components by keeping them cool. So, a CPU cooler ensures that your PC is stable and efficient.
A PC runs efficiently between 20 and 26 degrees Celsius, which is essentially room temperature.
Most modern PCs tend to run at higher temperatures under load. If the temperature is within 60 degrees, there’s no need for worry. However, if the CPU and GPU temperatures go beyond 70 degrees, there is a cause for concern, and you should consider using a cooler or find ways to keep your PC cool.
You can access the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or the Unified Extensive Firmware Interface (UEFI) to check for this. The BIOS is what loads the operating system when you power up your computer.
Your computer’s performance should be normal until it hits a specific temperature. When your PC hits the threshold temperature, it begins to throttle to prevent the parts from being damaged due to overheating. Using a fan or other cooling systems can prevent your PC from hitting this threshold temperature without compromising performance.
How to Choose a Good CPU Cooler?
Choosing a suitable CPU cooler for your PC depends on several factors, including the amount of heat generated, the size and type of cooler, and the kind of motherboard installed on your computer.
1. The Amount of Heat Generated
The first step towards choosing a suitable CPU cooler for your PC is to know if it is heating up. To know if your PC is generating more heat, you must know its operating temperature and the heat it generates under normal circumstances.
For instance, processors such as the Core 2 Quad Q6600 can dissipate a maximum of 105 Watts. Also, the processor operates at a maximum temperature of 71-degrees Celsius.
Similarly, the lowest temperature that the same CPU (Core 2 Quad Q6600) can operate is 62 degrees Celsius while dissipating 105 watts.
So, when choosing a CPU cooler, you must know your computer’s operating temperature and the amount of heat dissipated.
2. Cooler Size
When choosing a CPU cooler for your PC, you should also consider the size. CPU coolers come in varied sizes and shapes, and you should choose the one that best fits within the enclosure.
Also, remember that the cooler’s efficiency depends on the size of the heat sink. So, the bigger the heat sink, the more efficient the cooler.
When looking at CPU coolers of different sizes, you should consider how much heat your PC dissipates. For example, you may not need a large cooler if your PC generates lower heat ranging from 40 to 70 watts. However, if your computer generates more than 70 watts, it makes sense to go for a large cooler.
3. Fan Type
There are two types of fans: three-pin and four-pin fans. Most modern CPUs come with four-pin fans. You can change the temperature of a CPU that has four pins by accessing the BIOS settings.
For example, if your CPU can run at a maximum temperature of 70 degrees, you can tweak the settings to lower this temperature to 65 degrees so that the fan runs at the lowest speed until it hits this temperature.
The CPU fan tends to rev up when you do this, so you may need to tweak the temperature to speed ratio settings until you strike a balance.
The amount of control you get is another aspect that you must consider when choosing the fan type. Most high-end processors and motherboards allow you to have more control over the fan speed. Also, many people prefer three-pin fans over four-pin ones as they will enable you to have more control over the speed.
Using a three-pin fan, you can use a fan controller to keep it spinning at a constant speed or even change it as per your requirements. Fan controllers also work on four-pin fans, and they ideally allow you to turn down the fan speed.
Most people think they need to check the CPU temperature at regular intervals. While this is not true, you still need to keep the fan constantly running when the PC is under load.
For example, if you have a quad-core CPU, you may need to run four instances of the fan-controller program to ensure that the temperature doesn’t go overboard. Doing so will allow you to control the temperature of your CPU and keep it at a constant rate, even when running intensive applications.
4. The Motherboard
When it comes to the motherboard, you should make sure that you know the socket type. Most modern motherboards come with the 775, AM3, and 1336 socket types.
You have many CPU coolers compatible with these motherboard socket types, though some may be compatible with only one of these types.
Types of CPU Coolers
A CPU cooler consists of different parts and comes in different shapes and sizes.
You have two significant types of CPU coolers: Air CPU coolers and Liquid CPU coolers.
Air CPU Coolers
Air CPU coolers are the most common types of CPU coolers suitable for general PC users. They are not expensive, and so, you can replace the stock cooler that came with your PC with an aftermarket one.
Air CPU coolers have specially designed heat fins that draw the heat generated by the CPU and its components away from your PC. The fins also help lower the temperature of the PC and its components.
However, they are significantly large and occupy lots of space, and so, they are not suitable for small computers and desktops.
Air CPU coolers are of different types, including U-type and C-type coolers and low-profile coolers.
U-Type Air CPU Coolers
U-type CPU coolers come with a stack of vertically-arranged heat fins. The arrangement is such that they are parallel to the heating base.
The heat fins are stacked on one another, just as in a tower. The construction allows them to actively draw heat away using the heat pipes and the fans.
C-Type Air CPU Coolers
C-type air CPU coolers come in a top-down where the heat pipes curve from the heat fin stacks. The fan can sit on either end of the heat fins, and so this arrangement lets you install more than one fan to a unit.
How you install the fans decides the quality of air flowing in and out of the team. Some standard C-type air CPU cooler designs include 120 mm and 140 mm. These go well with a wide range of CPU types.
Low-Profile Air CPU Coolers
Low-profile coolers are amongst the simplest types of CPU coolers. These coolers are small and don’t take up much space. So, you can use them in compact PCs that don’t have much room inside them.
Liquid CPU Coolers
Liquid CPU coolers are more effective in keeping the CPU temperature down as compared to Air CPU coolers. Such coolers are for PCs that generate lots of heat. So, when building a high-end gaming machine, you can use liquid CPU coolers to keep temperatures down.
Liquid coolers are quieter compared to air-type CPU coolers, as the former have lower running speeds. Moreover, the heat that passes through the liquid never leaves the PC, which is why computers with advanced CPUs and GPUs use this cooling system.
However, since water is the most common liquid used in these coolers, there is always the danger of a short-circuit.
Choosing a suitable CPU cooler depends on several factors and the specific needs of your PC. So, when using your PC for light tasks, the chances are that it may not overheat, and you don’t need an aftermarket CPU cooler.
However, if you use the PC for intense tasks such as gaming or running graphic-intensive applications, it may overheat, and you may need to use a CPU cooler.
In that case, you can even consider going for liquid cooling, as it is the most advanced cooling system available.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.