Aftermarket CPU installation 02

Upgrade preparation for aftermarket CPU air coolers: The Self-Help Guide

When your Intel stock CPU cooler couldn’t do the best job in cooling for you, that’s when you know you must upgrade to a good enough aftermarket CPU air coolers. Despite DIY and sealed liquid CPU coolers being around the market, CPU air coolers are still maintaining its position with most brands released newer variants time after time, improving upon older designs. In my opinion, it’s much easier to maintain and clean CPU coolers, and many good CPU coolers can match or even provide better cooling, depending on the CPU and its TDP output. CPU air coolers have various form factors, and while the water blocks are technically ‘low profile’, it requires you to install the radiator somewhere.

Not that I am saying a closed loop or any liquid cooling loop is a bad thing, but rather it hold certain cooling benefits and even aesthetics. But every product has pros and cons. Liquid cooling also has a set of pros and cons. This guide concentrates on installing CPU air coolers, typically the variant that uses a backplate design for mounting it on the motherboard.

There are many variants, designs, purpose, size and specifically made for processors with a certain heat output rating (TDP). There is a basic checklist that first timers can use to make the right decisions. But for those who have already made that decision, this is the next time. Installing a brand new aftermarket CPU coolers is a pretty exciting experience. But while aftermarket CPU air cooler manufacturers have instruction manuals for installation, they usually don’t mention what needs to be done before and during installation. This guide carries a small part of the thermal paste application guide for Intel stock coolers since the cleaning process is the same and you will need all the stuff mentioned there for this upgrade.

As a recommendation, its also best to search for the best aftermarket CPU cooling you get in your area or via online purchase. Check for the reviews from multiple websites to get as much information about compatibility, pros and cons as much as possible. If the cooling performance, along with the bundled fan, thermal paste and mounting method is to your liking, along with a good enough warranty period, go for it. If you still cannot make any decisions, you can ask in the forums and we’ll help you out.

As mentioned in the CPU cooler guide, a thermal paste helps to transfer heat from the CPU’s integrated heatspreader to its cooler’s heatbase. This way the heat exchange can be made as quickly as possible. The last time, I posted a guide on how to change the thermal paste and apply a new coat on an Intel stock CPU cooler. Though it should improve or sustain some amount of heat exchange, Intel stock coolers at the end of the day have a lot of restrictions.

Why does Intel give such coolers?

Because it’s simply meant for general users who are unlikely to run CPU intensive task for a certain time. The cost of manufacturing and shipping the unit increases, and a possibility of the size of the actual packaging. It becomes a non-feasible option for users. Between the people who need and don’t need, it’s tricky to take sides. Besides, the CPU cooler bundled with the processor if of low-profile design, ensuring that its compatible irrespective of the motherboard layout and the case’s form factor.

Intel at one point did have a different CPU design, but specifically for LGA 1366- Intel DBX-B as an ‘advanced thermal solution’ over the standard variant which uses a U-type tower design with four copper heatpipes and a flat copper base. As an aftermarket option, Intel also had a 120mm radiator based liquid cooler made by Asetek (model: TS13X) for a bit older architecture socket processors, but it was sold separately. In a way, it’s good because it keeps the cost of the processor lower and gives the flexibility to use that saved money on buying a CPU cooler of their preference.

AMD also has a similar heatsink and also at times have a flat aluminum base with a retention mounting method which requires motherboard manufacturer to have a bracket and a backplate securing it. But to its credit, the cooling fan over the AMD heatsink can be swapped for another 80mm. In Intel’s case, the fan is one with the plastic frame itself. AMD also uses a retention clip based mounting which is more reliable than Intel’s plastic push pin.

Another benefit is that most of these aftermarket CPU coolers have cross-platform compatibility, hence providing a certain value for a bit older/present and future readiness to a good extent. While each Intel 115x variant have different socket design, the mounting holes are of the same size. Most of the CPU cooler manufacturers also provide mounting support for LGA 2011/2011-V3, older Intel sockets such as LGA 775 and 1366.

Usually the aftermarket CPU coolers are bundled with removable fans, which is either of good quality or of decent value (or noisy plasticky ones in worse case scenario)- but almost all aftermarket CPU air coolers provide a flexibility to swap fans and even the option to install more than one fan on the CPU cooler to provide more active cooling. When and if the user chooses to jump ship, CPU manufacturers also bundle an AMD socket mounts as well. Depending on the CPU cooler design, the ability to draw out and dissipate heat and its TDP rating, aftermarket CPU coolers are future ready.

Aftermarket CPU installation 02

For many experienced users, changing CPU coolers is easy. For first timers, it could be a little tricky. While aftermarket CPU manufacturers give instruction manuals on how to install its CPU cooler on the motherboard of your preference, they don’t really talk about what to do before that and tips to consider during installation.

This guide will help you with that.

Changing the thermal paste is somewhat simple and it’s something that a person can do easily well within an hour. First, a good deal of information and tips will be given on what you need to get the job done. But if you decide to stick with your stock CPU cooler for whatever reason, but simply want to clean and change the thermal paste, check out this guide.

Installing an aftermarket CPU cooler is also easy. But before you make any purchase plans, do read the CPU guide as it gives various information about CPU coolers and the points to need to know before purchasing. It’s important to do some self-research based on the system you have.

The time and effort taken to prepare this guide was more time consuming than the guide for fresh application of thermal paste with stock CPU coolers. But a lot of effort is taken for this guide so that you won’t be stuck in the process of it and left in the dark. Still, always read the instruction manual as different cooler have different mounting method- either installing the bracket on the motherboard- or on the CPU cooler.


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