Every computer, from home theater PC to the most hulking of gaming system, generates heat during operation- and this heat can kill your PC’s precious internals if you’re not careful. For quite some time, air cooling systems were the solution to stop the CPU and GPU from overheating. As this method is quite successful, air coolers are still extremely popular in the marketplace. But there are some new solutions, as well.
The Next Level of Cooling
Over the time, cooling solutions were reworked to new sizes and methods. Thereby, liquid coolers became the next level of cooling. Especially for the CPU, this method becomes more and more popular. Here, the liquid used is a low conductive mixture that loops from the radiator to the CPU block which dissipates heat faster than air cooling does. That way, the CPU will run cooler at idle and under load.
Water Cooler for CPU
New liquid coolers are quiet, save internal space where it matters most, and perform well – all at a price that’s not far off from a good air cooler. Who thinks that water and a computer system won’t go together can be reassured. When you follow the installation instructions correctly, there should be no leaks and therefore, your system stays dry. Moreover, thanks to the innovation of all-in-one water coolers like the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer, there is only need to install it once and the cooler won’t require to be maintained constantly in the future.
ARCTIc Liquid Freezer in a standard PC case
The easiest way to get into liquid cooling is with an all-in-one loop. These consist of a single closed loop with a radiator on one end and a pump/water block combo on the other. The system is pre-filled and pre-sealed so you don’t need to mess with it. You just install the radiator and its included fan onto one of your case’s existing fan mounts, attach the water block to the CPU and fire it up.
Most all-in-one loops cool the CPU only. There are some all-in-one loops for GPUs, like our ARCTIC Accelero.
Fans using the PWM feature just function with the necessary speed to endure maximum cooling at the lowest noise level.
Thanks to the patented innovative PWM Sharing Technology (PST), up to 5 fans (including CPU fans) connected to the ARCTIC F PWM fan can share the PWM signal. The speed of all the fans in this PST system is then centrally controlled by a single PWM signal via BIOS.
This means if the system load becomes greater, the fan speed of all fans within the PST system increases to reduce the chassis temperature. If the utilization is low, these fans will operate at a relatively low speed to ensure a proper cooling.
The surface of a CPU or a heat sink is never entirely flat. If you place a heatsink directly on a CPU, there will be tiny, nearly invisible, gaps between the two. Since air conducts heat poorly, these gaps have a very negative effect on the heat transfer. Therefore, an interface material with a high thermal conductivity is needed to fill these gaps to improve heat conductivity between CPU and heatsink. Here, you can decide between using thermal paste and thermal pads. But when should you use which solution? What are their differences and what advantages do both solutions have?
Thermal grease, thermal compound, thermal goop, thermal gunk or heat paste – thermal paste has lots of different names. It is a sticky paste applied directly on the heatsink or CPU and the most commonly used interface material in the electronics cooling area. Thermal compound with a good quality will provide the best possible performance. Unfortunately, to apply thermal paste can be quite messy. Also, thermal paste isn’t the best way to fill bigger gaps sometimes. Here, you can use thermal pads.
A tutorial how to properly apply thermal compound, can be found here:
Thermal pads are a lot easier to install than thermal grease. Unfortunately, they aren’t as effective as a thin layer of thermal paste. Some stock CPU coolers come with pads, because they’re nice and clean, and they’ll work fine.
But they are one-shot solutions only. You have to replace the pad if you ever remove the heatsink from its mounted position, because the heat of the operating CPU will have caused the thermal pad to conform the top. So, once you move the heatsink there will be new gaps between the surfaces. So never forget: If you dismount the heatsink, replace the thermal pad and remove all debris.
Thermal pad on a heatsink
Avoid Common Mistakes
When using thermal pads or thermal paste, there are some mistakes that are often made. So, here are some ideas to avoid those:
Never use thermal compounds and thermal pads together. Just because you use both, the effect won’t increase. The reverse is true. Adding thermal grease on top of a thermal pad actually reduces the ability of heat to flow to the heatsink.
Also, never stack several pads on top of each other. Two or three pads on top of each other between the CPU and a heatsink might kill the CPU.