Heatsink and Fan How to and Repair Guide

What is a Heatsink?

Although the average computer user will never have a heatsink fail, it is still a very important part of a computer; most especially on a gaming computer. The heatsink attaches to the motherboard and processor and pulls heat away from the cpu. Typically they are made of metal, due to it's excellent heat conductivity, either aluminum, or copper, or a combination of the two. Most dell computers come stock with an aluminum heatsink, average price of 5 or 10 dollars, that may be hidden by a plastic "dust cover" with the case open. Other heatsinks may cost as much as 75 or 100 dollars and have fancy pipes coming out their sides. All the heatsinks that I've seen have small fans to help cool the metal.

Replacement Heatsinks and Finding Your Socket Number

Heatsinks are generally pretty sturdy and rarely need replacing. Some of the common reasons to replace a heatsink is when the fan goes out or makes too much noise, or if by overuse the metal melts. The latter problem is more common in the inexpensive aluminum heatsinks.

In order to find a good replacement heatsink you must first know the socket number for your motherboard. The socket number is the size of processor a motherboard will hold. The two main types of motherboards fit either Amd or Intel processors, and those are further sub-classified by the socket number. For instance, my motherboard is an Asus Abn32-sli, with a 939 socket. You can typically look at the motherboard itself for this information, just above the processor as shown in the picture. The socket number is very important for finding the right heatsink.

Next, you can begin searching for the right replacement, and believe me there are many from which to choose. As I said before they are made of heat conductive metals like copper or aluminum. As copper's heat conductivity is higher than that of aluminum it stands to reason that a copper heatsink would be better. Beware, there is always a high price on better and unfortunately copper too, however if price is not an issue go with a copper heatsink.

Socket Number In Small Letters Above Motherboard Brand

Mutated Zalman Heatsink With CoolerMaster Fan

Mounting a New Fan into an Old Heatsink

Recently I made a foolish blunder, one of the case fans on the inside of my pc began making an annoying whirring noise, and I, the seasoned computer expert, opened the side of my pc and fooled with it. It took me no time at all to discover which fan it was that annoyed me, as I never bothered turning off or unplugging my computer beforehand. That was a mistake, a big mistake. As I reached inside the pc I knocked my heatsink's fan off its rocker, rendering it useless.

I searched many boxes of spare parts and found an inexpensive aluminum heatsink for an Intel processor, not quite right and definitely not good enough to cool my AMD dual core processor. But i did steal the fan off of it and plug it in where the old fan had been which allowed me to use my computer. The only problem being that I could no longer move my pc case in any way or it would knock the fan out of place and cause my processor to overheat.

After searching for an inexpensive high-performance replacement for my heatsink, I finally decided to take the fan from the Intel heatsink, detach it from its harness by clipping off the plastic sides, and mounting the fan into my Zalman. This worked for me because the Zalman fan was mounted in by screws, but this may not always be the case. So if your fan breaks, or perhaps just makes too much noise, you may be able to simply mount a new fan into the old heatsink.

Thermal Paste Application

Installation of New Heatsink

One of the most important thing to remember when removing your old heatsink is that it connects almost directly to the processor.  Since the processor is very important part of the computer and also rather expensive to replace, I recommend being extra careful when removing this part. ie make sure your well rested and not on a jittery caffeine high or angry with your spouse. 

So with that in mind make sure to completely unplug the chords from the back of the pc making sure to label them if your not familiar with these wires. Next, remove the case side to expose your computer's interior and unscrew the screws which attach the heatsink to the motherboard. Now the important part, remember how I said, "almost directly to the processor," well there is a thin layer of heat conductive glue called thermal paste layered on the processor. This glue is not a strong adhesive and hence the heatsink can still be removed easily. 

Sometimes the paste can be sticky enough that when you pull the power supply out you also pull out the processor.  This is not such a big deal as long as you pull the heatsink straight out being careful not to wiggle it.  If you wiggle, you may bend the metal prongs on your processor making it near impossible to plug back into the motherboard.  You may also be able to place a small metal file or something flat in between the heatsink and processor and push down on the file while you pull up on the heatsink.(make sure the power chord is unplugged from electricity before sliding anything metal near the processor)

Now that you have safely removed your old power supply, it is time to install a new one.  First, make sure you have thermal paste available for use.  To apply thermal paste open tube and squeeze a small amount on to the processor top.  Do not apply liberally, apply sparingly, the thermal paste can be spread with a plastic credit card or other flat edge.  Thermal paste should coat the entire surface of the processor and should look like a glaze not a frosting.  Once this is completed you may remove any excess paste from the sides of the processor mount and carefully place your heatsink on top and reapply your screws.


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