Electronic products or components use electricity for their operation and tend to generate heat because of it. Sometimes when the temperature gets too hot on those components, they throttle or simply go dead due to burn damage.
To overcome these issues, companies or manufacturers also provide those components with some sort of cooling solution or if not - then they advise the consumers to do so. The same is the case with computer processors, many of them come bundled with one and many do not.
Why is cooling important for a CPU?
CPUs are like the brain of the whole computer and each calculation goes through it, which puts a lot of stress on the CPU - forcing it to pull more power from the power supply and continue its operation at optimal performance level.
Since the CPU is eating a lot of power and trying to lower the load by finishing calculations one by one - it also is generating heat during the whole process. Which then requires a cooling solution, otherwise, the CPU will start thermal throttling and start to perform worse. This is why adequate cooling is necessary.
What is a CPU Cooler and do CPUs come with them?
CPU Cooler is the solution for the processor’s heat-up. CPU cooler prevents the CPU from going crazy in terms of the temperatures and helps it to keep working smoothly. CPU coolers have a few types and each serves well in its specific situation.
And yes, many CPUs come bundled with coolers. However, those included coolers aren’t that great if you’re picking yourself a high-end chip that is going to produce a lot of heat.
For working, CPU coolers if it’s Air coolers, work in a pretty simple way. Tower sir coolers usually have a tower shape built by a bunch of aluminum fin stacks. The CPU makes contact with the cooler’s copper face plate with the help of a thermal compound and then that copper heat pipe takes this heat from the CPU all the way up to the aluminum fin stacks. Where then the heat gets cool down with the help of the fan that is attached to the cooler.
Types of CPU Coolers
With the advancements in technology - we got to see new ways of cooling down our processors, however, there aren’t many of them. These are the ones that one can purchase.
- Air Cooler
- AIO Liquid Cooler
- Passive Cooling Solution
- Custom Loop Liquid Cooler
This is the most commonly used and old way of cooling. Air coolers are still the most popular coolers among PC builders. They are easy to manage, more affordable, and have no risk of leakage.
Air coolers come in many variations with the amount of TDP that they can handle printed on their boxes and listed on the manufacturer’s website.
AIO Liquid Cooler:
All-in-one liquid coolers are the next generation of CPU coolers that utilize a special form of liquid to cool down the hot-burning CPU at maximum load. The liquid travels back and forth from the CPU pump to the radiator to keep the liquid and CPU cool and throw the heat out of the computer.
These coolers are available in 120mm, 140mm, 240mm, 280mm, 360mm, and 420mm size configurations. This allows the user to pick the one that fits his/her build well and it saves him/her some bucks too.
These are not that popular and not many are sold either, but it’s still a way to cool down your processor. Another thing to note here is that these are less effective too so you have to keep that in mind. These coolers are actually air coolers but without a fan and loads of heatsinks as well as heat pipes and quite big.
Custom Loop Liquid Cooler:
Custom loops are for enthusiasts who want to take their builds and CPU cooling to the next level. Unlike AIO Liquid Coolers, everything has to be put together by yourself and the way you like.
If done wrong, the fluid might leak and damage your PC components. So, attention to detail is very much required here. However, the end result does look great but as stated before, it’s not for everyone and also it costs a lot in terms of price.
CPU Coolers and Compatibility
Just like everything else, CPU coolers also have compatibility criteria for each socket, they wouldn’t work properly if used with a socket that isn’t in its compatibility list. If somehow you managed to make it sit on the motherboard, it wouldn’t be as effective as it will be with a compatible socket. Intel and AMD both have different types of sockets for their CPUs. So, a compatible CPU cooler is a must or you’re just wasting your money as the cooler wouldn’t be able to cool down your CPU properly which would let you into trouble.
In case you do not have extensive knowledge about CPU coolers and socket compatibility, then let me shed some light on it. First let’s take a look at the Intel side, the latest socket for Intel’s 12th and 13th gen processors is LGA1700 which is downright different from its previous socket types. LGA1200, LGA1150, and LGA1151 CPU sockets were pretty much identical and their coolers were also inter-compatible in most instances except for the Xeon PCs, as they were made purely for office and studio use in the most OEM way possible.
Moving over to the AMD side, we do not see too many sockets like Intel - here the most common nowadays are AM4 and AM5 which are identical in size, and hence both can be used with the same cooler. Even if you have an old AM4 socket-compatible cooler lying around and you’ve built yourself an AM5 socket-based system, in that regard, you can reuse that AM4 cooler with your new built. Just make sure that it’s a good one, otherwise, the temperatures of the CPU are going to be a bit unfavorable.
Do CPUs come with coolers?
The shortest answer to this query is yes, they do and also no, they don’t. There are many models of CPUs available to purchase each targeting a specific audience. Some are budget chips and some are mid-range and some are top-of-the-line high-end chips that one could buy. Many mid-range processors come with stock coolers, however, those coolers are not effective enough and can barely handle your CPU at the stock speeds - let alone the high-end ones.
In the PC market, only Intel and AMD produce CPUs for the masses and are pretty popular for their processors and other services. Both come to ship their processors with stock coolers except for the unlocked K series processor from Intel and X series Ryzen processors from AMD. One appreciable thing is that its stock coolers like the wraith prism are pretty great from a stock cooler’s perspective. Whereas on the other hand, Intel only provides you with a non-RGB simple looking cooler.
Aftermarket CPU Coolers
There are many CPU coolers available in the market that aren’t made by Intel or AMD. These are called aftermarket coolers and serve their purpose decently, but why do you need one when your CPU already came with a stock one? Well, aftermarket coolers are the remedy for CPU overheating and provide headroom for overclocking if that is an option in your case.
Moreover, many CPU coolers are popular enough to be the majority’s go-to choice for their builds. Some of them are Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 LED Turbo, NZXT Kraken series AIOs, Corsair’s H series AIOs, and Noctua NH-D15 air cooler. These are just some of the popular coolers that I’ve mentioned because the full list is quite extensive, however, all of them perform exceptionally well in their respective budget segments.
In the end, things are hopefully more bright now and easy to understand regarding the CPU coolers, whether it’s the stock cooler or an aftermarket variant. Buying an aftermarket cooler is not a bad investment and lets your CPU breathe more freely. It provides much-needed room for the processor to spread its wings and operate at maximum boost clocks with the lowest possible temperatures. All this was discussed in this article where we took a deep dive into some key points about CPU coolers and why are they important for your processor.
Again, they cool the chip while it’s operating, which also implies that the processor is generating heat as well which would make the temperature go higher and higher until it starts thermal throttling to retain a workable temperature environment. The CPU starts to underclock itself during the thermal throttling period to generate less heat. Also, some CPUs do come with CPU coolers but they’re not strong enough to let the processor work at its full capacity. However, in some instances where the processor is of mid-range or budget segment and comes bundled with a stock cooler, then it will perform just fine and the processor will also be operating at its maximum.