What is a CPU Cooler? Types, Lifespan & Works & More

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What is a CPU Cooler?

A CPU cooler refers to that particular hardware device that draws hot air to lower CPU temperatures.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A CPU cooler maintains the temperature inside a computer case which ensures stability and improvement in performance of the entire system.
  • There are different types of coolers such as air or liquid coolers, heat sinks, thermal compound, cooling fans, and immersion cooling methods.
  • All CPU coolers work on the principle of thermodynamics called convection and remove the hot air from inside.
  • It is best to replace a cooler after every 5 years to protect the CPU though there is no definite lifespan of it.

Understanding CPU Cooler

CPU Cooler

When you use a computer, the different components in it generate a lot of heat, continuously.

If this heat is allowed to accumulate, the system may shut down frequently, and, sometimes, may even cause irreversible damage to the system. It is for this reason you should look for those computers that have a proper cooling system.

Ideally, all computer components nowadays come with in-built cooling systems to ensure smooth functioning and minimize the amount of heat generated.

A CPU cooler is one such vital component in a computer system. This is a mechanism that draws away the heat generated inside the CPU by the different components and chipsets within it.

This cooler not only keeps the system cool but also ensures that it performs at the optimal level.

In short, a CPU cooler is a device that ensures stability and enhances the efficiency of the entire computer system.

It helps the system to maintain the desired level of temperature inside, which, in turn, promotes smooth communication between the different elements of the computer system.

However, when a cooling device is added, it may increase the noise level of the system overall. There are different types of coolers and cooling methods you can choose from.

  • Air CPU coolers are the most common type of coolers you will find in a computer system. These are designed and used to improve the airflow within the system.
  • Liquid CPU coolers are also used in some cases where there are pipes in the heat sink through which liquid is circulated all over to draw the heat from the different components.

There are few other cooling methods used nowadays such as software cooling. This uses the latest power-saving technology to draw the heat away from the chips such as the graphics processor.

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Types of Computer Cooling Systems

When you look at the different types of computer cooling devices you may feel overwhelmed to select one for you.

Remember, each one of these cooling systems have its significant pros and cons.

Therefore, it is prudent to know about these types so that you step confidently into the store and pick the right cooling system for your system.

  • Heat Sinks

Almost all components of computers today come with heat sinks to keep the parts of your computer systems cool. In the CPU, there is a heat fan that dispels the heat generated within the parts.

This fan is connected to the CPU chip directly and has a big enough surface area.

There is a thermal pad or grease between the two surfaces that takes away the metal heat, which, by it, is very good at conducting heat as compared to a computer chip.

  • Fans

These are the most active and common cooling system you will find in a CPU which is not like the heat sinks.

The fans move the air around, and therefore, it removes the heat as well as the dust from the surface.

In most of the modern computers, these fans are fitted on top of the heat sinks.

You will also find the same set up in the chipsets, hard drives and GPUs.

This system happens to be the most effective one, though rarely used in computers due to the complexities involved in it.

Distilled water is used in this because it is known for its better thermal conductivity and a very high Specific Heat Capacity.

Much similar to the internal combustion engine of your car, the working process of these cooling systems involves creating a water-block first.

The water then flows through the pipes to the radiator keeping the CPU cool. The radiator may also have a cooling fan of its own or a Peltier cooler.

  • Thermal Compound 

There is usually a thermal compound between the heat sink and the CPUs and GPUs.

This compound may come in different forms such as grease, gel, paste, or heat sink paste. This is smeared on the CPU.

The heat sink is pressed on the top of it. This eliminates the air gaps, if any, between the heat sink and other components that may produce heat.

This also ensures a more effective transmission of heat.

  • Immersion Cooling Method 

This less common cooling method is much more extreme where the components of the computer are submerged in a liquid that is not electrically but thermally conductive.

Ideally, a specific type of oil is used for this. The fluid absorbs the heat and since it is exposed to air, the heat is dissipated much easily to the air from the liquid surface.

You may also use more advanced ways to keep your CPU cool. Phase Change cooling is one such type that resembles a refrigerator!

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However, these types of cooling solutions are more expensive as compared to the others and will use up a lot of power to operate.

What is the Lifespan of a CPU Cooler?

To be honest, there is no definitive answer to this question. It depends on the use and manufacturing designs of the OEMs.

If you find that the rubber and seals are fine enough and there are no leaking issues, then the temperature will not be affected.

However, if you find any difference in the temperature, it is time to get your CPU cooler replaced.

To keep a check on your CPU cooler, you should follow the MTBF or Mean Time Between Failures for the pump in it. This will give you a rough idea about the amount of life left in your CPU cooler.

The computers today are designed to shut down before it burns up but it is better to follow the instructions of the OEMs.

You can expand its life by changing the coolant, which is recommended after every three years, so that it does not kill the pump.

However, smaller pumps and DDCs may fail much too soon as compared to the larger ones such as the D5.

The best way to prevent your CPU from being overheated and the conductive liquid spilling all over the video card and motherboard, is to replace your CPU cooler within five years.

This is because the efficiency of the cooler may deteriorate over time due to the seals and rubber succumbing to age and the thermal cycle.

This will save a lot of money in replacing everything in it or the entire computer system.

The Working Principle of Coolers

The working process of each type of CPU cooler may be different depending on its type.

Irrespective of the type of CPU cooler, the working principle is based on the thermodynamic principle called convection.

This means that the heat transferred from a hot object heats up the air molecules nearby. This cools the surface slightly.

The hot air molecules, being lighter, float away and the space is filled with fresh, cooler air.

This absorbs the heat further, and therefore, a continual process is set up.

  • CPU Heatsink

This cooler will conduct the heat away from the CPU or processor. At the same time, the fins in it will radiate the heat of the heatsink itself.

Heatsinks have a large surface area which provides a greater cooling potential to it. It is for this reason these fins are used in the heatsinks.

The efficiency of the heatsink will mainly depend on the thermal conductivity of the material used in it.

Though the best materials are copper and aluminum, other good materials are diamond, silver, iron and steel.

  • Air Cooling
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The air coolers have a heatsink in it. It also has a medium that cools down the heatsink.

The fans in the air cooler ensures a constant flow of cool air inside the system and the heatsinks dissipates the heat from the processor to keep the system cool.

Since this system is cheaper and produces exceptional results, using air coolers is the most popular CPU cooling methodology.

A few air coolers may come with dual fans and heatsinks which makes them a lot more effective.

  • Liquid Cooling

The process is much similar to air cooling but it is more involved and effective. This is because this system uses liquid coolant in place of air as its cooling medium.

This ensures a better and higher rate of heat transfer from within the CPU. There are two types of such cooling namely, Custom Loops and AIO.

There are different components in this system, each serving a specific purpose.

The radiator in this system dissipates heat, the water block conducts heat, the reservoir holds the liquid coolant, the pump circulates it and the tubes connect all different parts together.

FAQs:

What does a CPU cooler do?

Based on the principle of thermal conductivity and convection, the CPU cooler dissipates the hot air from inside the CPU. This prevents the system and its components from being heated up and affects its functionality.

Do you need a CPU cooler?

The shortest answer to this is, ‘Yes.’ Even if you are not overclocking, you will certainly need a CPU cooler because the fans in the case alone are simply not enough to keep away the heat effectively.

Can you run your PC without a CPU cooler?

No, you cannot. This will heat up the chips and result in several issues like frequent shutdowns and even some irreversible damages that may need a complete replacement of the system. Why take the risk of burning everything in your computer up.

What happens if you don't use a CPU cooler?

In such situations, your system may not POST. You may see several error messages and besides shutting down, it may show other symptoms of failure as well.

Wrapping It Up

If you really want to work on your computer uninterruptedly, it will be unwise if you do not invest a few dollars more in a CPU cooler.