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Installing CPU Thermal Solutions

Some CPUs come with a thermal solution such as a heat sink and/or fan. The thermal solution commonly comes with a preapplied thermal paste or attached thermal pad. Heat sinks and fans attach to the processor using different methods. The most common methods are screws, thermal compound, and clips. Clips can use retaining screws, pressure release (where you press down on them, and they release), or a retaining slot. Small screwdrivers can be used to release the clips that attach using the retaining slot. Clips for fans or heat sinks can be difficult to install. The type of heat sink and/or fan installed must fit the processor and case. Additional hardware may have to be installed on the motherboard to be able to attach the CPU thermal solution. Figure 3.23 shows a CPU cooler being installed.

Figure 3.23

Figure 3.23 CPU heat sink/fan installation

If a used thermal solution is being installed, then the thermal pad or old thermal paste should be removed and new thermal paste applied. Do not scratch the surface of the heat sink. Use a plastic scribe or tool to remove a thermal pad or old paste. A thermal paste cleaner, acetone, or denatured alcohol with a lint-free cloth can be used to remove residual paste.

When installing thermal paste, you should apply the prescribed amount in the center of the processor. Spread the compound evenly in a fine layer over the portion of the center of the CPU that comes in contact with the heat sink. When the heat sink is attached to the processor, the thermal compound will spread (hopefully not over the edges). Always follow the heat sink installation directions.

CPU fans frequently have a 3- or 4-pin cable that attaches to the motherboard. The motherboard might have a 3- or 4-pin connector. A 3-pin fan can be attached to a 4-pin motherboard connector, and a 4-pin fan cable can be connected to a 3-pin motherboard connector, as shown in Figure 3.24. Note that when a 3-pin cable attaches to 4-pin connector, the fan is always on and cannot be controlled, like a 4-pin cable to 4-pin connector can.

Figure 3.24

Figure 3.24 CPU fan connectivity

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