How to keep your CPU cool
You could be forgiven for thinking that a processor upgrade is the most complex system improvement you can make. Sure, PC open-heart surgery can be nerve-wracking, but when everything is in place modern motherboards work in concert with processors to make the business of configuration very easy.
Indeed, everything is pretty much automatic. If you do run into problems, your chip may be overheating. This is increasingly likely if you're re-using your existing cooler. Read on as we detail the correct procedure for keeping new and existing chips cool.
Optimise your cooling
1. Check current temperatures
Before you start taking anything out of your machine, you need to check how hot your processor is running. CPU Hardware Monitor provides detailed temperature information for your CPU cores and motherboard, and is free.
Take a reading with nothing else running (idle) and then when another running Super Pi (under load). Then check these figures against your CPU's datasheet.
2. Remove your existing fan
Removing processor fans is easy. For Intel components, unlock the four holding pins by turning them clockwise; you should then able to pull the whole thing out.
The fans that ship with standard AMD processors are also simple to remove - just lift and release the holding arm and then gently ease the cooler out. Don't forget to unplug the fan power cable before removing the cooler completely.
3. Wipe off the thermal grease
Before you put the cooler down on your workbench, clean off the existing thermal grease using a tissue and possibly a little solvent.
You will need some to add more thermal grease later though, so if you don't have any new stuff to hand, it's best to place the cooler on a piece of paper without cleaning it so that no impurities are mixed into the existing grease. Remove the CPU and clean the grease off that too.
4. Clean the blades
Use a piece of folded tissue or a soft brush to clean along the line of the fan blade. Don't push too hard, though, as these can break off under pressure. Dust tends to accumulate on the top of the fan blades, so it shouldn't be too hard to clean away.
If your fan is in a housing, take it apart if needed so that you can get better access to the heatsink and the fan.
5. Add new thermal grease
Put the CPU back into its socket and apply a new layer of thermal grease to the top of the processor. Remember, your aim is to have a very fine layer to fill in any gaps between the CPU and heatsink, not to make a grease sandwich. A small blob should be sufficient.
If you didn't remove the old thermal grease, check how much is on the processor and remove any if possible.
6. Reseat and retest
Put the cooler back in its home and wiggle it in place a little to make sure that the thermal grease is spread evenly between the cooler and CPU.
Next, clip the retaining arms or pins back into place and reconnect the fan to your system. Boot your machine and run the same tests that you did originally. If your CPU is still running too hot then a new cooler is needed.