How to Choose a Processor Cooler?
By Dr. Michael, Lee Penrod & Benjamin Wieberg
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All microprocessors generate heat that needs to be dissipated in order for them to work properly. A heat sink with an attached fan (HSF, cooler) works well for most processors. The shape and mounting mechanism of coolers varies among different microprocessors. Here is a list of them to help you to choose the right cooler:
Intel Consumer Processors
Intel has four different supported sockets which all require different coolers. These sockets are Socket 1366, Socket 1156/1155, Socket 775 and Socket 478. I will describe each socket to help you determine which cooler you need.
Socket 1366 is the first Core i7 socket which uses the same basic design as the socket 775 coolers which is a four whole pattern around the cpu for push pin fans or fans with a backplate to screw the fan down. However Socket 1366ís footprint is larger than that of Socket 775. To choose the proper fan make sure you choose one that will fit inside the case and provide adequate cooling for your processor. To view the Socket 1366 fans just click the link above.
Socket 1156 / Socket 1155
Socket 1155 is the latest Core i7 socket which just like Socket 1366 has the same basic layout but has a different size foot print which is larger than Socket 775 but is a little smaller than Socket 1366. In terms of cooler attachment and sizing, Socket 1156 and Socket 1155 aka LGA1155 / LGA1156 are the same. Coolers designed for Socket LGA1156 work for LGA1155. the sockets are To view these coolers please click the link above.
Socket 775 was the first socket to implement the four pin cooler design. While Socket 775 is the smallest footprint for these coolers it uses the same principal four pin holes which use either snap pin coolers or coolers that come with a back plate and mounting bracket. To view these coolers please click the link above.
Socket 478 is the predecessor to Socket 775. Socket 478 motherboards come with a bracket already mounted to the board which allows for coolers with a mounting bracket that latches to the bracket on the motherboard and then you flip a lever on the cooler which tightens it down on the processor. Some Socket 478 coolers require you to remove the bracket on the motherboard because they come with their own mounting bracket and backplate. To view these coolers please click the link above.
AMD Consumer Processors
AMD has five different consumer processor sockets that ill help to explain. These are Socket AM3, Socket AM2, Socket 939, Socket 754 and Socket A. I will discuss each socket individually to help you understand them better.
Socket AM3 motherboards come with a bracket on the motherboard which has a clip on either side in the center for a lock down. Socket AM3 coolers can be interchanged with most Socket AM2. To view Socket AM3 coolers please follow the link above.
Socket AM2 and AM2+
Socket AM2 and AM2+ just like Socket AM3 come with brackets on the motherboard with clips in the center on either side for lockdowns. Socket AM2 and AM2+ coolers can be used on Socket AM3 most of the time and Socket AM3 coolers can be used on most Socket AM2 and AM2+ motherboards. To view these coolers please follow the link above.
Socket 939 is similar to the mounting of Socket Am2 and AM3 however the coolers are not interchangeable. Socket 939 mounting locations are like AM2 and AM3 but are found in different locations than that of AM2 and AM3. To view these coolers please follow the link above.
Socket 754 is similar to that of Socket 939 however Socket 754 has a three hole mounting bracket which is used only on Socket 754. You can use a Socket 939 coolers on Socket 754 if you are careful but its not recommended. You cannot use a Socket 754 cooler on any socket but Socket 754. To view these coolers please follow the link above.
Socket A is similar to that of Socket 754 however, while they share the triple clip mounting they are in different locations and the coolers are not interchangeable.
How to Choose a Cooler:
When choosing a cooler for these processors you must first consider four things; the ambient room temperature where the computer is stored, the area in which the computer is stored, the case clearance and the noise level of the fan. If you keep it warm in your house and the computer is in a tight spot like a cabinet then your going to want a cooler that moves more air. At the same time if you want a quiet computer you will need a bigger fan that runs at a lower rpm. So the first thing to do is look at the computers environment and case clearance and determine which cooler will work best for you.
Notes about the noise level from a PC:
There are three moving parts in a computer: the CPU fan, the case fan, and the fan inside the power supply. These are the main contributors to the noise level. Choosing reliable and quiet fans are important for noise considerations. The other factors that affect the noise levels include: the size of the motherboard, the mounting mechanism for the CPU fan, and the way the motherboard is mounted onto a case. These factors contribute to the noise level because the CPU fan could cause the motherboard to resonate against the case, generating more noise. The larger the motherboard size, the lower the noise level. The stronger mounting for the CPU fan and motherboard, the lower the noise.
This article was last edited 4/16/2011
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