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Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained

In this article, we're going to talk about CPU cooling. And we're going to talk about the components that are involved in CPU cooling and we're also going to discuss the two different types of cooling that can be used to cool a CPU, such as air cooling and water cooling.

Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained




Heat Sink

Now the biggest heat generator in a computer is the CPU. The CPU is the brain of a computer and it generates a large amount of heat in a very short period of time. In fact, if the CPU were to run by itself without using any cooling components, the CPU would likely fry itself within 10 seconds. So to remedy this problem, a CPU needs a heat sink to help dissipate the heat.

A heat sink is basically an aluminum block with fins that directly makes contact with the CPU. image

And the purpose of the heat sink is to increase the surface area of the CPU so that it can make more air contact for cooling.

Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained



The larger the heat sink, the larger the surface area will be, therefore increasing the cooling ability.

The heatsink fins are designed to further increase the surface area for air circulation. Once the heat sink makes contact with the CPU, the heat will transfer from the CPU to the heat sink where the air will cool the heat sink which will cool the CPU.


Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained





CPU Fan - Air Cooling

Then on top of the heat sink would be a fan. The CPU fan is designed to move air across the heat sink to help keep it cool. Now, this type of CPU cooling is called air cooling. And this is what the majority of computers use when cooling a CPU.

Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained




Thermal Compound Paste

Now it's important that the heat sink and the CPU make the most contact with each other so that adequate cooling can take place. So that's why it's important to apply thermal compound on the CPU before attaching the heat sink. A thermal compound is used to fill in the microscopic air gaps between the heat sink and the CPU to make up for the imperfections of the flat surfaces.

Now the surface areas is between the CPU and the heat sink are flat but they are not perfectly flat when examined with a microscope. Thermal compound is designed to fill in the microscopic air gaps so that the most contact can be made between the heat sink and the CPU. Because the more contact that the CPU makes with the heat sink, the better the heat transfer will be which will keep the CPU cooler.


Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained




Water Cooling

And another type of CPU cooling is water cooling. So instead of using air, this type of cooling uses water to cool the CPU. So for example, here is a water cooling unit for the CPU. There is a pump, hosing, and a radiator. And inside this unit is water. This unit is placed directly above the CPU like a traditional heat sink & the pump inside continuously circulates water throughout the unit to help keep the CPU cool.


Once the water reaches the radiator, the water is air-cooled by a radiator-mounted fan that draws air into the radiator and cools the water. After that, the cycle is repeated so a continuous flow of cool water makes contact with the CPU. So as a result, water cooling cools the CPU better than air cooling. They are also quieter but at the same time, water coolers are more expensive. Now CPU water coolers are not as common as air coolers.

Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained

So if you were to buy a new computer today it will most likely have an air cooler instead. Water coolers are more commonly used in high-performance computers, such as gaming computers. Or if you're going to overclock your CPU, then you should use a water cooler. Now I personally use a third-party CPU air cooler in my computer that I've built because I don't need a water cooler.

Thermal Compound Paste, Heat Sink, Air vs Water Cooling Explained

I don't do any overclocking or anything like that... In fact, when I build a new PC I always buy a third-party CPU cooler because the ones that come with the CPU do not do an adequate job. In fact, the last several computers that I've built, I've always purchased the same CPU cooler because I think for the price it is the best one out there. So if you found this article informative then let me know in the comment section below.

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