If you’re thinking of replacing your CPU, you may wonder if you need to replace other related components.
After all, you need to make sure all your components are compatible.
One of these components that can be very tricky to choose is CPU coolers.
Is a CPU cooler an essential PC component?
Do You Need A CPU Cooler? (10 Reasons You Do)
You need to have a CPU cooler since it’s a vital component of any PC, without which, the PC can’t operate.
If your computer doesn’t have a CPU cooler, or if the cooler is faulty, your system will overheat, and heat can damage hardware severely.
In addition, if the system doesn’t detect any coolers, it may not even boot.
If it does, it will shut off after a few seconds because the CPU gets hot too quickly.
You can’t rely on other cooling solutions, such as case fans, because the CPU needs dedicated cooling systems that absorb heat directly from its surface and dissipate it.
1. CPUs Get Hot
The CPU is your system’s brain responsible for processing data, executing instructions, and accomplishing many other tasks.
As with any electronics, heat is a natural result of CPU operations.
The primary element that helps CPUs transfer information is electrical signals, which generate heat through their movements.
The CPU is a small component consisting of millions of tiny transistors, each changing its state every second and producing energy.
The CPU can generate more than 100W of heat.
You can imagine how hot it can get by trying to touch a 100W lightbulb a few seconds after it’s been turned on.
The more complex the operation, the higher the degree of the generated heat.
You can feel temperatures are going higher when you perform CPU-intensive tasks, such as video rendering or gaming.
That’s not just the case with the CPU.
Any PC component that uses electricity to run has its specific cooling system.
RAM sticks come with custom heatsinks, power supplies have dedicated fans, and GPUs don’t work without a heatsink and fan.
2. You’re Overclocking
If you’re overclocking, a CPU cooler is an absolute must.
Even if you’re overclocking at stock voltages, it can increase your temps considerably.
Under normal circumstances, any CPU will get hot because it has electricity passing through its cores.
If you overclock, the voltage will increase, and so will the temperatures.
As a result, if you don’t have a decent cooling system in place, you’ll experience several heat-related issues.
Therefore, you need a cooling system to transfer the heat and cool down the innards.
3. Dust Buildup
Laptop and desktop computers have vents designed to facilitate airflow.
However, dust particles can pass these vents and accumulate on the internal components.
Over time, this dust buildup can seriously damage your components because it doesn’t allow air to flow in and out of the system to cool down the parts.
Although you need to clean your computer’s innards regularly to prevent dust buildup, you also need a decent cooling system.
If you have a CPU cooling system, mainly CPU fans, you can ensure that the CPU doesn’t get hot due to dust buildup.
4. Some CPUs Don’t Come With Stock Coolers
Some CPU manufacturers don’t include cooling systems with their products.
You’ll need to get an aftermarket cooler to avoid damaging your components.
For example, Intel doesn’t include fans or heatsinks with the clocked CPUs that have K, KF, KS, XE, or X letters in their model names.
Even if your processor comes with its own thermal solution, you may need to upgrade it if you’re overclocking.
Most stock coolers and fans may not efficiently cool down your system.
5. A Computer Is Unusable Without A CPU Cooler
CPU manufacturers take temperatures seriously because they can damage the system.
As a result, they have designed solutions to reduce temperature and minimize these adverse effects.
For example, Intel processors have a Digital Thermal Sensor that monitors the cores’ temps and makes sure they’re not above the allowed threshold.
If they go higher than that, it reduces voltage and performance to cool it down.
This process is known as thermal throttling, which is designed to protect the hardware.
However, these measures are designed for situations where you have a cooling system installed.
If there’s no cooler, the CPU temps go up instantly, and the CPU will automatically shut down.
As a result, you can’t even run your computer for more than seconds.
6. You Won’t POST Without A Cooler
Computers have a Power-On Self-Test (POST) that checks all hardware components upon startup and won’t let you boot if there are any issues.
As a result, some motherboards even don’t allow you to turn on your computer without a fan.
Your computer won’t get past the POST, and you’ll receive a beep code that indicates there’s something wrong with the CPU.
7. Case Fans Aren’t Enough
If you’ve looked at a computer case, you must have seen the fans on the case panels that start running when you turn on the computer.
There are at least two case fans on the case panels, one for sucking in the cool air from outside and another for sending out hot air from inside.
Now, you may think these fans are enough for cooling down the entire system.
However, your CPU needs a dedicated cooling system that takes the heat out into the case.
The heatsink should be directly attached to the CPU to take the heat from its cores and dissipate it.
The case fans only function as ventilatory components that take the heat out.
8. CPU Heat Can Affect Other Components
The CPU is seated on the motherboard, which also houses many other components.
These components are connected through wires and metal parts that can transfer heat very quickly.
As a result, if your CPU temps go up, it doesn’t just affect itself.
It can also heat other components, such as the GPU and the motherboard itself, leading to severe damage to these sensitive parts.
An overheated CPU can raise ambient temperatures, and in extreme cases, it can lead to CPU burning and motherboard frying.
It can also melt down the solder and affect the entire motherboard.
A fried motherboard or CPU means your entire system will be useless.
Worst-case scenario, you’ll lose your data if it affects the hard drive.
9. Heat Can Affect Performance
As mentioned, CPUs have mechanisms that reduce the system’s performance when it gets hot.
Even if you have a cooling system, you’ll experience different issues if it doesn’t work properly.
Here are some of the most frequent signs of CPU overheating:
- Constant crashes and freezing.
- Random shutdowns and reboots.
- Blue screen of death.
- Pixelated lines and artifacts.
- Slow operation and long loading time.
10. Your CPU Will Live Longer
As mentioned before, running your computer without a CPU fan is impossible as it can damage the internal components.
However, an adequately cooled CPU will live much longer than one with an inefficient cooling system.
That’s because thermal distress can damage components over time.
In addition, a properly cooled CPU can work under full load much longer without making fans work at 100% of their capacity.
Do I Need An Aftermarket CPU Cooler?
Most Intel and AMD CPUs come with their stock coolers specifically designed for that CPU’s hardware specifications.
These stock coolers usually do a perfect job of cooling down your system to avoid throttling and damage.
However, you must change your CPU cooler if it’s old and non-functional.
You may also want to upgrade your CPU cooler if you overclock or perform resource-intensive tasks such as video editing or gaming.
Another situation that may require upgrading a CPU cooler is when you change your CPU.
In such cases, you should decide whether to keep the old CPU cooler, go with the new CPU’s stock cooler, or upgrade it.
If you have an aftermarket CPU that works well and is compatible with the new CPU, the best thing to do is keep it.
However, you don’t need a CPU cooler upgrade if you perform light computing tasks, such as web browsing, word processing, and even playing light games.
In any case, it’s advisable to keep your CPU temps in check to ensure they don’t go above the recommended range and that your cooler is in tiptop shape.
What To Consider In Getting A CPU Cooler
If you decide to get an aftermarket cooler for your CPU, you must consider a few factors because not every cooler fits your CPU and motherboard.
Here’s what to consider:
1. Size And Clearance
Before choosing a CPU cooler, you should decide how much room you have inside the case and how big the cooler is.
If the cooler is too large, you may not be able to fit it completely and will have to leave the case panels open.
In addition, a large cooler may make it difficult for you to install it in the best orientation that allows for the most efficient heat dissipation.
You should also consider the number of fans to make sure your case can accommodate them.
Otherwise, you may not be able to access your RAM or install your GPU in the correct PCI-e slot.
2. Thermal Design Power
The Thermal Design Power (TDP) is a vital factor because you need to make sure the cooler is powerful enough to cool down your CPU.
TDP is the maximum amount of heat your CPU generates.
The TDP of the cooler should match the processor’s TDP.
You should choose a cooler with a higher TDP than the processor’s TDP to ensure it can dissipate all the heat generated by the chip.
The socket type is the most important feature to consider because it can render your cooler useless.
Before buying the cooler, find out your motherboard’s socket type, whether it’s AM2, 775, 1336, etc.
you can easily find it printed on the motherboard or check your user’s manual.
However, most of today’s coolers match different socket types by offering specific brackets that can fit the sockets.
You must make sure the cooler has these brackets before purchase.
4. Noise Level
High fan sounds can be disturbing, especially while you’re playing games.
While you may not find silent fans, you can look for ones with minimal noise.
The larger the fan, the less noise it makes because smaller fans need to spin faster to dissipate the same amount of heat.
Air-Cooled Vs. Liquid-Cooled
A CPU cooler consists of a heatsink, thermal paste, and dissipators.
The heatsink sits on the surface of the CPU to absorb its heat.
The thermal paste is applied between the heatsink and the CPU surface to fill the microscopic holes on the CPU surface and provide a seamless contact.
The heatsink dissipates the heat to the case fans via heat pipes.
As such, there are two types of coolers: air coolers and liquid coolers.
1. Air Coolers
Air-cooling systems are commonly used in most PCs and can effectively dissipate heat.
As the name suggests, they rely on air to send out the heat absorbed by the heatsink.
It consists of metal pipes that send heat up to a fan, blowing air out toward the case fans.
As you can see, an air-cooling system has a simple design that makes it easy to install and maintain, reliable, and budget-friendly.
All you need to do is fasten the screws and plug in the cable.
Their simple design makes them suitable and sufficient for most purposes and users.
They come in a wide range of sizes, with the larger ones being more effective.
However, their size can be one of their significant minuses since they take up huge parts of your computer case.
In addition, they can be loud due to their fan noise, which goes even higher when you perform intensive tasks.
You may not get adequate performance from these coolers if you’re playing highly intensive games.
That’s because they tend to dissipate heat inside the case, and if the case fans don’t take out the air efficiently, it can lead to higher ambient temperatures.
Air coolers can also be U-type or C-type.
U-type coolers have a vertical design that looks like a tower with heat pipes arranged in the shape of a U.
The base of the U is attached to the heatsink, and the heat is dissipated through both lines of pipes.
On the other hand, C-shaped coolers have one heatsink connected to their heat pipes.
As a result, the fan is only connected to one side of the heat fins.
2. Liquid Coolers
On the other hand, liquid coolers come with a different and more modern design.
They’re based on an efficient cycle that works like home radiators circulating a liquid coolant, mostly water, throughout the cooling system.
These coolers cool down the CPU using a water block connected to a pump through tubes and a radiator.
The water block is installed on the CPU and absorbs heat.
When the water or the coolant gets hot, it goes up toward the fans to get cooled down before going back to the CPU.
These cooling systems can be found in two types: All In One (AIO) and open-loop.
AIO, or closed-loop coolers, are more popular because they’re easy to install.
They come as a pre-assembled unit that you attach to the heatsink.
However, the open-loop cooler is more complicated and more popular among tech enthusiasts.
A high-end liquid cooler can come with a larger block and heatsink and more effective fans to make it more effective.
In addition, you may find aesthetic options, such as RGB lighting and colorful liquids, and software to control fan speeds.
Depending on these features, you may need to spend more although they generally cost more than the air-cooling systems.
You’ll see 280mm AIO coolers, which means they have two 140mm fans, or 360mm AIO coolers featuring three 120mm fans.
These coolers are more efficient because water has a higher heat-absorbing quality.
In addition, they’re less noisy since the fans don’t need to work as hard and as frequently as the fans in air-cooling systems.
However, compared to air coolers, they’re more complicated to install.
Since the system is all-in-one, though, there’s nothing to get wrong and you can easily attach it if you know where everything goes.
If you want a more efficient cooling system, especially for overclocking and gaming, this more complex setup can’t be a deal-breaker.