One of the most critical components within your computer is the processor. You must also ensure that it does not become too hot in order for it to function properly. Fortunately, by selecting the suitable CPU cooler for your processor, you can assist ensure that it runs at the proper temperature.
We’ll go through how to pick a CPU cooler that works with your processor and your needs in this article. When it comes to choosing a cooler for your system, we’ve divided it down into eight main elements to consider.
1. Your Budget
The first thing you’ll want to think about—and this may seem self-evident—is your budget. If you’re just replacing your cooler, your budget will be simple. It doesn’t matter how much money you have.
If you’re choosing a cooler as part of a fresh system build, though, make sure you set aside enough money for it. You don’t want to skimp on your cooler and wind up with something that isn’t capable of cooling the CPU you’ve chosen, nor do you want to overspend and squander money that could have been spent on more important components.
While the other factors to consider when choosing a CPU cooler in this post will assist you in determining how much of your budget you should allocate to your CPU cooler, as a general rule of thumb, the better the CPU you get and the hotter it runs (whether at stock settings or when overclocked), the better the CPU cooler you will need (and the more you will need to spend on it).
2. Your Specific Use Case
Are you looking to overclock your processor and get it to function at a higher level? If that’s the case, you’ll need to spend more to purchase a higher-end cooler.
Are you going to build a low-cost gaming machine that won’t be overclocked? In such situation, you can either get by with an entry-level cooler or stick with the default cooler that comes with the processor if your budget is too tight.
Stock cooling are usually sufficient for most users, and the stock coolers on some processors (such as AMD’s new Ryzen processors) are even capable of minor overclocking. And, in the case of certain of AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs, the new stock coolers are good enough to match the performance of entry-level third-party coolers.
The main line is that if you’re on a budget, you don’t have to spend extra money on a high-end cooler if you’re not going to use your system in a way that necessitates additional cooling.
However, if you want to get the most performance out of your processor, you’ll need to change the cooler.
3. Air Cooling vs AIO Coolers
Air vs. liquid cooling is a huge decision for system builders, and each cooling technique has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which we go over in depth in this post.
However, here are the key benefits and drawbacks of each cooler model to help you determine which is best for you:
Liquid Cooling Pros:
- Custom liquid cooling setups and high-end liquid coolers can achieve higher temperatures than the greatest air coolers.
- Liquid coolers have a lower profile than air coolers, so they don’t interfere with memory, case fans, or other components adjacent to the CPU socket on the motherboard.
Liquid Cooling Cons:
- The price-to-performance ratio of liquid coolers is lower than that of air coolers.
- Liquid coolers are more difficult to maintain and have a higher danger of leaking.
Air Cooling Pros:
- Air coolers, on average, provide excellent value for money.
- Air coolers are low-maintenance and last for a longer period of time.
Air Cooling Cons:
- Air coolers aren’t usually the best choice for setups that require a lot of cooling.
- Some of the more expensive air coolers can be quite big, causing clearance concerns (memory, case fans, motherboard components, etc.)
4. TDP Rating
The TDP rating of a cooler is one of the most essential variables in assessing whether or not it is suitable for your system.
The greatest amount of heat generated by a computer chip or component (typically the CPU or GPU) that the cooling system in a computer is designed to disperse under any workload is known as the thermal design power (TDP).
Both the processor and the CPU cooler will have a TDP rating when you buy them. To put it as simply as possible, if you buy a CPU cooler with a lower TDP rating than your processor, it will not be able to keep your processor cool enough.
Of course, if your cooler’s TDP rating is somewhat lower than your CPU’s TDP rating, it might still perform a good job because your processor won’t always generate the maximum heat.
However, as a general guideline, make sure the cooler you buy has a TDP rating that is higher than your processor’s TDP rating. This is especially true if you intend to overclock your computer.
Both your processor’s and cooler’s TDP ratings may be found on their spec sheets (either at the merchant where you bought them or on the manufacturer’s website).
5. CPU Socket
While most CPU cooler manufacturers design their coolers to fit most CPU sockets (typically by selling multiple brackets for various common sockets), there are some CPU coolers that are only compatible with a specific CPU socket. As a result, ensure sure the CPU cooler you’re thinking about is compatible with the motherboard/processor combo you already have or plan to get.
In addition to ensuring that your CPU cooler is compatible with your motherboard’s socket, you need also ensure that it is compatible in the following areas:
Certain CPU coolers are too tall to fit inside some cases. So, when you buy a CPU cooler, double-check the height of the cooler on its spec sheet, then double-check the spec sheet of the case you’re contemplating to be sure the cooler will fit inside.
Because of their mass, the majority of high-end air coolers have clearance concerns. Their size can get in the way of the DIMM slots on your motherboard, causing taller memory kits to fail, or they can dangle over the top PCIe lane, requiring you to place your GPU in a lower lane. As a result, it’s a good idea to evaluate if a large air cooler would interact with your other components.
The radiator size of a liquid cooler, and more specifically, an AIO cooler, is the most important determining factor in clearance. AIO cooler radiators are available in a variety of sizes. Not all cases, however, can fit each radiator size. So, before you buy an AIO cooler, check the spec sheet of the computer case you’re thinking about buying to make sure it can fit the radiator size of the AIO cooler you desire.
Aesthetics play a huge role in selecting a CPU cooler. AIO coolers are preferred by some builders because of their sleek, low-profile appearance. Custom liquid cooling setups are popular among other builders because of their radical appearance. Others love the appearance of a large, massive high-end air cooler.
If you’re not sure which option you want, look at some photographs of completed setups and see which style of CPU cooler you think looks the best. And, if everything else about that cooler style meets your requirements, go with it.
8. Sound Levels
There are a lot of builders out there who focus on making a PC that is as quiet as possible. The CPU cooler… and, more specifically, the fans connected with the CPU cooler… are one of the loudest components in a computer.
Larger fans on coolers are usually quieter than smaller fans on coolers. The reason for this is that larger fans don’t have to spin as rapidly (which implies they’ll be quieter) to get the same level of cooling as smaller fans.
As a result, coolers with 140mm fans are usually quieter than coolers with 120mm fans. Because there are more fans working to keep the cooler cool, coolers with multiple fans can spin at lower rates.
Which Cooler is Right for You?
There are numerous aspects to consider when selecting the best CPU cooler for your needs. Hopefully, the information provided above aids you in determining which option is best for your system.
Check out our CPU Cooler Buyer’s Guide for more information on picking the best CPU cooler for your needs.