The process does not end with the CPU being installed on the motherboard. In reality, it’s one of the most straightforward tasks in the PC construction process. The next step is to add a cooler to keep the CPU’s thermal output stable. Installing a cooler for your CPU, whether it’s an entry-level chip or the greatest CPU on the market, is necessary.
If you fail to do so, or if you install it incorrectly, your system will overheat and shut down before you can even get into the operating system. We’ll walk you through each step of the procedure to show you how to install a CPU cooler in this article.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that there are two types of CPU coolers: CPU fan coolers (also known as air coolers) and liquid coolers. Although installing an air cooler is simpler than adding liquid cooling for your PC, we’ll walk you through the process for both types of coolers in this post.
Thermal paste: Although many CPU coolers now come with pre-installed thermal paste, it’s advisable to have your own syringe of thermal solution on hand. If your cooler already has a layer of thermal paste installed, DO NOT apply the second layer of paste on the CPU.
Tools: You’re going to need a Philips head screwdriver for this installation. Many air coolers may be installed without the use of any tools, but you’ll need one to install liquid coolers, open the computer case, and so on.
How to install a CPU air cooler
When it comes to CPU air coolers, you’re looking at a heatsink and, depending on the size of the cooler, a couple of fans. The greatest fan coolers, such as the Noctua NH-D15, have a large heatsink and two fans that flow air through it. The overall process remains the same regardless of the size of the cooler or the number of fans.
The first step is to locate the appropriate bracket for mounting the cooler. Depending on the CPU socket, this will be different. The LGA 1700 socket is used by Intel’s latest Alder Lake CPUs, while AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series chips use an AM4 socket. Almost all CPU cooler makers include both Intel and AMD chip brackets.
Alternatively, you can choose your preferred bracket when purchasing the cooler kit. Stock coolers don’t require this step because they’re designed to function with the supplied CPU.
- The backplate must first be installed on the motherboard. This unit is mounted on the back of the motherboard to support the cooler, as the name implies. You can put it together by holding the backplate in place and securing it with the front standoffs.
- It’s a good idea to check for thermal paste now. There’s no need to apply another layer of thermal paste if your CPU cooler already has one. If you’re installing a new layer of the cooler, follow our simple instructions for applying thermal paste.
- After that, place your CPU cooler on top of the CPU and align it. The cooler’s connector must be carefully aligned with the holes on the board or the standoffs we inserted earlier. You may need to remove the fans from the heatsink to line it up and install it properly, depending on how complicated the cooler is.
- It’s time to fasten the CPU cooler with connectors now that it’s in position. We’ll use an X pattern to tighten the cooler for this. Instead of traveling around the CPU in a square pattern, you’ll make your way through the screws diagonally, starting with the screw diagonally opposite the first. This is done to ensure that you’re applying even pressure across the processor. It also aids in the equal distribution of thermal paste on the CPU IHS.
- In the case of air coolers, the final step is to mount the fans on the heatsink. This only applies if the fans were removed prior to installing the heatsink. It’s possible that you’ll need to reference the cooler’s documentation to figure out how the fans connect to the heatsink. This step varies depending on the cooler.
How to install a CPU liquid cooler
Installing a CPU liquid cooler is a little more difficult because it necessitates a few extra procedures. For this article, we’ll show you how to build an AIO liquid cooler. In case you didn’t know, AIO liquid coolers are closed-loop liquid coolers that include a CPU water block, coolant pipes, a radiator, and a pair of fans. You can also use an open-loop or a custom loop to complete your build. For the purposes of this beginner’s instruction, we will not be installing that.
- In the case of liquid coolers, the initial stage is similar to that of air coolers. Obtain the appropriate cooler bracket based on the CPU socket, install the backplate, then install the water block.
- It’s now time to attach the radiator to the PC casing. It’s possible that you’ll need to install the radiator fans first. The fans can either be mounted on the radiator or installed independently on the casing. This will be determined by the PC case and the quantity of space available inside the chassis. The goal is to circulate fresh air through the radiator to dissipate the heat.
- Because the fans will be installed independently from the case, we’ll only mount the radiator to the case. Make sure your PC case is ready for the cooler and that there is adequate room to install it. For this article, we’re using a high-end AIO with a 360mm radiator, but the method is the same for all sizes, including the smaller 120mm model.
- Long screws included with the cooler can be used to secure the radiator and fans to the casing. Ensure that the coolant lines are free to move and do not come into touch with other components, particularly the case fans.
For power, connect everything.
After you’ve connected everything, make sure the cooler and fans are both powered up. Power is required for everything from water blocks to air coolers and radiator fans. It’s easier to power a basic air cooler than it is to connect all the connections in a liquid cooler. You may need to utilize a controller to make your connections easier, depending on the number of fans.
To discover the right headers to connect them, we recommend studying both the CPU cooler and the motherboard manuals. We can’t reasonably cover every type of cooler and motherboard on the market in detail. When it comes to connecting to a suitable power source, the manual is your best friend.
You’ve now completed the installation of the CPU cooler for your build. It’s critical to select the appropriate CPU cooler for your project. There are many different CPU coolers to choose from, so find one that fits your build. The stock coolers that come with the CPUs are more than enough to keep the CPUs’ thermal output at stock settings. However, if you plan on overclocking the CPU, we recommend upgrading to a better third-party cooler. Best of luck!