Learning About CPU Coolers, PC Cooling Fans & Liquid Coolers
CPU processors generate heat inside the tower case while performing tasks, which is why CPU coolers are so important. Keeping your CPU and other computer components cool is a essential aspect of safe and efficient PC operation. The type of cooling solution you need depends on how you use your computer.
Do CPUs Come with Fans?
Most packaged CPUs include not only 120mm computer fans, but also heat sinks to keep them cool. Separate cooling fans are available, and typically plug into the motherboards using 4-pin connectors. A heat sink is made of metal that absorbs and conducts heat, drawing it away from the processor and working with the fan to keep the temperature down. Your computer may still require additional fans to circulate air and further lower the temperature. Since many computers come with motherboards and processors already installed, you would only require a separately-packaged CPU and CPU fan when making a custom build device or performing a system upgrade or repair.
Keeping a PC Cool
PC towers typically feature mesh panels on the front, back, and/or sides to allow for airflow. Customizable tower cases also accommodate more than one computer cooling fan so that you can install them as needed to keep air moving throughout the interior of the case. This keeps not only the CPU cool, but also other components such as graphic display cards, which often feature onboard fans of their own. Ensuring you have enough fans installed, and that you regularly clean the mesh panels to remove dust, goes a long way toward keeping temperatures low and extending the unit's lifespan.
Fans are not the only cooling devices available. You can also apply a non-corrosive thermal paste or compound to the CPU to conduct heat through the heat sink even more efficiently. Fan controllers, hubs, and other cooling accessories are available for turning the individual fans in your chassis on and off as needed. Those with ultra-high-performance machines should consider liquid cooling.
What's Liquid Cooling?
Liquid cooling systems use a combination of fans and hoses which channel a special liquid coolant through the interior of the computer case. The liquid takes on the heat before the fans cool it off in a continuous cycle. While most typical PCs won't require anything beyond a basic CPU air cooler, you may want to install one if you plan to overclock your processor or otherwise exert your machine's components to the furthest limits.