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Like any powerful piece of PC hardware, the CPU generates heat when in operation and needs to be properly cooled to achieve maximum performance.
As Mark Gallina, System Thermal & Mechanical Architect at Intel explains, “During normal operation, the transistors inside a CPU convert electrical energy into thermal energy (heat). This heat increases the temperature of the CPU. If an efficient path for that heat doesn’t exist, then the CPU will exceed its safe operating temperature.”
But what’s the best way to keep your CPU operating at the ideal temperature? There are many ways to cool a processor, but most desktops and laptops use an air- or liquid-based cooler.
We’re going to talk about liquid cooling vs air cooling: how they work, the pros and cons of each, and which might be right for your setup.
Cooling with Air
In an air cooler, the heat is transferred from the IHS of the CPU, through the applied thermal paste, and into a conductive baseplate that is usually made from copper or aluminum. From the baseplate, that thermal energy moves into the attached heat pipes.
The heat pipes are designed to conduct heat from one location to another. In this case, the heat moves to a heatsink that is elevated off of the motherboard, freeing up space for other components, such as RAM. These pipes deliver the energy in the form of heat to the thin metal fins that make up the heatsink. These fins are designed to maximize exposure to the cooler air, which then absorbs the heat from the metal. An attached fan then pushes the warm air away from the heatsink.