They say that today's CPU units can get so hot that you can actually cook an egg on their surface. We take such reports at their word, but we highly discourage doing that unless, of course, you want to permanently damage your computer. Today's Central Processing Units (CPUs) are highly advanced and when they work at maximum capacity, they tend to generate a lot of heat. This heat needs to be removed, otherwise, the CPU will eventually melt. To give you an analogy, imagine yourself running a few miles without breathing heavily and sweating (these are the body's natural ways of eliminating heat). You'll eventually get so hot that you might end up in the hospital.
Most computers incorporate fans to ensure that the main electronic components remain cool. For example, the motherboard
needs to be cooled, as well as the graphics card
, especially when you run games with details on "Ultra." The CPU usually comes with a built-in fan to ensure it stays cool, but if you are using a seriously advanced gaming machine, and especially if you overclock it, you need additional cooling power.
The good news is that today's CPU cooling fans don’t only allow you to cool down your PC, but they might also incorporate spectacular LED lights, which can be customized according to your preferences, creating a stunning atmosphere while you play games. The lighting effects can be controlled using a special software with all the settings shown on your computer monitor
. Keep reading this guide to learn more about CPU cooling fans and how to select a good one for your machine.
Buying a CPU cooling fan isn’t necessarily a huge investment on your behalf, because these products have become less expensive over the years. It also depends on the size of the fan, its cooling power, the type of fan you are buying and the manufacturing company. For example, if you go for a large cooling kit that incorporates a few fans and LED lights, you might pay more, but you’ll get one of the best CPU cooling fans on the market. The price of a high-quality fan is somewhere between $15 for smaller models, and up to $200 or more for highly advanced fans.
It is wise to buy a CPU fan that corresponds to your desktop computer, but don’t make the mistake of getting a cheap CPU cooling fan, because these are usually highly unreliable. Fans priced at around 10 bucks or less are poorly made and they don’t offer sufficient cooling power.
Now that you know more about CPU fans and what budget to prepare for your next CPU cooling fan, let's go ahead and find out what characteristics are important when it comes to these products.
- Compatibility - Each fan is designed to work with certain CPU sockets, so you have to investigate whether the CPU you plan to buy is compatible with your PC. In some cases, sophisticated CPU cooling fans come with universal mounting hardware, making them compatible with most computers out there.
- Type - Some fans use air to cool down your PC, while others use a combination of water and air to eliminate even more heat. Don’t worry, the water will not affect the electronics of your PC.
- Number of Heat Pipes - A heat pipe will redirect heat toward the radiator, which blows it away from your computer, so more pipes means more cooling power.
- Accessories - As mentioned earlier, some fans come with LED lights, mounting hardware, cables, and so on, so it is a good idea to learn more about what you are getting before making the purchase.
If this looks like too much information already, don’t worry, we are trying to keep things as simple as possible. In the next section, we will talk about how these products work, without using overly technical slang and, by the end of this guide, you will have learnt something new spending just a few minutes of your time, so stay tuned!
Construction and Design
A CPU cooling fan is not very different from any other fan out there. It usually uses a thermal compound, which gets in contact with the CPU, absorbing heat at a rapid rate. This heat is transferred through the copper pipes to the heat sink, which is basically a little container with aluminum fins and air channels. The heat is transferred to these air channels, which are then pushed outside by the fan, eliminating them. When hot air is blown out, cool air comes into the heat sink, which is capable of absorbing more heat, and the process repeats itself over and over again. This process is based on the convection principle, which says that warmth tends to go to cool places, and vice-versa. For example, if you keep your hands on the desk for a while, they will get a bit cooler while the desk gets a bit warmer. Try it!
We just explained how regular convection CPU cooling fans work. Liquid-cooled fans are not that different, except that they use water or a liquid coolant to transfer the heat away from the CPU. A special pump moves the liquid around and sends it to the heat sink, where heat is eliminated by the fan. Don’t worry about the water leaking into your computer, as such things never happen – the pump and the other components of this cooling kit are sealed shut and made of durable materials, so your PC is safe.
If you have a really serious gaming computer with four or more cores, and you usually overclock your computer, you might want get a liquid-based cooling fan, as these are some of the most efficient ones. On the other hand, if your PC is really advanced, but not actually a spaceship, you'll be fine with a regular fan.
The size of the CPU cooling fan is also important. Some fans are less than 10 cm wide – or around 4 inches – while others can go up to six or seven inches in diameter. Obviously, the more powerful the CPU, the more cooling power it needs, and this can be provided by a larger fan.
Before wrapping it up, it is only natural to say to yourself, "How am I going to install this into my computer? I've never opened a PC case before," and you are totally right. If you don’t have a geeky friend to bribe with beer and peanuts to perform the installation for you, then you may choose to request expert installation, which means that someone will come to your house to do it. This service might raise the price tag of the CPU fan a little bit, but you will have peace of mind knowing that the installation is performed correctly.
Performance and Ease of Use
The beauty of modern CPU cooling fans is that they are designed to be surprisingly silent, despite their immense cooling power. Most of them work hand in hand with your computer, so if you are running resource-intensive programs such as Photoshop, have 15 Chrome tabs opened, are listening to YouTube music and playing Starcraft 2 all at the same time, the CPU cooling kit will automatically detect this and raise the speed of the fan. When your computer is idling, the fan will reduce its speed accordingly.
If you go for higher-end fans that come with LEDs, you can download a special type of software that allows you to customize the lights according to your preferences. It is really an exciting experience to have the LEDs light up differently, depending on what games you are playing. Lastly, remember to check the warranty period of the CPU cooling fan you are buying, as manufacturers usually provide one-year warranties, two-year warranties or even six-year warranty periods!
Before buying a CPU cooling fan, it is wise to get familiar with their cooling process and how they work, so make sure you read our guide above if you haven’t already. Once you learn the ropes, you will be able to make a better decision when shopping for CPU cooling fans.
These five brands are renowned for making some of the best CPU cooling fans on the market, so go ahead and pick one of them to ensure your machine stays cool, even when the competition is hot and you are playing the most resource-intensive games out there!