Best Of Tom’s Hardware: How To Build A PC

Installing The CPU Cooler

Thermal Paste

Thermal Interface Material (TIM) fills tiny spaces between the CPU and its cooler to assure optimal heat transfer. Most factory-supplied coolers come with a stiff TIM pre-applied that becomes soft when heated by the CPU, but other coolers will require the use of thermal transfer grease or paste.

There are several ways to spread thermal paste, but dabbing small dots onto the contact area is probably the least wasteful. Though many well-read enthusiasts would panic at the "mess" seen in the left photo below, applying and removing the CPU cooler proves adequate spreading. A small additional amount will squeeze out from the edges over time.

Other methods, such as spreading the paste with a smooth piece of plastic, are often recommended by paste manufacturers, resulting in more paste being stuck to the spreading apparatus than the CPU. The concept is to provide a thin, even layer of paste on the CPU without creating an over-thick heat barrier, but modern pastes are usually thin enough to prevent this problem.

Excess paste will squirt out around the edges of the CPU, so it's important not to apply so much as to create a mess.

Clip-On Coolers

AMD still uses metal clips to attach its retail-boxed cooler over the CPU. With the cooler in position, slip the non-levered end over the corresponding plastic hook, then repeat the process on the levered end. Finish the installation by flipping the lever to apply pressure.

Pin-On Coolers

Intel introduced push-in pins to CPU cooling with its LGA 775 package, and has continued to use these through its later LGA 1366 and LGA 1156 interfaces. Installation requires pushing each pin into the corresponding motherboard hole until a "click" is felt or heard.

Twisting the top of the pin ninety-degrees counterclockwise unlocks the spring pressure, allowing the cooler to be removed. Because a counter-clockwise twist defeats the latching mechanism, one should check that all pins are properly twisted fully-clockwise before attaching the cooler.

Screw-On Coolers

The biggest problem with Intel's pushpin cooler mounting method is that it puts a lot of strain on four points of the motherboard. Several manufacturers require a support plate to be mounted under the board to properly distribute the load; these coolers are usually attached with screws.

Because the support plate must be placed behind the motherboard, these coolers should be mounted before the motherboard is installed into the case—unless the case has an access hole in its motherboard tray specifically for this purpose.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
20 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • mi1ez
    that 1996 gaming case showndown linked to on page one is 2006. disappointment!
    1
  • mi1ez
    Page 7:

    Or for those of us in the uk, check out
    scan.co.uk
    ebuyer.co.uk
    overclockers.co.uk
    4
  • mi1ez
    Quote:
    Align one hole perfectly with the standoff and affix a screw, then push the board into alignment for a second hole before tightening the second screw.


    DO NOT install your motherboard like this. Have all the screws in place before tightening.
    3
  • mi1ez
    Quote:
    The newer 8-pin versions were originally meant to address phenomenally power-hungry Pentium D and Prescott-based Pentium 4 processors, but many modern AMD and Intel processors are efficient enough to once again work from 4 pins.


    However, when overclocking 8pins will give you far more stability and is highly recommended.
    2
  • 13thmonkey
    'windows rarely exceeds 16Gb even with temp files'

    Except for the fact that the hibernate file =RAM size say 4Gb, and outlook files (can't be moved from C:) another 1Gb, then know ing how to move personal folders and swap space to another drive, I'd suggest that rarely exceeds 25Gb might be more appropriate.
    0
  • kyzar
    13thmonkey'windows rarely exceeds 16Gb even with temp files'Except for the fact that the hibernate file =RAM size say 4Gb, and outlook files (can't be moved from C another 1Gb, then know ing how to move personal folders and swap space to another drive, I'd suggest that rarely exceeds 25Gb might be more appropriate.


    Do you mean the Outlook pst can't be moved from C? I've three customers in the building here that I've moved all the 'local' Outlook data to a network drive...
    0
  • 13thmonkey
    kyzarDo you mean the Outlook pst can't be moved from C? I've three customers in the building here that I've moved all the 'local' Outlook data to a network drive...


    I investiagted that for a while and found nothing to help, but I guess it can be done though. I was running a 30Gb ssd as a system drive (vista 64) and it kept creeping up to 25Gb+ will all folders on a different drive etc.

    However in an article about building a system to have the fairly advanced need to move certain systems files around or turn them off, without actually stating that you'll need to do it is a bit of a discrepancy, i'd bet that 90% of people that know how to run a light installation of windows already know how to build, and that 90% of those that don't know how to build but might want have limited windows installation/customisation skills. So it appears that the article is aimed that software literate but hardware illiterate people, seems like a really small group to me.
    -1
  • mi1ez
    Anyone checked these comment out in the forum? they're under "Windows 7 Versus XP: Which Belongs On Your Netbook?"
    0
  • waxdart
    Now I’ve stared to want to edit the home videos and make something. I’ve been thinking its time to upgrade my whole rig. No idea what I want to get. Not even too sure I can be bothered to self build of get a premade. A few years ago the margin was just in favour of self built. No idea these days. Any ideas?
    Price range is cheap as poss without being crap.

    Editing HD video and games is the point. Looks like I’ve got a few weeks read.
    0
  • drkw
    To Waxdart: A 4-core CPU for fastest rendering.
    Also an Nvidia 8000 series card or ATI HD46xx upwardsfor accelerated render.
    0
  • drkw
    To Waxdart: A 4-core CPU for fastest rendering.
    Also an Nvidia 8000 series card or ATI HD46xx upwardsfor accelerated render.
    0
  • Alatheia00
    For UK readers, from personal experience the cheapest retailers are pricelover, ebuyer, tekheads, for pc components all customer service was similar across these companies. When purchasing a monitor be sure to compare prices online as i am currently looking for a 23" Dell SP2309W and ebuyer are selling it more than £20 higher than ebay (I know grey area, however the chap has sold several thousand items and has a 99.5% record. My best advice is shop around use online forums to ask questions, motherboards.org and be patient resist impulse buying. Here are some more etailers from the UK, Misco, dabs, pixmania ( really cheap on selected items), oyyy.co.uk (good for monitors), scan, aria ( Has a hd 5830 up for £160). Best of luck.
    0
  • Alatheia00
    For UK readers, from personal experience the cheapest retailers are pricelover, ebuyer, tekheads, for pc components all customer service was similar across these companies. When purchasing a monitor be sure to compare prices online as i am currently looking for a 23" Dell SP2309W and ebuyer are selling it more than £20 higher than ebay (I know grey area, however the chap has sold several thousand items and has a 99.5% record. My best advice is shop around use online forums to ask questions, motherboards.org and be patient resist impulse buying. Here are some more etailers from the UK, Misco, dabs, pixmania ( really cheap on selected items), oyyy.co.uk (good for monitors), scan, aria ( Has a hd 5830 up for £160). Best of luck.
    -1
  • sam_p_lay
    For UK, Microdirect, Novatech and Saverstore are also good, as well as CCL. Aria are excellent, check out the 'Superspecials' and 'Deal4Today' sections. Got a Gigabyte EX58-UD3R (usually £140+) there for £120 and a Core i7 920 D0 (usually £200+) for £170. Other than those, eBuyer, Dabs, Scan and Overclockers are the first ports of call, and I have seen great prices on Pixmania.
    0
  • sam_p_lay
    Overclockers are great for memory (saw 6gb OCZ DDR3 1800 CAS8 on there for £105), and Scan are excellent for mobos, as well as a great selection of cases. Aria Superspecials also had a 1gb XFX Radeon 4870 for £80 a couple of weeks ago!
    0
  • andybird123
    for UK users; stay well clear of SCAN.co.uk

    I've used them twice, both times i bought an "own brand" scan item that arrived DOA and took weeks to get any kind of response and refund.
    0
  • 13thmonkey
    andybird123for UK users; stay well clear of SCAN.co.ukI've used them twice, both times i bought an "own brand" scan item that arrived DOA and took weeks to get any kind of response and refund.


    used them lots, returned items, not had any trouble, refunds take a while with anyone including amazon... I think own brand is generally an issue, although with nvidia etc. its just a re-badge.
    0
  • mi1ez
    ^+1

    Never had a problem with scan before. I never buy own brand products where my PC's involved!
    0
  • wildgunman999
    I'm almost ready to start buying, but I'd like you good folks out there to check my components and tell me if I'm straying. My pc is to be used as an office /word processor pc, but I do a li'l bit of video editing and I generally want a pretty good and fast system. My list includes:
    1. AMD Phenom II X4 Quad 955 Core 3.2GHz Processor 4 x 512 KB Boxed - Black Edition
    2. Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD3P Motherboard Phenom II X4 Socket AM3 AMD 790X ATX RAID Gigabit Ethernet
    3. Kingston ValueRAM Memory DDR3 Non-ECC CL8 DIMM 1GB (need two)
    4. Western Digital Caviar Blue 250 Gb 7200 Rpm Sata-ii Internal Hard Drive
    5. Samsung SH-S223L/BEBE Internal 22x DVD Writer Drive SATA Lightscribe - Black (OEM)
    6. Corsair VX Series, 450 Watt, ATX, PS/2, Power Supply, UK Version (CMPSU-450VXUK)
    7. Asus EAH4350 SILENT/DI/256MD2(LP) Graphics Card Radeon HD 4350 256MB PCi-E DVI VGA (90-C1CM1F-H0UANAKZ)
    8. LG L1734S 17 inch LCD TFT Monitor 1280x1024 700:1 5ms - Black/Silver
    9. Hercules Muse LT PCI sound card
    10. Edimax EW-7128G Wireless LAN PCI Card 802.11b/g 54Mbp (Ralink)
    11. Antec Three Hundred Midi Case


    I know i'll need a few extra fans for the case, but will I need a CPU-cooler, or will I get one with the processor? And do I need a 'controller', or is it bundled along in there somewhere?
    Even more importantly, can someone confirm that these components are compatible?
    Would appreciate any help, guys.
    0
  • wildgunman999
    I'm almost ready to start buying, but I'd like you good folks out there to check my components and tell me if I'm straying. My pc is to be used as an office /word processor pc, but I do a li'l bit of video editing and I generally want a pretty good and fast system. My list includes:
    1. AMD Phenom II X4 Quad 955 Core 3.2GHz Processor 4 x 512 KB Boxed - Black Edition
    2. Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD3P Motherboard Phenom II X4 Socket AM3 AMD 790X ATX RAID Gigabit Ethernet
    3. Kingston ValueRAM Memory DDR3 Non-ECC CL8 DIMM 1GB (need two)
    4. Western Digital Caviar Blue 250 Gb 7200 Rpm Sata-ii Internal Hard Drive
    5. Samsung SH-S223L/BEBE Internal 22x DVD Writer Drive SATA Lightscribe - Black (OEM)
    6. Corsair VX Series, 450 Watt, ATX, PS/2, Power Supply, UK Version (CMPSU-450VXUK)
    7. Asus EAH4350 SILENT/DI/256MD2(LP) Graphics Card Radeon HD 4350 256MB PCi-E DVI VGA (90-C1CM1F-H0UANAKZ)
    8. LG L1734S 17 inch LCD TFT Monitor 1280x1024 700:1 5ms - Black/Silver
    9. Hercules Muse LT PCI sound card
    10. Edimax EW-7128G Wireless LAN PCI Card 802.11b/g 54Mbp (Ralink)
    11. Antec Three Hundred Midi Case


    I know i'll need a few extra fans for the case, but will I need a CPU-cooler, or will I get one with the processor? And do I need a 'controller', or is it bundled along in there somewhere?
    Even more importantly, can someone confirm that these components are compatible?
    Would appreciate any help, guys.
    0