Installing a Chipset Cooler

Equip your motherboard with a chipset fan and heatsink

Installing a replacement chipset cooler onto a motherboard is similar to the process of replacing a cooling unit for a video card or any other component. Chipset coolers typically include a heatsink and a CPU fan but can have only one or the other.

These instructions apply broadly to computers made by different manufactures. Consult your device's manual for specific guidance on replacing components.

What You Need to Install a Chipset Cooler

Before installing a chipset cooler onto a motherboard, it is important to verify that the unit will fit since chipset coolers come in various sizes. In addition to the cooling unit, you'll need the following tools for opening up your computer:

  • A screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • A hair dryer
  • Thermal paste and/or thermal tape (if needed)
  • A clean plastic bag

There are other ways to keep your computer from overheating, such as keeping it clean and stored in a cool location.

How to Install a Chipset Cooler

To remove your computer's old cooling unit and replace it with a new one:

  1. Remove the motherboard if necessary to access the cooling unit.

    If your CPU heatsink/fan/cooler is attached by screws, you may not need to remove the motherboard from the computer.

  2. To install the new cooler, the previous cooler must first be removed. Locate the cooler on the board and flip the board over. There should be a set of pins that go through the board next to the cooler to hold it onto the board.

    Location of the cooler mounting pins on a motherboard.
  3. Remove the mounting pins holding the unit in place. Using the needle-nose pliers, gently squeeze in the bottom portion of the clip so that it fits through the board. The pins may be spring-loaded and automatically snap through the board when the pin is squeezed inwards.

    Pliers removing mounting pins from a motherboard.

    Newer coolers may be attached by captive screws mounted to the motherboard. Captive screws are never fully removed from the device. The captive screws unscrew and stay connected.

  4. Heat the old thermal compound. In addition to the mounting clips holding the cooler onto the board, the heatsink is typically affixed to the chipset using a thermal compound such as thermal tape. Pulling the heatsink off at this point could damage the board and chip, so the thermal compound needs to be removed.

    Set a hair dryer to a low heat setting, then gently aim the hair dryer toward the back of the board to slowly raise the temperature of the chipset. The heat eventually loosens the thermal compound used to affix the heatsink to the chipset.

    A hairdryer is used to heat the motherboard to loosen the thermal compound.
  5. Remove the old heatsink. Use gentle pressure to slightly twist the heatsink back and forth on top of the chipset. When the thermal compound is warm enough, it loosens and the heatsink comes off. If not, continue heating with the method in the previous step.

    Removing the old heatsink from a motherboard

    Do not overheat as it will cause damage to the motherboard.

  6. Clean off the old thermal compound. With the tip of your finger inside a lint-free cloth, press down and rub off any large amounts of the thermal compound that remain on the chipset. Do not use your fingernails because they can scratch the chip. You may need to use the hair dryer if the compound has become rigid again.

    Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to the lint-free cloth. Then gently rub along the top of the chipset to remove the remaining bits of thermal compound for a clean surface. Do the same to the bottom of the new heatsink.

    Cleaning off a chipset with a cloth
  7. Apply a new thermal compound. To properly conduct the heat from the chipset to the new cooler, a thermal compound needs to be placed between the two. Apply a generous amount of thermal paste to the top of the chipset. It should be enough to make a thin enough layer and fill in any gaps between the two.

    Use a new and clean plastic bag over your finger to spread the thermal compound so that it covers the entire chip. Make sure to get as even a surface as possible.

    A chipset covered in thermal compound.

    Do not use so much thermal compound that it squishes out the sides when you replace the heat sink. It could get on electrical connections and cause a short.

  8. Align the new chipset cooler. Align the new heatsink over the chipset so that the mounting holes are properly positioned. Since the thermal compound is already on the chipset, don't place it on the chipset until you are as close as possible to the mounting location. This prevents the thermal compound from being spread around too much.

    A CPU cooling fan aligned over the mounting holes of a motherboard.
  9. Fasten the cooler to the motherboard. Typically, the heatsink is mounted to the board using a set of plastic pins similar to those you previously removed. Gently squeeze down on the pins to push the pins through the board. Don't use too much force, as pushing too hard can cause damage to the board. It is a good idea to squeeze in the pin sides from the other side of the board while pushing the pin through.

    Mounting a cooling unit onto a motherboard with pins

    If your heatsink/cooler has screws instead, pay attention to the numbering on the screws. Do not over-tighten, as this causes damage to the CPU underneath.

  10. Attach the fan header. Locate the fan header on the board and attach the 3-pin fan power lead from the heatsink to the board.

    Attaching a heatsink power header to a motherboard.

    If the board does not have a 3-pin fan header, use a 3-to-4 pin power adapter and attach it to one of the power leads from the power supply.

  11. Affix any passive heatsinks. If the chipset also comes with memory or passive southbridge coolers, use the alcohol and cloth to clean the surface of the chips and heatsink. Remove one side of the thermal tape and place it on the heatsink. Then remove the other backing from the thermal tape. Align the heatsink over the chipset or memory chip. Gently rest the heatsink onto the chip and press down lightly to affix the heatsink to the chip.

  12. Reinstall the motherboard and reassemble your computer. You should no longer have any issues with your computer overheating.