Installing a Chipset Cooler

CPU on motherboard with large cooling fan

 Eshma / Getty Images

01
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Intro and Cooler Location

Locate the Cooler Mounting Pins
Locate the Cooler Mounting Pins.

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Difficulty: Difficult

Time Required: A couple hours (including time to remove and replace the motherboard into the computer)

Tools Needed: Screwdriver(s), needle nose pliers, lint-free cloth, thermal compound, thermal tape (if needed), a new and clean plastic bag

This guide was developed to instruct users on the proper procedures for installing a replacement chipset cooler onto a motherboard. The techniques described would be similar for the replacement of a video card cooling solution. Included are step-by-step instructions for the removal and replacement of the cooling solution. A cooling solution, or cooler, typically includes a heatsink and a fan but may include just a heatsink or just a fan.

It should be noted that this guide does not cover the removal of the motherboard that is required prior to the installation of the cooler. For information on this, please see the How to Install a Motherboard tutorial.

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

Before installing a chipset cooler onto a motherboard or video card, it is important to verify with the manufacturers or other sources that the solution will indeed fit. There are various sizes for the cooling solutions for different video cards and motherboards.

Every computer is different. Search online for a video tutorial on disassembling your specific model and watch it before you start this procedure.

In order 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.

02
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Remove the Mounting Pins

Remove the Mounting Pins
Remove the Mounting Pins.

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Using the needle nose pliers, gently squeeze in the bottom portion of the clip so that it will fit through the board. The pins may be spring loaded and automatically snap through the board when the pin is squeezed inwards.

Newer coolers may be attached by captive screws mounted to the motherboard. Captive screws are never fully removed from the device, they unscrew and stay connected. Note that many of these setups will have the screws numbered. Follow the numbering when screwing or unscrewing them. Screw in number 1 first a turn or two and then move on to number two, etc. then back around to number 1 for a couple more turns, etc. This ensures the screws are tightened evenly without damaging the CPU underneath. Do NOT overtighten, as this will cause damage. Follow the reverse order when removing the cooler.

03
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Heat the Old Thermal Compount

Heat the Board to Loosen the Compound
Heat the Board to Loosen the Compound.

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In addition to the mounting clips holding the cooler onto the board, the heatsink itself is typically affixed to the chipset using a thermal compound such as thermal tape. Trying to pull the heatsink off at this point could damage the board and chip. This thermal compound needs to be removed.

Take a hairdryer and set it to a low heat setting. Gently aim the hairdryer towards the back of the board to slowly raise the temperature of the chipset. This heat will eventually loosen then thermal compound used to affix the heatsink to the chipset.

04
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Remove the Old Heatsink

Remove the Old Heatsink
Remove the Old Heatsink.

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Use gentle pressure to slightly twist the heatsink back and forth on top of the chipset. When thermal compound is warm enough, it will loosen and the heatsink will come right off. If not, continue heating with the method in the previous step.

Do NOT overheat or you will cause damage to the motherboard.

05
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Clean Off the Old Thermal Compound

Clean Off the Chipset
Clean Off the Chipset.

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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 fingernails at all so as to not scratch the chip. You may want to use the hair dryer if the compound has become rigid again.

Apply an amount of the isopropyl alcohol to the lint-free cloth and 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 as well.

06
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Apply New Thermal Compound

Apply Thermal Compound
Apply Thermal Compound.

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In order to properly conduct the heat from the chipset to the new cooler, thermal compound needs to be placed between the two. Apply a generous amount of thermal grease to the top of the chipset. It should be enough to make a thin enough layer but still fill in any gaps between the two.

Use a new and clean plastic bag over your finger to help spread the thermal grease to cover the entire chip. Make sure to try and get as even a surface as possible.

Do not use so much thermal compound that it squishes out the sides when you replace the heat sink, this could get on electrical connections and cause a short. You want enough to conduct heat easily from the CPU to the heatsink, but no more than that.

07
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Align the Chipset Cooler

Align the Cooler over the Mounting Holes
Align the Cooler Over the Mounting Holes.

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Align the new heatsink over the chipset so that the mounting holes are properly positioned. Since the thermal compound is already on the chipset, try not to rest it down on the chipset until you are as close as possible to the mounting location. This will prevent the thermal compound from being spread around too much.

08
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Fasten the Cooler to the Board

Mount the Cooler with the Pins
Mount the Cooler with the Pins.

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Typically the heatsink is mounted to the board using a set of plastic pins similar to the ones that were previous removed. Gently squeeze down on the pins to push them through the board. Be careful not to use too much force as to cause damage to the board. It is a good idea to try and squeeze in the pin sides from the other side of the board while pushing the pin through.

If your Heatsink/cooler has screws, pay attention to the numbering on them and screws them down gently in the order that they are numbered.

Screw in number 1 first a turn or two and then move on to number two, etc. then back around to number 1 for a couple more turns, etc. This ensures the screws are tightened evenly without damaging the CPU underneath. Do NOT overtighten, as this will cause damage.

09
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Attach Fan Header

Attach Fan Power Header
Attach Fan Power Header.

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Locate the fan header on the board and attach the 3-pin fan power lead from the heatsink to the board. (Note: 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.)

10
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(Optional) Affix 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.

Once all these steps have been taking, the chipset cooler should be properly installed onto the board. It will now be necessary to reinstall the board back into the computer system. Please refer to the How to Install a Motherboard for the proper method for returning the motherboard back into the computer case.