Are All CPU Coolers The Same? (Explained for Beginners)



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When every frame counts and can mean the difference between winning or losing a game, to get the best performance from your PC you need a good CPU, but if you’re overclocking your CPU you definitely need a CPU cooler. In this article, I will explain whether all CPU coolers are the same or whether you should be picky about what CPU cooler you get.

All CPU coolers are not the same. There are 3 types: air coolers that have a fan and heat sink, liquid coolers, and combined air cooler and liquid cooling systems. CPUs come with a cooler called a stock cooler. Coolers that are sold separately, and liquid coolers outperform stock CPU coolers.

CPU coolers are all different sizes so it’s important to know whether a specific cooler will fit in your PC case.

It’s also good to know whether you’ll need an additional CPU cooler or if the stock cooler will be fine for your purposes. So, below I will explain everything you need to consider to make sure you get the right CPU cooler.

How To Be Sure That You Get The Right CPU Cooler

CPU and cooler

The first decision you need to make is whether you in fact need an additional CPU cooler or not. Virtually all CPUs come with a stock cooler. The 2 most recommended brands of CPUs for gaming are AMD and Intel. Each of these brands sells a few different CPUs that range in price anywhere from $500 for the best one they sell, to as cheap as around $100. 

The cheapest CPU will do the job and most of the most popular games will run OK. But, the framerate won’t be as high, and you typically won’t be able to run the game on the highest graphics settings. All of the different priced CPUs that AMD and Intel sell come with a stock fan.

The stock fan that comes with a CPU is sufficient to cool it for normal operation. But, they can be a bit noisy. If you’re overclocking your CPU then it will generally overheat and you risk damaging the CPU. And you will definitely need an additional CPU cooler. Many people report that Intel CPUs perform better than AMD CPUs. 

However, there are just as many people that say AMD CPUs perform better than Intel CPUs. The main reason people are saying that Intel CPUs are better is that they are better for overclocking. Whereas, AMD CPUs are better for doing gaming as well as using your computer for other tasks.

If you already know you’re going to overclock your CPU then you should buy an ‘aftermarket’ cooler. These are generally much larger than the stock cooler and you replace your existing CPU fan with it.

The different types of CPU coolers and how they differ

There are 3 types of CPU coolers and many different brands for each. These are:

  • fan (with a heat sink),
  • liquid coolers,
  • fan and liquid coolers combined.

Generally, an aftermarket fan that is a bit large and has a good-sized heat sink will do the trick for overclocking.

In general, fan CPU coolers are cheaper than liquid coolers, and liquid coolers are cheaper than the combined fan and liquid coolers. Overall, liquid coolers, fans, and liquid coolers are very cool. However, they’re generally not worth the price difference.

To upgrade your CPU or overclock your CPU and get a CPU cooler?

CPU coolers are quite affordable, and one that could cool your CPU enough for overclocking would cost around $50. A more expensive CPU that can perform at the same speed improvements you can get from overclocking generally costs $100 to $200 more. With a faster CPU, you would not need to get a CPU cooler.

However, overclocking your CPU does void the warranty of your CPU. Therefore, if it has a manufacturer’s fault before the warranty has ended it won’t be able to be replaced for a small fee or free of charge.

Generally, the latest CPU is not required to play many of the most popular games such as Counter-strike, or Dota 2. They are also designed to be more than capable of running the latest games. Therefore, unless you’re building the fastest PC in the world you won’t need to overclock a top-of-the-line or medium-range CPU. Therefore, you won’t need to get a CPU cooler.

Can Any CPU Coolers Fit In Any PC Case?

CPU coolers are of different sizes. Some have a very large heat sink relative to the fan. Whereas, others have a more reasonable-sized heat sink. Here’s whether any CPU cooler will fit any PC case.

As a general rule, not all CPU coolers fit in any PC case. Some can measure 7.5 inches (15 cm) by 7.5 inches or larger, which is wider than a typical case. Some PC cases are also quite wide and can accommodate a much larger CPU cooler.

The CPU cooler sits on top of the motherboard, this adds about half an inch (1 cm) to the width of the CPU cooler overall. A good way to know is to find out the height of the CPU cooler and measure the width of your PC case. Ensure your PC case is wide enough so that the side of your PC case can be closed when the CPU cooler is installed.

Are CPU Coolers Compatible With All CPU Sockets?

There are many different brands of CPUs, and there are also many different brands of CPU coolers. So that a CPU cooler can be installed on your motherboard the CPU cooler connection needs to fit in the socket on your CPU. But, are the sockets and CPU coolers universal, and will a CPU cooler work on any CPU socket?

Not all CPU coolers will connect to all CPU motherboards. There are a few types of sockets such as the AM4, and the LGA-1700 socket. You can check the connection that your motherboard needs by finding out what motherboard you have in the Device Manager and doing a Google search for what socket it has.

To access the device manager go to the start menu and type in ‘device manager. This will open a window that has a list of all the components on your computer. Look for ‘processor’ on this list and click it. It will open up a nested list that says what the motherboard is.

Do CPUs Come With Coolers?

Upgrading the CPU is a great way to increase how fast your PC, runs and improve performance for playing computer games, or using programs that require a lot of computer power. But, do CPUs come with coolers, or do they need to be purchased separately.

Virtually all CPUs come with coolers. AMD and Intel are generally considered to be the market leaders for CPUs. Both AMD and Intel CPUs come with a CPU cooler. If you’re overclocking your CPU or want something quieter you can get a separate CPU cooler and replace the stock CPU cooler with it.

These have larger heat sync and a larger fan. This allows them to cool a lot more than the stock CPU. This is required if you’re overclocking your CPU because this generates more heat on the CPU. If a larger CPU cooler is not used it can cause damage to the CPU.

As a distinguished Professor of Computer Science, my expertise lies at the intersection of PC hardware, software development, and system troubleshooting. My foray into the realm of computer technology began during my high school years, where I honed my skills in building and repairing PCs. Subsequently, I provided consultancy services to a renowned PC repair establishment, solidifying my reputation in the field. Today, I am the trusted authority among peers and colleagues for insights and solutions related to PC and laptop challenges.

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