Changing Intel Heatsinks & Processor Fans

This is a guide to changing a heat-sink and fan for an Intel-based processor. These are different to AMD processor based systems and before following this guide you must be sure of which manufactures hardware you are using.

Not only does building your own computer means that you actually learn about what is inside it, but building your own computer helps you to be able to repair it when something goes wrong. Today we are going to look at replacing the processors primary method of cooling; the heat-sink and processor fan.

I chose to replace the Intel heatsink and fan in my FreeNAS server is because it started to sound like the bearings in the fan itself were starting to expire. The sound of a fans starting to struggle is as distinctive as the sound of a fan belt on a car that is starting to get stretched and old. The Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 has worked hard over the years starting off in my main system and now in my back-up server; and it will be replaced with an Alaska Low Profile cooler.

The computer parts we are working with today are an Intel Core2Duo E6300 processor and an Asus P5V VM DH motherboard. We also have our old and new heat-sink and fan combos.

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The image on the left is our replacement fan. The concept is quite simple; a heat-sink draws heat away from the processor and the fan pulls the heat away and into the case ready for dispersal. Underneath the fan (right), most consumer heat-sinks come with a thermal paste layer which helps draw heat from the processor. If your replacement does not, then you will need to apply some yourself (and sold separately).

Looking at the underside of the new assembly you can see the four metal arms that extend out in the corners. In the majority of Intel-based units the pins at the end of these arms (or the variants of arms) are plastic and take great care of these because they will be securing everything to the motherboard.

The first thing we need to do is get the computer motherboard out of the case, which will be screwed to the chassis of the computer case and the 6 or so screws. Unscrewing the screws will allow you to lift the motherboard out of the case. You can them discard the case to one side unless you use it with your anti-static protection system.

motherboard

Let’s take a quick look at the motherboard itself. Most motherboards (micro-ATX probably the exception) are proportioned in a very similar way. The white PCI sockets are found at the bottom left of the picture with the PCI-E ones above. The RAM is located towards the top right of the motherboard and the processor fan is quite obvious in its prominence top centre.

The odd feature out which not everyone will find on their own motherboard is the card which pokes out on the left hand side. This is for a wireless (wi-fi) antenna.

My old Intel heatsink & fan is destined for the bin. That means I can be a bit rough with it although I do not want to damage the motherboard; so I am going to unscrew the fan from the heat-sink and then remove the pins that secure it to the ASUS board. The Arctic Freezer series of fans do attach slightly differently to the norm, but principles are the same; the plastic pins will line up with holes in the motherboard and will be secured using a split pin effect.

motherboard-processor

What you will find underneath is a small metal square which is the head of our Intel Core2Duo processor. The processor is connected to the motherboard electrically using hundreds of tiny pins and is physically secured to the motherboard. We need the connection between the bottom of the heat-sink (where the paste is) and the processor to be as tight as we can to make it the most effective. in our image to the right I have wiped away some of the thermal paste residue from the Arctic cooler and although you should make sure there is no debris there; personally I would not go to a large length to make it look pristine and shiny.

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We now look to fitting our new heat-sink and fan. I have deliberately left this picture large so that we can take a look at the four black plungers which are (not surprisingly attached to the split-pins that we spoke of earlier. If you are going to have your heat-sink face down on a table like this one is; remember to keep any protective storage on the base to make sure the thermal paste is not damaged.

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Around your Intel  processor you will see four holes, which is where your pins will slot into. For this particular fan you lower the four pins into the four holes and then simply push the plungers down until they lock; you are best to do opposite corners first (ie top-left, then bottom-right, etc) so that you do not damage the board. What happens is that the plunger actually extends down inside the pin, when the plunger is pushed the head of the pin is forced apart; splitting the pin open and locking it in place. You can see here that the pin has been split apart on the underside of the motherboard.

Other processor fans will need to twist the plunger instead of pushing it into lock, others may come as two parts, a chassis to attach to the motherboard and then the heat-sink and fan to attach to it.

If all the four pins are successfully locked in place then it is time to give a gentle tug on the fan to make sure it is not loose. It needs to be very tightly locked in place. You are then free to place your motherboard back in its case, screwing it back onto the securing feet that are located on the motherboards chassis and reconnecting all your cables. Your computer, complete with it’s new Intel heatsink and fan cooling, is ready to go.

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