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 Semiconductor Electromigration In-Depth
Forced Air Convention
By: Sverre Sjøthun, July 24, 2001  Print this article


A heatsink is supposed to dissipate the heat from the CPU to the surrounding air. 

Quite a few hours have been put down to find the "secret formula" to the ultimate heatsink. There are, however, a few common things to look for when you are going to put your greens into a new heatsink.

The bigger surface area it has, the better it dissipates the heat generated by your CPU. What you want is a heatsink with lots of fins or pins and a shroud to prevent the air from looping.

A heatsinks efficiency is measured in K/W or C/W where K=Kelvin and C=Celsius. Lower K/W is better.

Let's assume we have a 0.4 K/W heatsink and we want to overclock our PIII 700 to 931. At 931, the PIII 700 puts out approximately 35W with the core at 1,8V:

0.4 x 35 = 14 degrees higher than your case temperature.

If you have a lot of high RPM harddrives, DVD players and other heat producing devices and a case that is not vented properly, you might have case temps at 30C to 40C.

This gives us a CPU temperature at: 40C + 0.4 x 35 = 54C.

It is obvious that such high temperature is not desired, and what you must look for here are other solutions to bring the temperature down. 

A lot of retail heatsinks nowadays are being sold with a thermal pad attached to their bases. Remove that one and use thermal paste instead. But keep in mind that certain CPUs have a fragile "slug". Apply a thin and even layer of thermal paste, and your CPU temps might drop by a few to several degrees.

Another highly recommended, and free, way to increase the efficiency of a cooler is to reduce the thermal resistance between the CPU and heatsink: lapping the heat sink. I did this on a retail Intel heatsink just for fun, and I was shocked at how concave it really was. Not only did the temperatures drop 3C°, but it let me run my CeleronII566 at 918MHz instead of 892MHz!

When it comes to lapping the CPU core it self, I think I would be a little bit careful, both because of ESD and, as I just mentioned, the vulnerability of certain CPUs

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