How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (2023)

How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (1)

Have you recently heard about the CPU cooler? Do you want to know how it works and how to choose one for your build? You’re at the right place.

A CPU cooler is part of a PC that drives the heat generated by other components away. Many electric components inside your motherboard need temperature control to prevent damage and burnout.

In order to choose the right CPU cooler for your build, it’s imperative to learn about its types.


  • Types of CPU Coolers
    • 1. Air Coolers
    • 2. Liquid Coolers
    • 3. Custom Water Cooling Loops
  • How To Choose a CPU Cooler?
    • 1. Decide Your Requirements
    • 2. Decide Your Budget
    • 4. Check TDP Rating
  • What Does a CPU Cooler Do?
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Conclusion

Types of CPU Coolers

There are three types of CPU coolers in general:

  1. Air Coolers
  2. Liquid Coolers
  3. Custom Water Cooling Loop Coolers

Let’s briefly understand each:

1. Air Coolers

How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (2)

Air coolers depend on air circulation within and around the CPU. They are directly in contact with the CPU through a thermal paste.

The heat is transferred to the baseplate of an air cooler which then transfers it into the pipes of the heatsink. The pipes are elevated and act as a maze for the heat.

By the time the heat passes through these pipes, it is cooled down significantly through circulation. The blower then does the rest. A blower is a fan that is attached to the top of the heatsink. It absorbs the heat and blows it outside of the cabin.

(Video) ULTIMATE CPU Cooler Buying Guide & Tips 👉 Creator's Edition [Workstation & PC]

2. Liquid Coolers

How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (3)

Liquid coolers, too, have a baseplate attached to the CPU via a thermal paste. The baseplate is attached to a water block which is filled with coolant liquid.

This liquid keeps circulating through the water block through tubes. This coolant water circulation reduces the heat passed through the baseplate via the CPU.

The tubes go through a radiator that exposes this liquid to air, and an adjacent fan blows away all the heat that the coolant liquid would have carried. The coolant recirculates further into the water block from here, and this cycle continues.

3. Custom Water Cooling Loops

How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (4)

With custom loops, you can pick and choose the components you want to cool down. Usually, it is the CPU and the GPU, but you can choose more components and surround them with custom loops of tubes that keep them cool.

The catch though is that you will have to buy and assemble everything by yourself.

Many other components, like memory modules, need cooling as well when you use your computer extensively. There aren’t dedicated coolers for other parts of a PC except for the CPU and GPU.

So what you do is wind all your temperature-sensitive components with cooling tubes and liquid cool them with the help of coolant water, radiator, and blower.

How To Choose a CPU Cooler?

After changing my cooler 4 times due to extensive gaming, I know the parameters you should consider before getting yours. In this section, I’ll elaborate on each criterion so you know what you need while choosing a CPU Cooler.

1. Decide Your Requirements

First things first, decide exactly what you want. This can be made simply by understanding your usage.

If you use the PC for your routine tasks then a regular air cooler will be fine. If you multitask a lot then you have to get one with 2 cooling fans and a bigger heatsink.

If you game a lot like me then opt for liquid cooling systems. If you do complex computing and extensive programming, you might also want to protect your memory modules from the heat. You’d then have to customize a cooling loop.

(Video) How to choose the right CPU Air Cooler

TL;DR: Understanding your requirements makes a choice easier.

2. Decide Your Budget

Once you start looking for a CPU cooler, you can’t come back. Based on your usage, you should predefine a budget and neither overspend nor underspend.

Just know what is at risk in terms of the components that are heating. For instance, you should get a budget cooler if you only multitask between programs.

But if you are a gamer like me and like to edit videos and graphics then you should spend a little more and get a bigger cooler. If you are a programmer or a miner, go for an expensive setup of custom cooling systems.

3. Ensure Compatibility & Fitting

Many modern-day motherboards come with retaining clips for external coolers. If you want to get one with screws, you will have to get rid of these clips. Similarly, you’ll have to see if you have extra PCIe cables to make the fittings.

Bigger coolers need a dedicated power supply for their blowers & radiators. You need to have a provision of PCIe cable slots in your main PSU (Power Supply Unit). You might also have to change your PSU if you don’t have slots there.

4. Check TDP Rating

Thermal Design Power/Point (TDP) is the maximum amount of heat generated by the CPU that a cooler can dissipate. It is referred to as watts.

Higher the TDP ratings, the better the performance of the cooler. The TDP ratings are mentioned in the CPU manual.

The TDP ratings for the cooler too are mentioned in its manual. These ratings aren’t an accurate representation of the energy these components consume. They rather represent the maximum theoretical load.

P.S. The TDP ratings of your cooler cannot be lower than the combined ratings of your CPU and GPU.

5. Check Sound Levels & Control

The sound from a cooler comes from the fan. If the fan runs at a higher speed, your processor is overloaded.

If it continues to blow at high speed and makes a noise then your CPU is really overwhelmed. This noise can be controlled with the help of a cooler with an additional blower or through BIOS settings.

Press F2 at the boot to open the BIOS (Basic Input Output Settings). Select cooling and choose fan control modes from fixed, custom, cool, balanced, quiet, and fanless.

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You can also set the minimum temperature of the processor, the minimum duty cycle, and the duty cycle increment of a fan.

Here is a recommended elaboration of temperature and duty cycle settings:

Minimum Temperature (°C)777981
Minimum Duty Cycle (%)353030
Duty Cycle Increment (%/°C)332

6. Aesthetics & Appearance

This is the new age criterion among gamers and miners who take it very seriously.

CPUs can become quite cluttered from the inside and boring from the outside. Since the evolution of CPU coolers has been mainly thanks to the gaming community, the aesthetic appeal makes a CPU cooler good for them.

For instance, the fans come with backlit LED settings. These lights are powered through an RGB cable that goes into the PSU. This gives the whole case a unique look when the fans blow and the lighting changes color.

What Does a CPU Cooler Do?

How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide] (5)

CPU coolers attract the heat, subside it and redistribute them away from the CPU. This keeps the components inside the processor at a safe operating temperature to function at their best.

The transistors inside the components of a CPU convert the electric energy into thermal energy (heat).

Coolers subside that by being directly in contact with the CPU. Circulation of heat is at the core of various methods of cooling systems. Various materials of high thermal conductivity are used to make parts of the cooler.

Frequently Asked Questions

What CPU Cooler should you get?

It really depends mainly on your usage. Budget air coolers can take care of average usage. Extensive graphical usage and multitasking require bigger coolers. And high-end usages like gaming, computing, and mining require custom cooling setups.

(Video) Liquid vs Air CPU Cooler – Which Should I Choose [Simple Guide]

Are CPU coolers universal?

Most coolers today support the PCIe cable to connect to the central power supply unit of the CPU. Some processors have a retention clip that fits the coolers with lugs and clips instead of screws. The compatibility isn’t as diverse, but things are changing.

How much is a CPU cooler?

On average, budget air coolers cost around $50. Liquid cooling systems can cost almost double that of air coolers ($100). There is no ceiling to custom cooling setups, as it depends on the number of components you wind up with.

How to know if a CPU cooler will fit in?

Check the mounting form factor i.e. holes for screws or retention clips, cables that connect to the PSU, and the sizes of the CPU surface plate and the baseplate of the cooler. If these things match then your cooler will fit the CPU. Read the cooler and CPU user manuals to know how to check CPU Cooler compatibility.

Does it matter what CPU cooler you have?

If you use your computer for mundane tasks then you may not care a lot about what CPU cooler you have. But if you demand a little bit more performance from your CPU, then it matters what type of cooler you have installed.


Know your usage, define your budget, and select the criteria that appeal to you. My concluding tip is to pack the components in a larger CPU case. This is helpful when you upgrade to bigger coolers.

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How To Choose a CPU Cooler? [Complete Guide]? ›

On the case side, it's important to look at specifications for what size heatsink or radiator is supported. Chassis manufacturers usually list the maximum cooler height allowed, and heatsink makers will always list the dimensions of their coolers.

How do I know what CPU cooler I need? ›

On the case side, it's important to look at specifications for what size heatsink or radiator is supported. Chassis manufacturers usually list the maximum cooler height allowed, and heatsink makers will always list the dimensions of their coolers.

What size should my CPU cooler be? ›

The most standard choice is a 120mm fan with appropriate radiator length, which will fit most cases. But a 140mm fan offers more surface area and potentially better airflow combined with possibly lower noise levels. It has some downsides, too.

How do you tell if a CPU cooler will fit your CPU? ›

Look for Sockets Supported under the Package Specifications section. (The socket is the component that provides the mechanical and electrical connections between the processor and motherboard.) Compare the TDP and socket information of the Intel® CPU information with the TDP and socket information of the CPU cooler.

Is CFM important for CPU cooler? ›

CFM. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute, and it defines how much air a fan can blow in or out of the computer in a minute. The higher the CFM, the better — as the fan will be able to blow more air, leading to better cooling.

Are bigger CPU coolers better? ›

This explains the variation in the size and design of air-based CPU coolers. Larger air coolers usually dissipate heat better, but there isn't always room for a bulky cooling solution, especially in a small form factor PC.

How many fans should a CPU cooler have? ›

Generally, every PC needs at least three case fans, out of which two need to be positioned as an intake, and one needs to be positioned as an exhaust.

Do CPUs need specific coolers? ›

You do need a CPU cooler in your gaming PC, because it's what keeps your CPU running cool enough to churn out those all-important frames without succumbing to a self-induced heat-death.

How to tell if CPU cooler will fit reddit? ›

Check out the height of the cooler and compare that against the max allowed CPU cooler height as specced by the case.

Does CPU cooler placement matter? ›

In cooling, you want to move the hot air molecules away from the hot surface as quickly as possible. This is called convection cooling. CPU cooling fans work better pushing air (like a pump), rather than sucking air (like a vacuum). So you want your CPU cooling fan to face the CPU and blow as much air toward the CPU.

Is it better to have more CFM or less? ›

Is a higher CFM better? A higher CFM is always better for your kitchen fan. You can always run a high CFM hood on lower settings. It provides great ventilation by moving a heavy amount of air per minute.

Is 8000 CFM good? ›

60”+ Fans for Great Rooms (350+ Square Feet)

Extremely large rooms need a fan with an extra wide span and the highest CFM. Think 8,000 up to 16,900 or more. Gyms, exercise studios, public areas and covered outdoor spaces benefit from ceiling fan sizes that are among the biggest.

Is 6500 CFM good? ›

Good CFM values start at 4,000, but the best CFM values are above 6,000. An efficient ceiling fan must have at least 75 cfm/w. For example, windmill ceiling fans might have a CFM of about 6,500, use about 34 watts, and have a cfm/w of 192, making them very efficient with high airflow.

Do I need a different CPU cooler? ›

Because CPUs adjust their performance level depending on their temperature, cooler CPUs are faster. So, to some extent, you can increase your performance with a better CPU Cooler. Summary: If you use your CPU for simple tasks, then yes, most likely. If you use your CPU for heavy CPU-bound tasks, then no.

What CPU socket do I have? ›

To find out what type of socket your CPU has, you can either look at the product specifications, the packaging, or the CPU itself. The product specifications should list the socket type under the CPU model name or number, such as Intel Core i7-9700K (LGA 1151) or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (AM4).

Does AMD Ryzen 5 5600X need cooler? ›

A better cooler can make a difference for your AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU. The CPU is efficient and does not generate much heat, but it can still benefit from some extra cooling if you want to overclock it or use it in a specific build. A good cooler can improve the performance of your CPU even further.


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