Choose CPU Cooler: A Guide On How You Should Choose CPU Coolers


One of the most important decisions when building your Choose CPU Cooler, especially if you plan on overclocking, is choosing the right cooler. It’s often a limiting factor to your overclocking potential, especially under sustained loads. Your cooler choice can also make a substantial difference in noise output. So buying a cooler that can handle your CPU’s thermal output/heat, (be it at stock settings or when overclocked) is critical to avoiding throttling and achieving your system’s full potential, while keeping the whole system quiet.

If you already have an idea of what you’re looking for, check out our tested list of the Choose CPU Cooler. If not, we’ll help you identify what type of cooler you need for your desktop {C, depending on your CPU and the things you do with it. Are you a heavy overclocker or do you prefer silent operation (or both)? Do you like a plain appearance or lots of RGB lights?

Choose CPU Cooler come in dozens of shapes and sizes, but most fall into one of three primary categories: air, closed-loop or all-in-one (AIO) coolers, or custom / open-loop cooling setups. Note that open-loop coolers are by far the most complex and expensive choice, though they can deliver unparalleled cooling results and unsurpassed looks. For a prime example of what can be achieved with a custom loop, see our console killer build, with its striking pink-tinted coolant.

If a high-end air cooler or AIO isn’t sufficient for the clock speeds you’re trying to achieve, the next step would be to go for a full custom cooling loop with larger radiators able to remove even more heat from the system. In general, the larger the radiator on the AIO or custom-loop cooler, the better it will perform (although things like flow rate and fin density also come into play). But if you aren’t aiming for the best possible overclocks with a powerful high-end desktop (HEDT) CPU, there’s no practical reason to opt for a cooler with a massive three-fan radiator. For most mainstream platforms, something more modest will suffice.

Performance isn’t the only reason people look into buying a new cooling device for their PC. Quiet operation is often also a key consideration, especially if you’re building or upgrading a media PC for the living room or an office PC in an environment where fan noise would be disruptive. Plenty of enthusiasts and gamers prefer a quiet system.

Quick Shopping Tips Choose CPU Cooler

  • Own a recent Ryzen CPU? You may not need to buy a cooler, even for overclocking. All Ryzen 300- and 2000-series processors and some older Ryzen models ship with coolers, and many of them can handle moderate overclocks. If you want the best CPU clock speed possible, you’ll still want to buy an aftermarket cooler, but for many Ryzen owners, that won’t be necessary.
  • Check clearances before buying. Big air coolers and low-profile models can bump up against tall RAM and even VRM heat sinks sometimes. And tall coolers can butt up against your case door or window. Be sure to check the dimensions and advertised clearances of any cooler and your case before buying.
  • More fans=better cooling, but more noise. The coolers that do the absolute best job of moving warm air away from your CPU and out of your case are also often the loudest. If fan noise is a problem for you, you’ll want a cooler that does a good job of balancing noise and cooling.
  • Make sure you can turn off RGB. Many coolers these days include RGB fans and/or lighting. This can be a fun way to customize the look of your PC. But be sure there’s a way, either via a built-in controller or when plugging the cooler into a compatible RGB motherboard header, to turn the lights off without turning off the PC.

Choose CPU Cooler

How do I know what will fit in my system?

Whether you’re opting for Choose CPU Cooler air, an AIO, or a custom water loop, you need to make sure it’s not too big. Factors here include the CPU Socket as well as any potential chassis limitations for things like cooler height or radiator size. Most air coolers and closed-loop coolers offer a wide range of support for both AMD and Intel processors/sockets.

Typically, these devices include mounting hardware for several sockets, increasing compatibility across a wide range of sockets. We usually see the most popular models support for Choose CPU Cooler Intel 115x, 2066, and 2011-v3 sockets. On the AMD side, support often includes AM2/AM2+, AM3, AM3+, and AM4.

The notably larger Threadripper processors have their own mounting and larger cold plate areas to better cool the acreage on the integrated heat spreader, so support for those is limited mostly to coolers designed for them, which often have the socket (TR4) name in the product.

Choose CPU Cooler

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. Another consideration with air coolers is the amount of clearance under the cooler for the RAM slots. If you plan to use DIMMs with tall heat spreaders on them, you must make sure that your cooler allows enough clearance above the motherboard for your memory.

For liquid cooling, either AIO or a custom loop, the number and size of radiators your case will support is key for deciding how many radiators you can install and how big they can be. Case manufacturers also typically list the radiator mounting locations and sizes.

Be careful with top-mounted radiators, because the total height of the radiator and your chosen fans can interfere with the top of the motherboard and its 8-pin power connector. Even if you have enough room, you’ll probably need to make sure that the power connector is plugged in before installing your radiator and fans.


Hope this article was helpful. Let us know if you want to know more.

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