Do You Really Need a Fancy CPU Cooler?

Because of internal resistance in its semiconductor, a CPU will produce heat while processing the instructions that your programs barrage it with. This heat, if not dispersed somewhere (preferably away from the CPU), will build up in a very short amount of time and eventually melt the transistors. Since you’re a red-blooded human who works hard for your money, you most likely don’t want something like that to happen, since you’d need to shell out a few hundred dollars to buy another unit. Now, the question is: Should you use the stock fan that came with your CPU, or should you get one of those fancy aftermarket coolers that computer shops are selling like candy?

Price Isn’t Everything

A stock CPU fan costs an attractive sum of $0 plus the cost of shipping its weight. What could be better than that? Aftermarket fans run you anywhere from $10 to $100. Some of them even cost upwards of $200. Essentially, if you’re looking for a bargain, you got one the moment you bought your CPU. But is this bargain really all there is to CPU cooling? Do you actually get something out of buying a decent aftermarket cooler? One could comfortably guess that these pricey fancy CPU coolers are appearing on the market because they meet a demand. But what are they good for?

What Do You Plan To Do With Your CPU?


Do you plan to overclock your processor? Or are you simply going to use it as it is? If you answered “yes” to the first question, then you definitely need a higher-end cooler to keep your CPU in tip-top shape.

If you have no idea what overclocking is: It’s a process by which a computer enthusiast (or a person with deep enough pockets) changes some of the inbuilt hardware limitations on a CPU by using special software, with the goal of making the CPU run faster than it was originally intended to.

Your typical CPU will work optimally when its external heat is lower than 70 degrees Celsius. Anything above that will result in either a performance drop or the dreaded meltdown. Overclocked CPUs need more care, since they produce a significantly higher amount of heat than when they run at the clock speeds they are designed to run on.

If you don’t plan on overclocking, you don’t need an aftermarket fan. The CPU’s stock fan will work just as well for normal computer use.

There’s Another Factor: Noise


The typical stock CPU fan is quite noisy. Manufacturers focus almost entirely on increasing each CPU’s performance. It’s no surprise that not a lot of investment is made in the cooling department. As a result, the fans CPUs come with often are noisy, which can be an issue while you’re trying to work. Aftermarket CPU cooler manufacturers, on the other hand, invest the entirety of their resources in developing that particular product. Their coolers are almost always as silent as ninjas. If you hate noisy computers, you’ll love an aftermarket fan.

Another Word On Aftermarket Fans

While most aftermarket coolers are a step up from their stock counterparts, it’s important to know that you don’t have to spend $100 on these things. There are many fans that do their job and reduce noise without burning holes through your wallet. The only case in which I wouldn’t recommend bargain hunting is when you’re planning on overclocking or doing other crazy things that might fry the chip.

Go ahead and leave a comment if you have any other thoughts!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. I believe that an extra pair of cooling fan is really needed when you are overloading your CPU. Otherwise the computer really heats up.


  2. There is another reason to swap out your manufacturer-provided CPU cooler, or at least modify it, and that is the cooler-CPU interface. The purpose of a CPU-cooler interface is to conduct the heat away from the CPU to the cooler and then out. In many cases (pun not intended) the cooler-CPU interface is a pad. Pads insulate rather than conduct, thus inhibiting the movement of heat away from the CPU. To correct this, it is necessary to replace the pad with a thin layer of thermal paste. While we have the stock cooler off, we might as well replace it with a quieter one.

    Some manufacturers do use thermal paste. However, they seem to apply it with a trowel. It would improve the CPU cooling if the thick layer of paste was replace by a thin one. By “thin layer” I mean one that is almost transparent. Thermal paste is one of the substances where more is NOT better.

  3. Another thing to consider is the place where you live in. If you are on a high altitude with a freezing temperature, then I think no need for those fancy cooling fans. But if your on a country with a warm weather, it would be wise to opt for a better cooling fan. Just watch out on the sales talk of cooling fan companies if you will really benefit on the feature of their products.

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