Choosing the best processor heatsink is not just a question of which heatsink is the highest quality or most functional; it also depends on the heatsink's compatibility with your current computer setup. Each type of processor uses a certain kind of socket, which is basically the home bed where the processor is mounted. The heatsink must be compatible with your motherboard and processor socket. Heatsinks can vary in size, so in addition to choosing the best and most effective processor heatsink, you also need to decide on a heatsink model that can fit in your computer case.
Find out the socket used for the processor on your motherboard and research processor heatsink models that are compatible with your processor socket. The heatsink also needs to be compatible with your heatsink retention bracket, which is the fixture that secures the processor heatsink to your motherboard. Using an incompatible socket retention bracket can be dangerous to the integrity of your computer parts, especially if you are using a large and heavy passive heatsink. Passive heatsinks mounted on the wrong socket can buckle the retention bracket and break the motherboard or other computer components.
Also known as the motherboard heatsink, the processor heatsink is a cooling device that controls the temperature of the computer processing unit (CPU). When the CPU operates, it builds up heat that needs to be removed. High-powered processors generally produce more heat than the usual home computer, so a high-end computer needs a more powerful processor heatsink. Check the heat removal rating for the heatsinks you research. If you are having a problem with your current heat removal level, you probably want to go for a new heatsink that removes more heat.
Types of heatsinks include active heatsinks and passive heatsinks. A passive heatsink is a cooling unit that uses the natural movement of hot and cold temperatures to control heat in a piece of hardware. Generally, these types of heatsinks are large metal devices specially designed to move heat away from the processor by conduction.
Conduction is a process by which heat is removed through contact. A processor heatsink is mounted in contact with the processor, and the contact helps move heat from the processor chip to the heatsink. Since a passive heatsink lacks the fan and motor found in an active heatsink, these devices tend to remove heat more quietly. Due to their size and weight, passive heatsinks are not recommended for all users.
An active heatsink is a heatsink with a fan. Active heatsinks use the process of convection to remove heat from the processor. Convection is the processes of removing heat by moving it away from the object, like the wind cooling a hot cup of coffee. To remove heat from the object by moving air, active heatsinks employ a fan that moves the air near the processor. Although this type of heatsink can be louder, it is much smaller than most passive heatsinks, which makes it a better choice for standard-size computer cases.