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What is a Chipset Heatsink?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A chipset heatsink is a device installed inside of a computer that is intended to keep part of the chipset on a computer’s motherboard cool and protect it from damage due to overheating. These devices are usually installed onto the northbridge chip on the motherboard, though this may change depending upon how the motherboard was made and the chipset used. A chipset heatsink may be necessary in newer computers with more powerful motherboards and processors, or by someone who has overclocked the northbridge chip on his or her motherboard to be able to further overclock the central processing unit (CPU) or graphics card.

The northbridge on a computer’s motherboard is a chip that handles certain basic functions of the computer such as relaying information from the southbridge to the CPU and communicating with the graphics card and memory. On the motherboard in a computer, the northbridge and southbridge make up the core logic chipset that works with the CPU to effectively run processes during computer operation. Some powerful computers may require a chipset heatsink to keep the northbridge from overheating, and there are a number of different types of heatsinks that can be used.

Similar to the types of heatsinks used on a CPU, a chipset heatsink may be much smaller to accommodate the space already used inside a computer tower by other devices. The heatsink will usually operate by being installed onto the motherboard in a way that brings a flat surface on the heatsink into contact with the chip being cooled. Cooling occurs through heat transfer as the heat from the chip moves into the heatsink, and then the heat transfers out from the heatsink either through a water cooling system or air moving around the heatsink. In a computer where the northbridge and southbridge are one die on the motherboard, a chipset heatsink may cool both chips.

A chipset heatsink will commonly be used primarily on the northbridge chip, however, since this is more likely to be overclocked or heat up on newer computers. The northbridge tends to control the overall speed of the CPU and thereby the computer. Someone looking to overclock his or her CPU may be unable to reach the speeds he or she wants due to the clock speed of the northbridge chip.

This means that the person would likely want to overclock the northbridge so that the CPU could be further overclocked. As this could present risks for the northbridge, a chipset heatsink would likely be used to ensure the northbridge chip was not damaged by running too hot. Newer computers may often require a chipset heatsink as well, as the standard running speed of the chipset may be sufficient to require dedicated cooling.

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