What is a Mini Heatsink?

Keith Koons

A mini heatsink is a device used within modern computers to rapidly force heat away from the processor of the unit. They are normally constructed as a solid metal core that mounts directly atop the processor—a substance called thermal grease is applied between the two surfaces to accelerate the transfer of heat. The upper side of a mini heatsink is made in various geometrical configurations that allow temperatures to travel away from the processor, and a fan is normally mounted on top of it to aid this process. Besides a connection to operate the system fan, a mini heatsink does not rely on any type of power or moving parts to operate.

Heatsinks are designed to move heat away from a computer's central processing unit.
Heatsinks are designed to move heat away from a computer's central processing unit.

There are actually several different types of heatsinks that are produced for computer systems, and they are often not interchangeable between one model and another. The heatsink configuration will depend solely on the shape of the processor and how it connects to the motherboard, so each time a new processor is developed, a corresponding mini heatsink has to be created as well. While there are some versions of heatsinks that are backward-compatible with older models from the same manufacturer, it is recommended to purchase a new mini heatsink since it will work much more efficiently.

Even though the computer chip has drastically changed since its inception inside the personal computer, the role of the mini heatsink has remained exactly the same. Designers have come up with several innovative ways to enhance heat dissipation, though, which is why mini heatsinks are available in so many shapes and forms. Water-cooled heatsinks, for example, help reroute the heat away from the processor much faster than conventional means, but they also require additional steps to install and maintain. There are many aftermarket mini heatsinks that function far better than the one included from the manufacturer, and it is often a wise upgrade for consumers to complete as soon as possible.

While most retail versions of processors are sold with a mini heatsink included, some aftermarket packages will require that the heatsink be purchased separately. Other situations that would require a replacement mini heatsink could be when the fan stops working or the internal temperatures on the processor reach unsafe levels. To ascertain the proper model mini heatsink, individuals can simply look up the compatibility code on the processor or check the motherboard instruction manual. For example, an AMD Athlon K8 processor would require a mini heatsink that can mount to a socket 940, 754, or a 939 motherboard. Any heatsink compatible with those systems would work in this situation.

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