Nobody likes to be called a dummy by a dummy.

The incredible pace at which technology progresses...

So, I went out and bought a new CPU fan for an Athlon system with messed up ballbearings which was causing a racket. I measured the dimensions of the fan, but of course, they won't sell you just a fan without a heatsink.

Why they don't just make one-size-fits-all CPU fan/heatsink combos, or at least write which type of motherboard or CPU-package the fan is for on the packaging of the "cooling unit" is beyond me. It would probably leave too little room for the picture of the polar bear. Ultimately, the type fan you need depends on whether you wear briefs or boxers (which can be a little embarrassing if you forgot and have to check in the middle of the computer store).

Back to my point: when I got to the cash register, I asked the young acne-patient for some thermal paste to install the fan. He looked at me funny and said "it's build in".

How crazy is that? There's actually a little square of thermal paste already applied to the underside of the heatsink!

Back in my day, you had to actually drill holes into the CPU to screw the fan in. Of course the transistors weren't packed so tight back then, so it was unlikely you'd damage the processor by drilling holes in it.

Next thing you know, they'll be selling cheese in spray cans or something.

  -tim
Permalink a2800276 
January 5th, 2006
Coolers do come rated for particular sockets. You'll find it marked on the box somewhere.

And I've seen one-size-fits-all models.
Permalink Flasher T 
January 5th, 2006
The thermal pastes are solids held in a liquid matrix but the solids are packed as tightly as possible, so that it remains a paste and not a runny mess. Then when heat happens the solids expand along with the liquid to maintain the same stability.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
January 5th, 2006
The particular store I was at had 5 different types of coolers all costing exactly the same and only one had what could remotely be called "specification for what processor they're for" printed on them, being called "Super Artic 64 Cooler" or something.

Simon, I see you know your thermal paste pretty well. Is it true you can just use motor oil or toothpaste?

  -tim
Permalink a2800276 
January 5th, 2006
Tim, you do know about sockets, right?

An Athlon 64 will be on Socket 939 if it's a newer model or Socket 754 if it's older.
Permalink Flasher T 
January 5th, 2006
You might get away with toothpaste, especially a really stiff concoction of smokers tooth powder but I'd only experiment on someone else's hardware. :-}

I have a feeling the viscosity of oil would be the problem, that's designed to lubricate more at higher temperatures. I think all you'd end up with is a coil of black smoke just before the slightly greyer smoke of the processor going bang.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
January 5th, 2006
"Tim, you do know about sockets, right?
An Athlon 64 will be on Socket 939 if it's a newer model or Socket 754 if it's older."

Well I know that different processors require different sockets, but I try not to clog my brain up with the exact combinations unless I'm buying a motherboard or processor. Therefore, I had no idea what kind of socket the Athlon XP goes into at the store. I figured knowing the fan is 5cmX5cm would be enough to just get a replacement.

Anyhow, the point was that the fan/heatsink packaging weren't labeled, except for the one whose name let me deduce it was for an AMD 64. Now that you mentioned AMD64 processors would require different sockets (and thus different heatsinks?) it would seem that none of the packages were properly labeled.

  -tim
Permalink a2800276 
January 5th, 2006
I'm sure that if you looked at the back of the package you would see which socket it was for.

Ergo - RTFM. ;)
Permalink Flasher T 
January 5th, 2006
"Anyhow, the point was that the fan/heatsink packaging weren't labeled, except for the one whose name let me deduce it was for an AMD 64."

They probably were labelled, but not by CPU type, just by socket type -- not all Socket 939 CPUs are neccessarily AMD 64s[1], and not all AMD 64s are Socket 939, and it's the socket that determines the heatsink and fan, not the CPU. However, as you were expect them to labelled by CPU type you may not have realised that they *were* all marked...

A replacemenet fan (sans heatsink) is also pointless -- the fan on my heatsink isn't going to fit on your heatsink unless we both have the same heatsink (which is unlikely as mine isn't a traditional fan-on-top-of-hunk-of-metal design), and there are no agreed standards for how fans mount on top of them so to replace the fan you'd probably need to contact the manufacturer...

[1] They are currently, but it's not entirely implausible that other breeds of CPU will use the same socket in future.
Permalink Mat Hall 
January 5th, 2006
No, really. They had four or five different fan/heatsink combos, except for the one marked "Whatever Super Dooper 64 Cooler" none with any marking concerning either Socket or CPU. They only said things like "Super Silent Artic Panda Bear Extremely Cold CPU Cooler". I'm not *that* stupid.
  -tim
Permalink a2800276 
January 5th, 2006
"A replacemenet fan (sans heatsink) is also pointless -- the fan on my heatsink isn't going to fit on your heatsink unless we both have the same heatsink"

Dunno about that. There seems to be only a small number of variations of fan sizes, with common mounts. There does seem to be some sort of standardization in the industry to reduce manufacturing costs.

Regarding the OP - I had to buy some thermal paste because I had to remove my heat sink and then had to reinstall it, and the paste-tab things are basically one installation affairs. It took a lot of effort to track down a shop that actually had some.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
January 5th, 2006
"...none with any marking concerning either Socket or CPU."

Then they may have been "one-size-fits-all". (See below.)

"There seems to be only a small number of variations of fan sizes, with common mounts."

If you've got a dull heatsink, then yes, you could probably buy any old 80mm/120mm/whatever fan and get it to fit, but that's dull. Real Man, of course, have crazy crap like this:

http://www.xoxide.com/asus-star-ice-cpu-cooler.html

(I have one in a rather fetching red, although as there's no window in my case some may say the beauty is somewhat redundant. It's quiet, though, and chucks out a ton of air...)
Permalink Mat Hall 
January 5th, 2006
What?

What?

I can't hear you over all the damn fans!!!
Permalink example 
January 5th, 2006
Bloody hell Mat, what do you mount that thing to?
Permalink Flasher T 
January 6th, 2006
In theory you just attach it to the CPU socket as with any other cooling rig, but (as can be seen from the picture in the article linked below) it's somewhat on the large size, so I took the extra precaution of using some cable ties to secure it to bits of the case -- I move the PC around fairly regularly, and I didn't fancy it flapping about and ripping the socket off the motherboard. :)

http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=125

(It sounds like their review item was a bit faulty, and I experienced none of the problems they did -- it snapped right on, made good contact, and works well enough that the fan rarely (if ever) needs to kick in to full speed.)
Permalink Mat Hall 
January 6th, 2006

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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