Shim/Spacer and Thermal Compound/Paste

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Cooling Basics - Cases and Cooling 27 This brings us to a product who’s value as an aid in heat reduction has led to much heated (pun intended) debate with champions on both sides of the question. It is my view, after years of experience that shims offer little to no advantage, when it comes to heat dispersal.

When used as intended, shims become invaluable as a tool to protect the fragile core of your CPU, especially if you envision removing the heatsink a number of times as I do, either to upgrade the CPU or upgrading to the latest and greatest heatsink.

Our picture clearly shows the proper orientation of a shim to the CPU, it also shows why it’s such a valuable piece of insurance against cracking or crushing the core of your CPU.

Cooling Basics - Cases and Cooling 28What it does, is level the playing field so that when you install or uninstall a heatsink you’re not putting undo pressure on any part of the core, thus protecting your investment.

There are basically two types of shims in the market place; Conductive, usually made of copper and Non-Conductive, usually anodized aluminum or PCB type material.

We have heard of too many horror stories where people have had a copper shim move or one that wasn’t properly installed shorting out (frying) a CPU. We DO NOT recommend copper shims!!!

Both of the shims/spacers shown in our pictures are NON-CONDUCTIVE and these we highly recommend and they have none of the problems associated with their copper brethren. They are an inexpensive insurance policy for your CPU!!!

Thermal Compound/Paste

We have saved one of the most critical components affecting the dispersal of heat and the very life of your CPU for last, Thermal Compound or Paste.

As you are aware, the majority of heatsinks arrive with a thermal pad on the bottom and is the recommended choice of AMD. The only problems are; there are different types of thermal pads with some being better than others, they are good for one time use, this is fine if you’re never going to change your heatsink or upgrade your CPU, but if you’re like a great number of us, this just won’t do and the pads are not as effective as compounds/paste.

The first thing we do when we get a new heatsink is remove the thermal pad; we simply don’t like them or use them. Our choice of course, is thermal paste/compound, because we believe, it does a better job transferring heat from the core of the CPU to the heatsink.

Thermal compounds/pastes are manufactured using different materials that have varying degrees of heat dispersal properties. The most popular are silicone and silver based products.

Cooling Basics - Cases and Cooling 29Here again, you have people who will argue one is better than the other, but the general consensus amongst overclockers and high performance computer users, is that silver based compounds/pastes do a better job of heat transfer, because silver dissipates more heat than other compounds.

Of all the thermal compounds/pastes available in the market place, the one most referred to and is our choice happens to be Artic Silver II.

Whichever thermal compound/paste you use be sure to place a very, very, thin layer (almost transparent) on the core of the CPU ONLY!!!

The reasoning behind this is if you put to much compound/paste on the core, it works in reverse and will actually insulate the core (hold in the heat) instead of transferring the heat to the heatsink.

The best directions I’ve seen on the application of thermal compound/paste can be found at

I go one step further, in that I position the heatsink on top of the CPU making sure it’s properly aligned and let it sit there for a few minutes. I then pick up the heatsink and wipe off the excess compound from the bottom of the heatsink and then install it without adding any additional compound. Artic Silver II can be purchased from just about all our friends listed below!!

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