Are you wondering if your CPU air cooler really needs that extra fan on the heatsink? Will the CPU overheat if the heatsink is fanless? Well, as I like to do, I decided to put my PC through some tests for you. I was quite surprised by what I found out.
Yes. You can use a heatsink without a fan and your CPU won’t overheat. However, the temperature will be affected by factors such as the PC case airflow, heatsink orientation, ambient temperature, motherboard size, and CPU power requirements.
Generally, it’s not recommended to use a heatsink without a fan.
Choose a Good CPU Air Cooler
While there are lots of different CPU coolers out there, air coolers are the cheapest, and they’re very effective at keeping things cool.
The CPU cooler that I use is a Cool Master Hyper 212 EVO. It’s also one of the best-selling CPU air coolers on Amazon because it gets the job done. It’s nothing fancy and it’s quite bulky but it keeps most CPUs cool.
With the Hyper 212, one fan is supposed to attach to the side of the heatsink, forcing air through the fins, ensuring effective cooling of the CPU.
Using a Cool Master Hyper 212 Without a Fan
I decided to see what would happen if I used my Hyper 212 without a fan. I removed the fan that should attach to the heatsink and added it to the intake fans on my PC’s case.
In my case, when using a Cool Master Hyper 212 without a fan, my CPU temperature remained relatively stable, reaching a maximum of 55 Celsius during CPU stress tests. I also set the fan speeds to silent, the lowest setting for the fans.
Of course, the results will vary depending on your hardware. I imagine over longer testing periods, heat will build up inside the heat sink, and things will take longer to cool down.
Now before you start testing with or without a fan, I suggest opening a program such as MSI Afterburner to monitor temperatures. You can also use CPU-Z to quickly stress-test the CPU to see how hot it gets under heavy load.
If you see a steep climb in CPU temperature without a fan on the heatsink, I would end the stress test and re-attach the fan. There’s no reason to force your CPU to overheat. CPUs that have high power requirements will likely overpower any heatsink’s passive cooling abilities.
Generally, a safe operating temperature for a CPU is under 80 celsius. Don’t worry about CPUs burning out, that rarely happens anymore, because the CPU will shut the system down if it starts to overheat.
Fans Too Loud
If the fan on your air cooler is too loud, chances are the CPU is overheating but you haven’t noticed.
CPU fans won’t usually spin at full speed for no reason. So what you want to do is check the temperature of the CPU using MSI Afterburner.
If the CPU is too hot (80c+) you might want to consider changing the thermal paste on the CPU.
Note: You can also change the thermal paste on graphics cards, although that’s quite risky!
Consider Case Air Flow
An important factor to consider is the airflow in your case. Are the fans oriented properly? In my case, the intake fans are able to blow air directly to the heat sink, which may be why the temperatures stay low.
Make sure your PC’s fans are not blocked. Air should be able to flow from one end of your PC case to the other with no obstructions. The idea is to have new air constantly cycling through your computer.
Why run this experiment? For science! Of course.
There are reasons to remove the heatsink fan. Maybe your PC doesn’t have enough intake or exhaust fans, and you want to swap some around to find the best fan configuration.
Many of the fans that are included in PC cases are very junky, and replacing them with the fans included in an air cooler can improve the airflow in your case. You could attach the junky intake fans to the heatsink and use the new, faster, fans as the intake fans.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, it is possible to use a heatsink without a dedicated fan. Most CPU coolers with large heat sink like the Hyper 212 will provide enough passive cooling to keep CPU temperatures low. Combine that large heat sink with the airflow from the intake fans and it should be enough.
While you can use a heatsink without a fan, it’s not something I recommend. I suggest using the fan setup as intended because it will be the most effective configuration. Also, don’t even think about overclocking a CPU that is attached to a heatsink without a fan. It will get too hot.
So long story short, using a heatsink without a fan won’t break your CPU, but it’s not the best idea. I generally only recommend trying this if you keep a very close eye on temperatures and have a CPU that is not particularly power hungry.
Have you ever tried using a heatsink without a fan? What type of temperatures did you see on your system? Drop a comment below.