When your computer is running, the CPU processor generates a lot of heat. In fact it will get so hot so fast that it will overheat within 30 seconds if you do not provide a means to keep it cool. A heat sink works like the radiator in your car to pull heat away from the CPU chip. The heat sink is made of aluminum, copper or another metal that conducts heat well. It is composed of many fins that transfer heat to the air being blown across them by the attached fan. The warm air is then pulled out of the motherboard compartment by the case fans.

Heat sinks come in all shapes and sizes. Yours should look similar to the one above. The shape or style does not matter because they all work and install essentially the same way.

If you are using the Asus M2N32 motherboard I recommend you can refer to section 2.3.2 of the user manual.

This is the part of the assembly process that sometimes causes people problems. It is not really difficult, but if you don’t do it right you could potentially damage the CPU chip. For this reason you should use extra caution when installing the heat sink. Before you begin I strongly suggest reading AMD’s instruction document at this link: AMD Processor and Heat Sink Installation Guide

If you would like to see a quick video demonstration of how to install the heat sink click here: Heatsink video on YouTube

To improve the transfer of heat away from the CPU and into the heat sink we need to apply some thermal gel compound. This is a compound that ensures there are no gaps or air bubbles between the CPU chip and the heat sink and will guarantee excellent heat transfer and optimal cooling of the processor. Some heat sinks come with the thermal compound already applied, but most of the time we will have to apply it ourselves.

The first thing to do is to determine if your heatsink comes with the thermal compound pre-applied. Check the installation manual that came in the box if you have one. Look at the bottom of the heat sink. If there is a piece of film or tape it should have writing telling you that thermal compound is present. If yours does not say this then you will have to assume it does not have thermal compound pre-applied.

If your heat sink does not have thermal compound pre-applied, remove any film or tape on the bottom of the heat sink. If the bottom is not perfectly clean and smooth just gently wipe it with a lint-free cloth. Now open the small tube of thermal paste and apply a small amount to the raised center surface of the CPU chip. Spread it evenly by very gently using the edge of an old credit card or stiff piece of paper. Only a very thin layer is needed.

If your heatsink has a stepped edge along one side make sure that edge is facing the raised section of the CPU Socket Connector. Place the heat sink on top of the processor chip so it makes even contact all around – do not tilt it. Do not push on the heat sink or apply pressure that could damage the CPU chip. Once it is properly positioned you can attach the clip on one side to the plastic tab of the socket connector.

Now you can confirm the clip on the other side is aligned with the plastic tab. Use a flathead screwdriver to move the clip down (and slightly out so it slides over the tab) and attach it to the plastic tab. Do not apply pressure to the heat sink itself, only apply pressure to the clip. This step can be a little tricky so be patient and don’t rush it. Be particularly careful to make sure the screwdriver doesn’t slip off the clip and scratch or gouge the motherboard.

Once you get both clips securely attached check to make sure the heatsink is level and evenly in contact with the processor chip all the way around. Make sure it is not ajar or caught on the raised portion of the socket connector. The Asus M2N32 motherboard has a black retention bracket lock which you can swivel down to secure the heat sink. Most motherboards do not have this extra bracket.

Now you can connect the fan’s power cable to the corresponding jack on the motherboard, which on this motherboard is to the left of the yellow and black RAM slots at the top of the motherboard.

Believe it or not that was the hardest part of assembling your computer! The rest will be easy.