If you have owned a computer for a while, you have probably experienced overheating issues. A performance drop, stability issues, crashes, and blue screens of death are all indicators of overheating. So, do you need a CPU cooler?
All CPUs have a stock cooler. If a CPU does not have a cooler, it shuts down in a few seconds. A better question is: do you need a CPU cooler to replace your stock cooler?
Almost all aftermarket CPU coolers are a direct upgrade from the stock cooler. Do you need a CPU cooler if you do not do demanding tasks on your computer? The answer is that it depends. If you are experiencing any of the issues mentioned above, then you could benefit from a beefy CPU cooler. Otherwise, you may or may not need it.
Do note that if you are upgrading your CPU cooler because your room gets extremely hot, it will not make the room cooler, only your CPU. This is because of the laws of physics. A CPU generates heat as it works and the thermal energy has to go somewhere. The CPU cooler is responsible for dissipating the heat away from the CPU to ensure that it continues working. The heat then escapes from the computer case via exhaust fans and goes into your room.
Then, do you need a CPU cooler to make sure that the CPU functions properly if your room gets scorching hot during summer? The answer to that is a resounding yes. Even if you are not a gamer, in situations such as these, you will benefit from a better CPU cooler.
Do you need a CPU cooler if you are a gamer? This will depend on the games you play and your other components, but most of the time, you will get huge benefits from an aftermarket cooler. Most aftermarket CPU coolers are designed to appeal to gamers. You have doubtlessly encountered those all-in-one water coolers that have gorgeous RGB logos on the water blocks. Some water blocks even have a built-in screen that monitors temperature. In addition to water coolers, air coolers are commonplace in most gaming setups as well.
Keep on reading if you wish to learn more about CPU coolers, when you need them if you need them for gaming, the differences between AIO water CPU coolers and air coolers, and more.
Do You Need a CPU Cooler?
As previously mentioned, it mostly depends on your situation. Aftermarket CPU coolers have numerous benefits, such as:
- They are quieter.
- They make the CPU uses less power, which leads to a longer lifespan and less heat output (The hotter the CPU gets, the more power it uses, generating even more heat).
- They increase performance by reducing thermal throttling.
- They give headroom for overclocking.
- A single CPU cooler can outlast multiple generations of CPUs (Most 10-year-old air coolers still fit modern CPUs; Some manufacturers offer aftermarket brackets that are designed to make an older cooler fit a newer socket).
- There are CPU coolers for any budget, from $20 up to $300.
With all these benefits, why would you not want to buy a CPU cooler? There are some downsides to CPU coolers, the biggest of which is having to install it into your system. Here are some other downsides:
- Doing research beforehand to check what CPU cooler suits you or has good performance.
- Not all CPU coolers fit all boards, sockets, or cases.
- Some air coolers are incredibly bulky and difficult to install or cannot be fitted at all, limiting motherboard and case options.
- All-in-one CPU water coolers have pumps that can fail and cause overheating when they do.
- Water coolers can get loud if air bubbles get trapped.
- With water coolers, there is always a small chance of a leak.
- Stock coolers are free, but you have to purchase an aftermarket one.
Most of the downsides are related to water cooling. If you ask real enthusiasts, they will tell you that water cooling is a gimmick despite water’s significantly better thermal conductivity. This is because most aftermarket CPU coolers have large heatsinks that have copper heat pipes with liquid inside them, essentially doing the same job.
If you do not mind spending a bit of time to check compatibility beforehand and learning how to install an air cooler (It is not very hard), then getting one is a no-brainer. Stability, better performance, and less heat are easily worth the time and effort it takes.
When Do You Need a CPU Cooler?
If you use your computer every day and have no overheating, performance, or stability issues then you do not really need a CPU cooler, even if you would benefit from one nonetheless. This is especially true for people who live in cold environments. However, if you live in a place where temperatures are always high, then an aftermarket CPU cooler is probably a good investment. Even if you do not experience any apparent issues, you should still check your CPU temps under full load. CPU temps that regularly hit 80°C are problematic and will shorten the CPU’s lifespan.
There is another thing that should be taken into account. If you own a newer AMD CPU, chances are that you already have a decent stock cooler and do not need to upgrade. When AMD announced Ryzen, they also announced that they would be coming with their new Wraith cooler lineup. They even look like an aftermarket cooler already, especially compared with Intel’s stock cooler. Just take a look at the Wraith Prism with its gorgeous RGB fan and RGB logo.
Do You Need a CPU Cooler For Gaming?
In short, yes. An aftermarket CPU cooler will increase your FPS at a low cost and can last you multiple rigs. Thermals during long gaming sessions can get pretty toasty, so you want to make sure that your CPU is adequately cooled. The last thing you want is your game or OS to crush in the middle of a match, race, or mission. Naturally, a CPU cooler will not eliminate crashes altogether, but it will reduce them significantly.
This is why gamers are always the main audience for CPU cooling manufacturers. Gamers are more likely to be aware of such things and to do something about it. It is up to you to decide what kind of CPU cooler you should get. For example, if you own an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 and do not plan to upgrade in the next few years, then buying a Noctua NH-U12A makes little sense. That cooler is designed for high-end CPUs and is an overkill for anything slower than a Core i7 or Ryzen 7. A Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO is a much more reasonable choice at a low price.
Can you run a computer without a CPU cooler?
No, you cannot run a computer without a CPU cooler and an appropriate amount of thermal compound. Attempting to start a computer without a CPU cooler installed will make the computer crash instantaneously. Some time ago, running a CPU without a cooler was possible but it would literally burn the CPU and create a fire hazard. You should never try to start a computer without a CPU cooler.
Do You Need a CPU Cooler if You’re Not Overclocking?
Even if you are not overclocking, an aftermarket CPU cooler has numerous benefits and will still improve the performance. The CPU’s lifespan will also get longer. You do not have to be a tinkerer to understand that a cooler CPU will keep its boost clock for longer. On the other side of the spectrum, if you actually are overclocking or plan to do it, then having a good CPU cooler is a must.
What happens if I don’t use a CPU cooler?
If you do not use a CPU cooler and attempt to start your computer, it will most likely send an error that a CPU cooler is not plugged in and will shut down automatically. If you do not get an error, then it will most likely shut down automatically from overheating within a few seconds. If none of the two things happen (if you have an older CPU or there is a hardware failure with the CPU or motherboard), then you are seriously risking killing the CPU or even causing a fire.
If you do not use an aftermarket CPU cooler but have a stock one installed instead, then you most likely won’t have any issues. You may experience occasional crashes or thermal throttling but that’s it.
So, do you need a CPU cooler? If you are not a gamer or overclocker and do not experience any issues with your computer, then you are probably fine with the stock CPU cooler. Bear in mind that you do need a CPU cooler, just not an aftermarket one. You cannot use your computer without a CPU cooler as it will make the system crash immediately. If not, then you are risking damaging the CPU and other components.
With all the benefits of an aftermarket CPU cooler, there is little reason why one should stay on a stock one. It is a cheap and reasonable upgrade that can outlive all of your other components. Even if your CPU cooler fan dies after many years of use, you can still reuse the heatsink by simply replacing the dead fan with a new one.
Alert: We are not responsible for any damage that you cause to your hardware while attempting to install a CPU cooler. We are also not responsible if you try to start your computer without a CPU cooler. It can cause a fire or electrical hazard and destroy your hardware.