by Ty Arthur
Whenever your computer needs to perform calculations it relies on the central processing unit (CPU), often referred to simply as the processor. When the CPU is in operation it generates heat, so it must rely on computer components such as a CPU fan and heat sink combination to adequately dissipate the heat. Without a CPU fan the processor will quickly overheat and become useless. If your computer's CPU has been running too hot, choose a new CPU fan that provides better airflow.
Check your computer's manual to find out the brand, socket type and size of your CPU, then search for CPU fans that match the socket type of your processor.
Find the form factor and exact dimensions of the CPU fan. Some CPU fans are taller than they are wide, which can result in space problems if you are using a Micro-ATX sized computer case.
Check to see if the CPU fan has a heat sink included or if you need to purchase one separately. Find out if the heat sink uses copper, which dissipates heat more efficiently, or aluminum, which dissipates less heat.
Consider if you will be manually increasing the CPU's clock speed beyond its normal capacity (overclocking). Pick a larger fan with more cooling power if you will be overclocking, as the extra strain on the CPU will generate more heat.
Read through the CPU fan's specifications and find its airflow rating. Compare the airflow ratings to find the CPU fan which cools the most amount of air. A higher airflow rating means that the CPU fan moves a greater volume of air per minute.
If you're considering replacing the entire heat sink, make sure that the heat sink either includes some thermal compound or that you get some high-quality thermal compound to apply during installation. Thermal compound is a conductive material that helps transfer heat from the CPU to the heat sink; it ensures a good conductive path for the heat to be lead away from the processor.
As CPU fans become larger and provide more cooling power they often also generate more noise. If you think you might be annoyed by a loud fan then you may want to spend the extra money on a cooling system that's designed to be exceptionally quiet. (Water cooling systems are a popular choice for building an extremely quiet computer system, although installing a water cooling system is not a job for the computer novice!)