Snap! There Goes the CPU Heatsink!

I’ve been doing some major cleaning in the office lately, sorting out my systems and deciding what to do with everything.  While working away, I came across something that you definitely don’t see every day.

Well, that’s new!  Must be a new suspended design for CPU Heatsinks!

When I opened the case of my gaming rig, I saw that the heatsink was merely dangling by its own power cord.  It’s certainly a good thing that I didn’t turn this system on to play some FEAR or something as it would have been a very quick game accompanied by a snap, crackle, pop and the smell of a burning Athlon X2 CPU.  The CPU heatsink was a very high quality Arctic Cooling Freezer Pro 64 that I reviewed at Futurelooks a while ago.  The unit offered excellent performance and was very quiet so I decided to leave it in the system ever since the review.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Upon further inspection, I noticed bits of black plastic on top of the video card.  These pieces were torn off the CPU retention module.  Typically, a CPU heatsink, except for the fan, is a non moving object.  Once installed on a CPU, it is left there for all etnernity most of the time.  So you can understand my surprise when I saw what had happened.  Although I did remember the fit of the heatsink being fairly snug at the time, I had no reason to believe that it would exert enough pressure to crack the fairly sturdy clips and end up crashing into the back of my video card.

This changes my opinion of the installation experience on some of the heatsinks I’ve tested in the past.  I typically found it a pain in the ass to have to remove the motherboard to install a proprietary retention sysem in order to attach an aftermarket heatsink.  I think I’ve changed my tune on this somewhat.  Although the Arctic Cooling Freezer Pro 64 Heatsink isn’t a particularly heavy unit, I believe that the height of the unit compared to a stock AMD heatsink was able to add enough leverage to the clips to break them off. The Freezer Pro 64 is not short and because the distribution of the weight is near the top of the unit, it probably exerted quite a bit more force than comparably smaller stock unit.  This is likely a non issue had the heatsink been installed in a desktop style case where the heatsink stands up and down.

I’d have to say that after this experience, I will never slag a CPU Heatsink for having a more robust retention mechanism out of the box and will gladly remove my motherboard to install it. It’s definitely extra piece of mind as well as a safety feature. I think the folks at Arctic Cooling might have to rethink their design to compensate for that leverage factor. Have any of you had this happen before?