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Is Delidding your CPU worth it?

So you've heard about this crazy new thing called "delidding" over the past several months.  It's actually been around for a number of years, but for whatever reason, is becoming more popular these days.  Why is it becoming so popular? Well, to start - todays latest gen CPU's are smaller than ever, and faster than ever.  With the new Intel 8086k being the first consumer CPU from Intel to hit 5GHz clock speeds out of the box!

With great speed, comes great responsib....  wait a second.  Wrong quote :-)  With higher clock speeds, comes higher temperatures.  More VCore (Power to the CPU) adds heat!  and with Overclocking becoming the norm with K series CPU's from Intel, it's becoming even more popular.

So what is delidding you ask?

Delidding is the process of removing the stock IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader) from the chip, this IHS contacts the CPU die directly, spreading the heat generated from the CPU while running, and provides a larger contact patch for the CPU cooler to "touch" - it also allows the use of more TIM (Thermal Interface Material) to be used, allowing for better cooling.  Underneath the IHS, Intel applies their own TIM on the CPU die between the IHS and the CPU die.  This TIM that Intel uses, is considered by many enthusiasts to be less than adequate.  Likening it to that of Crest Toothpaste :-)

If you are running your CPU stock, then nothing to really worry about.  Leaving things alone is just fine.  But if you are overclocking your K series CPU, temperatures are king, and we want LOW TEMPS!  To achieve this, you can remove the Stock IHS and the TIM Intel applies, and apply a much higher grade TIM Paste, or other thermal compound.  The most popular, and what will yield the absolute best results (If applied correctly) is what most call "Liquid Metal".  We will get into the specifics of what this stuff actually is below, it is metal, but it's not like mercury.  It's mostly gallium with other materials. 

The principal component of liquid metal is Gallium, a soft metal that melts at slightly higher than room temperature (29C). It's nontoxic, unlike mercury. When combined with Indium and other metals, the melting/freezing point of the finished gallium alloy drops to nearly -19C. This means that at normal temperatures, liquid metal remains liquid. (And it shouldn't evaporate significantly, since the boiling point is 1300C[1])

To be more accurate, the liquid alloy is called "galinstan" - and the exact ratio of gallium, indium, tin, and other metals is proprietary.

When you buy liquid metal, whether it's coollaboratory liquid ultra (CLU), thermal grizzly conductonaut, or just straight up galinstan - you don't know exactly what's inside. (And there is reason to believe that the formulations are different since CLU and conductonaut have different viscosities)

But regardless, any liquid metal brand works well as a thermal interface material/thermal compound (TIM) because the stuff is temperature stable and has a high thermal conductivity of 16.5 W/(mK)[1] {versus solder at 32-94 W/(mK), and corning TIM at 0.5-3 W/(mK)}. [2]

Unfortunately, the problem with LM is that it's electrically conductive. Combined with its very unique consistency, this makes LM a potentially difficult material to work with. And - as we will see - LM is very reactive to aluminum, and erodes copper and nickel to a lesser degree. Be careful with both how and where you apply it.

By replacing the Intel "Toothpaste" with liquid metal (LM) we provide the CPU with a much more efficient way of transporting it's thermal energy away from the CPU die, and into the IHS and onward onto the CPU cooler.  

So basically, the best scenario is: CPU>LM>IHS>LM>CPU Cooler

Why is this dangerous you ask?  Like mentioned above, LM is conductive.  If it gets on ANYTHING other than the CPU die, it can short out components, and destroy your system.  If applied correctly, the risk of this happening is little to none.  Too much, and it can spread out and drip onto an exposed component.  Too little, and the effectiveness of cooling is not going to be as good, and performance could be worse than if you left things alone.

So what happens when you do it right? Oh, about a 15-25c drop in CPU temperatures on average.  Neat huh?

You can even take things a step further and upgrade your IHS to an aftermarket one, such as Rockitcool88's aftermarket copper IHS upgrade, that increases the surface area of the IHS by about 15%.  This increase helps spread out heat, and offers an additional 5c drop in temperatures...  on average.

So you've read all of the above, and you are thinking to yourself "Man, I wanna do this, this sounds GREAT!" 

Well, it is - but there are risks.  Delidding is dangerous, you MUST use specialized tools to delid the CPU to minimize the risk of damage.  Rockitcool88 makes one, and it works great.  Also keep in mind, the moment that stock Intel IHS snaps off of the CPU, you've voided your warranty with Intel.  You could carefully put it back on, but if you have to warranty RMA the CPU, there is a very high chance Intel will know the CPU was delidded.  You must decide if the risk is worth the reward. I personally think it is, but everyone's case is different.

So how do you do all of this?  Here is an excellent video of the process, we did not create this video.

Hopefully this blog post provides some good info to you!  If you have any questions, ask in the comments below!