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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Physical Characteristics | Processor Cooling ]

Motherboard and Case Form Factor Implications

Most of the specialized cooling options that are common in today's machine are based on the old standard, which is the baby AT form factor case and motherboard. This design is notoriously ill-suited to providing adequate cooling for the processor without specialized cooling. The two main reasons for this are that the processor is located far from the power supply fan, and the fan itself is blowing out from the case, so there is no air blowing directly over the surface of the chip.

One of the goals of the new ATX form factor case and motherboard was to improve the cooling of the processor by reversing the power supply fan and moving the processor next to it, so the fan blows over the surface of the chip. In theory, this eliminates the need for a separate CPU fan if done properly. However, with some newer chips producing truly huge amounts of heat, this is not always practical. It's up to each user to decide what they feel comfortable with. For some ATX users, a good-quality passive heat sink will suffice, but most supplement with a quality CPU fan as well.

Next: Passive Heat Sinks

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