Why would you delid a CPU? – Smart Fone Video Blog

So you’ve bought one of the best CPUs and are raring to build a supercharged gaming machine. But wait, you heard that your multicore monster will run hot, and that normal cooling methods, even liquid cooled AIOs, might struggle. Or maybe you want to chase records with exotic cooling methods like liquid nitrogen, and that pesky integrated heatspreader (IHS) has to go. That means you’ll need to “delid” your CPU or remove the metal heatspreader that protects the CPU die from damage. It’s worth mentioning that this will void your warranty, so it’s not advisable for your primary CPU, but if you want to take the risks, the benefits can be worth it.

How your CPU is constructed

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CPUs for consumer-level CPUs all have very similar construction. The CPU die with all the cores, cache, and I/O is attached to a substrate PCB that either has pins (PGA or pin grid array) or pads (LGA or land grid array) on the opposite side from the die, depending on the type of socket they go into. The die is a fairly fragile piece of silicon, so to protect it and to give a larger area for thermal transfer, a metal integrated heatspreader (IHS) is glued on over the top. To ensure contact between the die and the IHS, CPUs have either thermal paste or solder connecting the two.

This IHS is also glued on to the PCB, so that it doesn’t move and makes the CPU a self-contained, user-friendly unit. The problem with this is that consumers are at the mercy of whatever thermal interface material (TIM) the manufacturer used between the die and the IHS. In the past, this was often thermal paste of varying quality, and not always picked for efficiency alone. Newer CPUs are soldered to the IHS, but depending on how well the manufacturing process did, it can still be beneficial to delid.

Why enthusiasts delid their CPUs

An image showing thermal paste being applied on an Intel Core i7-14700K CPU.

The best gaming CPUs are also usually the CPUs that other enthusiasts like overclockers also gravitate towards. But for the best thermal transfer under heavy loads, it’s not enough to use the best thermal pastes on top of the IHS; they need to be used between the die and the IHS as well. Often, overclockers will delid their CPUs then use liquid metal as the TIM between the two surfaces, which has a high thermal conductivity. The drawback is that it is conductive electrically as well, so any exposed components around the CPU die need to be covered with a protective layer.

The other common modification is to replace the IHS altogether, either with a custom IHS made of copper or other highly conductive material, or to leave it off and do direct-die cooling. The latter is slightly risky to the CPU as the silicon is fairly fragile, requiring a protective cage to stop the weight of the CPU cooler from crushing it. Extreme overclockers will forgo any CPU block, and pour liquid nitrogen or helium directly onto the exposed CPU die. Not something you want to do every day, but it’s the only way to chase the CPU frequency records.

  • thermal grizzly delid-die-mate 13th-gen intel

    Source: Thermal Grizzly

    Thermal Grizzly Intel 13th Gen Delid-Die-Mate

    This gadget from Thermal Grizzly does one thing, and does it well — it removes the IHS from Intel CPUs that are compatible with the LGA 1700 socket so that the thermal paste can be replaced with liquid metal or to set up direct die cooling for better thermals.

  • thermal grizzly delid-die-mate ryzen 7000

    Source: Thermal Grizzly

    Thermal Grizzly Ryzen 7000 Delid-Die-Mate

    $70 $83 Save $13

    This gadget from Thermal Grizzly takes all the hard work out of delidding an AMD Ryzen 7000 series processor, so you can replace the factory solder job with liquid metal for better heat transfer.

  • Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut CPU thermal paste render along with various accessories and thermal applicators

    Source: Thermal Grizzly

    Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

    Conductonaut is a liquid metal TIM that enthusiasts use between the CPU die and the IHS after delidding for better thermal performance.

Potential issues with delidding a CPU

The biggest drawback to delidding your CPU is that it instantly voids your warranty. That’s a problem if you do have anything go wrong with the CPU afterward, but some enthusiasts know the risk and still proceed. The delidding process itself is inherently risky, especially on the latest CPUs where surface-mount components are placed right next to where the IHS is glued on. Even with the latest delid tools, like those from de8auer’s Thermal Grizzly brand, the risk of damaging the CPU during delidding is still there. It’s not to the same levels as the old DIY approach with a bench vice, but it does carry some risk.

** (Disclaimer: This video content is intended for educational and informational purposes only) **

By smartphonejunkie