AMD has already received much criticism for using a unique design for the integrated heat spreaders (IHS) of its Zen 4 processors. So now enthusiasts are trying to find ways to improve cooling. One of the hacks is to remove the IHS altogether, but a bit less risky method is to reportedly reduce the thickness of the heat spreader by grinding it down.
JayzTwoCents (opens in new tab) (via Andreas Schilling (opens in new tab)) grinded off the heat spreader of his Ryzen 9 7950X by 0.8mm and reduced the temperature of the processor from around 94 to 95 degrees Celsius to approximately 85 to 88 degrees Celsius at the same 5.10 GHz all-core frequency, depending on the thermal paste used. Furthermore, pushing all cores to 5.40 GHz increases its temperature to 90.65 degrees Celsius. The simple modification requires a special frame from Roman ‘der8auer’ Hartung, a grinding tool, and a lot of time and sweat, but the reward seems quite promising. Unfortunately, it voids the processor’s warranty.
AMD equipped its latest Ryzen 7000-series processors with a very thick (3.6 mm) heat spreader to make them compatible with coolers designed initially for its processors in AM4 form factor. While compatibility means that owners will not have to spend money on new expensive coolers, the thermal conductivity of an IHS that is believed to be over 1 mm thicker than typical heat spreaders also makes it difficult to cool down these CPUs, which means higher temperatures, lower boost clocks as well as inferior overclocking potential. AMD says it is safe for its Ryzen 9 7950X to hit 95 degrees Celsius, but enthusiasts disagree.
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Roman ‘der8auer’ Hartung (opens in new tab), a renowned overclocker and engineer, has demonstrated how delidding an AMD Ryzen 9 7900X reduces its temperature by up to 20 degrees Celsius. But delidding is a relatively risky process. Moreover, a delidded CPU requires a modified cooling system mounting mechanism, as CPU coolers are for processors with an IHS.
Making IHS thinner is a whole different story. If done right, it seems less risky, but it requires more time, some skills with a grinding tool, and additional tools to clean the chip up after grinding (and then dry it). Also, it does not necessarily necessitate a heavily modified retention mechanism of the cooler. Of course, one will still need to find the right combination of washers and screws, but it is easier than changing the whole retention mechanism.
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Because both delidding and grinding voids warranty and removal of the heat spreader lower temperature by up to 20 degrees Celsius, whereas grinding off 0.8 mm from the IHS drops the temperature by 7 to 10 degrees Celsius, delidding is a preferable mod. Yet, even a thinner heat spreader protects the die from accidental damage, so it all comes down to an individual choice.