Looking to purchase a Haswell or Ivy Bridge Intel CPU? A secret may change your mind. According to bloggers, Intel recently got caught using thermal paste on its CPUs and lying about it – the revelation suggests that Intel CPUs may not last longer than three to five years before succumbing to overheating. While the Intel brand traditionally evokes notions of quality and performance, its recent batch of CPUs could lack in the quality department. But how did this happen and can it be fixed?
How Intel Got Caught Red-Handed
PC enthusiasts noticed that unlocked Ivy Bridge CPUs ran hotter than expected – a strange situation, as unlocked CPUs exist for the explicit purpose of overclocking. Controversy arose when a Japanese tech site, PC Watch, exposed the bare die of an Ivy Bridge CPU – with shocking results.
PC Watch found thermal interface material – paste – instead of the fluxless solder Intel’s public relations department claimed. The difference between the two materials is pronounced. Fluxless solder doesn’t decay or dry out over time, whereas thermal compound, or TIM, loses its efficacy slowly. TIM can become desiccated in as little as two years, depending on the quality. This suggests that all Intel CPUs will experience a subtle creeping up of temperatures and, eventually, death.
Unfortunately, building defects into products remains a standard practice in modern industrial societies. After all, the best mousetrap doesn’t make a man rich – it’s the mousetrap that you need to buy 50 times that makes a profit. And CPUs with shorter life expediencies destroy second-hand markets.
Ideally, competition deters companies from building defective products. But with AMD’s inability to penetrate into Intel’s market-share, it appears that the practice will continue well past Ivy Bridge. The latest reports show that Intel’s latest chip, Haswell, also includes TIM instead of fluxless solder.
A Victim of Its Own Success
Intel bet big on per-core performance. AMD instead focused on multiple cores – this proved disastrous, and AMD fell dramatically behind in sales and marketshare. By 2012, when Ivy Bridge released, Intel controlled great swathes of both the desktop and laptop markets. The money rolled in. It made over 30% profit per CPU, unlike AMD which muddled on with a miserable 5%. At its zenith, Intel could do as it pleased – with its position secure, Intel chose to use cheaper TIM on its CPUs.
Two differing theories explain why delidding dramatically reduces CPU temperatures: The first theory argues that Intel used an inferior grade thermal paste, either to save on costs or to reduce the longevity of their products. However, Intel claims to use a high quality thermal paste on its heat sinks and other products. Dow-Corning’s DC-1996 is rumored to be used by Intel.
The second theory claims that the distance between the die and the heat spreader can cause higher than normal temperatures in Ivy Bridge and Haswell. According to this theory, delidding removes 0.09 mm of glue between the IHS and the CPU’s circuit board; removing the glue shortens the distance that heat travels, resulting in lower temperatures. However, this calls into question why Intel didn’t design a shorter distance in the first place. If it was a design flaw, why wasn’t this corrected in Haswell? The evidence suggests that the design is indeed intentional.
Complicating matters is the corporation’s duplicity: Intel’s first officially claimed usage of fluxless solder. They later changed this statement, instead claiming that the die-shrink process caused an increase in heat production. How delidding solves this remains a mystery.
Can Intel’s Overheating Issue Be Fixed?
In a word: “Yes”. However, it will require that you void the warranty by physically removing the integrated heat-spreader. Furthermore, it’s incredibly risky. About a quarter of attempts destroy the CPU.
For those undeterred by reason, continue reading.
How To Delid Your Intel CPU
Keep in mind that I didn’t delid any of my CPUs.
The recorded success rate over at Overclockers.net hovers around 75%. A quarter of those who removed their integrated heat-spreader (IHS) also destroyed their CPU. Those who successfully delidded reduced temperatures at load by around 18% without overclocking and around 20-30% with an overclock.
Two delidding methods have emerged: First, the razor blade method and, second, the wood block-hammer method. Again, both of these methods will void your manufacturer’s warranty.
I strongly suggest watching the available videos before trying to delid.
- Delidding Method #1: The IHS is glued onto the top of the CPU PCB using a very strong adhesive. The razor blade method requires that you use an extremely sharp razor to pry beneath the IHS and the printed circuit board (PCB) of the CPU. Keep in mind that scratching the PCB or nicking the die will likely destroy your CPU.
- Delidding Method #2: Woodblock-Hammer method requires that you have a vise, a block of wood and a hammer of some kind. You can improvise another tool for hammering the CPU away from the IHS. Essentially, the CPU is clamped into a vise by the spreader and the circuit board is then rammed out of place using a block of wood. It’s quite shocking:
Out of the two methods, the hammer-and-wood appears to be faster and safer. Although in my opinion, pounding on your CPU with a block of wood is insanity.
Delidding Intel Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs is easy to attempt, although extraordinarily dangerous to finish. First, you will void your warranty. Second, there’s a very real chance that you will destroy your CPU in the process. Roughly 25% of all delids result in the destruction of the CPU.
However, for the successful, temperatures tend to drop dramatically, using the right thermal compound. For overclockers, delidding with a high quality thermal compound will make a huge difference in the available frequencies.
Anyone experiencing high Intel CPU temperatures? Please share in the comments.