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A Look At The World of Heatsinks 117

A reader writes: "There's an interview with Glenn Summerfield, Senior Sales Associate for Alpha Novatech (USA) that talks about heat sinks and where some of it is going." Alpha Novatech is one of the big boys in the field of heat sinks - the responses do have a bit of "salestalk" for Alpha Novatech, but seeing industry thoughts on watercooling vs. aircooling and such is interesting, nonetheless.
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A Look At The World of Heatsinks

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  • A bit of salestalk? That guy was full of hot air!

    blah, blah, stop groaning
  • ALPHA: I can't go in to too much detail, as it's a highly proprietary process. However, the copper is embedded in the base at the same time that the fins are formed during the forging process. This takes place under a tremendous force.

    That's their way of saying they've got Superman locked in the basement crushing heatsinks with his fists. They're holding him hostage with Kryptonite.

    Free Superman!

    Seriously though, here's the megacorp [] that just got some free but arguably useless press.

  • Obviously while sucking is good, blowing is better!
  • Wow! Old-school! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @07:27PM (#2438921) Homepage
    Boy, this story was like a blast from the past!

    Fogey mode: You used to see stories like this posted to Slashdot all the time back in the day. Back then, there was no Katz or fluffy BS, just hardcore tech geekiness and Microsoft bashing (yeah, well, some things never change).

    Reading over this article was like seeing an old friend again.

  • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @07:29PM (#2438926) Homepage
    or at least for right now.

    So I have a TBird 1.5GHz machine, and it hits 100% processing capacity for 0.02% of the time that it's in use. Save the time that I do mpeg compressing, but that's rare and the difference in speed that a watercooled system would give me over this would be negligable.

    Using an expensive watercooler solution (well, expensive compared to a $30 air cooler that will work perfectly fine) to squeeze out a few extra megahertz, is that really worth all of the hassle?

    Even at work I had an P3/800 (don't start with the intel bashing) and did a lot of work daily including compiling, and was upgraded to a P3/933 (at the expense of my friend who was away for a week, and I ... kinda forgot to return the processor) and guess what? Neither one of us really noticed much of a difference. That's 133 MHz difference, a full 33MHz FSB boost too, and for just about everything that we did, we didn't notice a difference.

    If you're just so keen that you need to go from 33FPS to 33.8FPS in your Quake3 games, then, well, your choice... But is there really any good practical applications where the cost of a watercooled solution is worth the price? Keep in mind that you're comparing not the marked speed of the chip, but the speed that you could overclock to with air vs the speed that you can overclock to with water. I'd be surprised if you can see more than a 5MHz FSB difference there, even if 10MHz difference at a 15x multiplier (which means that you're already at 1.5GHz) you can gain 150MHz, which will do what for you? Practically nothing. Now add int he factor that you could just add the money of the watercooled solution to the cost of the chip to get the next higher up model, and ... well frankly I don't see the point other than just the coolness factor of having glow-in-the-dark coolant running through your PC =)

    And before someone starts on the noise levels, we have a Dell 1.5GHz P4 at work that you have to put your ear right next to the bloody box to hear anything at all, they are VERY quiet. They have 2 fans too (1 case that blows across a heatsink on the proc through a tube, and 1 for the power supply). They are both thermally throttled and the hard drives are mounted on a thin strip of rubber too. Trust me, these babies are SWEET boxes and QUIET too.

    So, who can explain to me why this would be worth it? I'm curious to know =)

    -- Sean
    • So, who can explain to me why this would be worth it? I'm curious to know =)

      A water cooled system makes MUCH less noise than an air cooled system. There is no constant fan blowing like crazy.

      D/\ Gooberguy
      • Nope, only a noisy electric pump.
        • Nope, only a noisy electric pump

          well, if you'd like to pop off down to your local aquarium shop dohickee and check out the pumps. They are pretty quiet, well they are unless you are putting air in as well, that's kind of noisy. Good aquarium could run you $100 piece so even the do it your self water cool system isn't going to be cheap if your looking for quality.

          Of course if you want a laugh think about a water cooled laptop. Every where you go you've gotta hook up to the water or maybe use a small foot pump if you are near some water. This could make business trips some what trouble some...

          The only time I could imagine doing this is if I had built a big ass cluster (where adding more machine wouldn't improve the speed) and Intel or AMD had gone bust and I need more crunching speed....

        • My pump is by far the quietest noise producing part of my computer. I say it this way because if I claimed that it was the quietest part then someone would start going off about how my NIC is making so much noise that it is louder than my pump yadda yadda yadda.

          My point is these things are damn quiet. My home pc is watercooled and it cost me around $80 total. I am watercooling my dual tbird box and that cost me around $140 to do.

          Why you ask? I didn't want to hear some CPU fans blaring away. Instead I have 120mm fan(s) on the radiator. Do I overclock? Not the server (or the home box for right now). I just wanted quiet.

          Where I got my stuff []

          • As I explained, you can easily get very very quiet fans. In fact, those fans that you are using for your rads, well you can use 1 on your CPU and you're done, nothing else needs to be done (yes, you can get adapters to fit 120mm or 80mm onto your CPU)... Aircooled will work and can be quieter than watercooled (or at least just as quiet)
    • Actually some people think 0.1 GHz is worth about $400.
      Prise comparision from a randomly selected computerstore: (

      Intel P4 1.9GHz 478pin FC-PGA $910
      Intel P4 2.0GHz 478pin FC-PGA $1330

      Okey I know it is kind of extreme but my point is people can do alot for some mhz.
      (Just look at the amount of work they put in to opverclock their high end PC:s.

      Yup... thats my point
      • A graph of $/MHz for a particular CPU quickly reveals that pricing is non-linear. CPU manufacturers and/or retailers are very aware of the "feel good" value of owning the latest and greatest.

        The best values are always a couple notches down from top-of-the-line. Once I learned this, I always buy older technology. The money savings can be put to important stuff like a professional-grade monitor, which is more important to my computing experience than having a few extra MHz to lie idle.
      • Actually some people think 0.1 GHz is worth about $400.

        Show me a 1.2GHz user that will pay $400 to get his system to 1.3GHz.

        Right, you won't find it. You did cite an extreme example, and very few people buy the top of the line processors, nevermind want to overclock them once they get them.

        Noone has still answered the core of my question: what do you need 100 extra MHz for when you have a 1.4GHz processor? Or even a 900MHz processor?
        • My point is that verry verry few people need those Hz but alot of people WANT to have them.
          Have a look at alt.comp.hardware.overclocking those Hz aint really there because thay are needed, overclocking and having top of the line stuff is a way of life.

          I dont say I agree to all this, I have a p200mmx myself and is quite hapy with that.
    • by Peter H.S. ( 38077 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @08:08PM (#2439134) Homepage
      So, who can explain to me why this would be worth it? I'm curious to know =) [About water cooling]

      Personally I hope not to deal with watercooled client pc's. But such extreme cooling measures might be necessary: A worst case 1.8 P4 consumes aprox. 88 Watts. It looks like future generation CPUs could be even greedier than that (Transmeta is a noticeable exception).
      I Imagine that people buying 4-way servers, do so because they expect signicant CPU load for long periods. But 4 x 90 /120 Watts (or 8 x 90 /120 watts) really generate a lot of heat inside a cabinet. A single future 8 GigaHZ Intel /AMD CPU could also be a challenge for traditionel cooling systems.
      However, I find it likely that CPU designers in the future, will sacrifice some speed gains, in order to avoid costly coling systems, such as watercoolers.
      • But such extreme cooling measures might be necessary

        Right, but do you remember the beetles? (as in the cars), they were aircooled. Motorcycles are aircooled. They generate FAR more heat than your computer ever will generate. Extreme example, yes, but just prooving that air can cool if you have sufficient amounts of it and big enough heatsinks.

        As the article stated, you can easily make larger heatsinks and larger fans (and incidentally the larger the fan the less noise per CFM), and the Itaniums, they have insane power requirements (they need an 800W power supply!!) and yet they are quite effectively aircooled. And don't forget that as your transistor size decreases, so does your heat emissions. Imagine if they were to put a TEG (thermo-electric generator) on the CPUs to help them to power themselves! (sorry, funny idea)

        I do not believe that anything other than aircooled will be required for a long time.

        However, I find it likely that CPU designers in the future, will sacrifice some speed gains, in order to avoid costly coling systems, such as watercoolers.

        Interesting point that I was kinda trying to make as well, we have computers that are far faster than most people need right now, so the push for faster and faster is kinda falling off. What do people need 1.4GHz for?
    • If you check out some hardware/overclocking/modding sites, you'll see that often it's not about how much real world performance you get, it's about how much you can crank out of your system in terms of the oh-so-inaccurate mhz/ghz numbers. Also, of course you're not going to notice a difference of 133mhz boost, esp. when staying in the same cpu class.
      • It's the same attitude that leads gearheads to spend endless time & money souping up their cars. For a car enthusiast, getting an extra 10HP out of their engine is a big deal, even if it doesn't make any noticeable difference on the road. It's mostly about bragging rights. Is it silly? Sure it is. But, like any other silly hobby, it's a harmless way to kill time.

        • It's the same attitude that leads gearheads to spend endless time & money souping up their cars. For a car enthusiast, getting an extra 10HP out of their engine is a big deal, even if it doesn't make any noticeable difference on the road.

          Heheheh guilty as charged. Yes, I have gone to stupid lengths to increase the performance of my car, however I haven't really ever spent that much (well, headers and a custom exhaust set me back $1200 but it is actually quieter and you do notice the difference in accelleration), but so I can get to 60mph 0.5s faster than I could before. Whoopie! =)

          Yeah, I'm just curious to know what non-coolness factors there are here.
    • Using an expensive watercooler solution (well, expensive compared to a $30 air cooler that will work perfectly fine) to squeeze out a few extra megahertz, is that really worth all of the hassle?

      At this point in the game, it doesn't look like it makes much difference if you take the fastest CPU today and stuck a watercooler on it. People just aren't seeing as high as a gain in speed as the older Celerons and PIIs. Watercooled setups use to give people as high as a legendary 100% increase in speed from the fastest CPUs of yesteryear, which r0x0rd a Quake player's world. Now, people would be extremely lucky to see 50%.

      And I think this trend is basically being reflected in the overclocking market. We don't hear the Kryotech machines being hyped as much as two years ago for that very reason. Intel and AMD are ramping up processors at close to their theoretical (yield) speeds, unlike the older Celerons which were just fast PIIs that were underclocked. That's not to say that there aren't anymore CPUs out there that have a high overclocking potential, they're just less common. And we also no longer see as much of a price gap between lower and higher performing CPUs.

      So you're right, it's hardly worth the investment in watercooler equipment. But two years ago, it made a lot of difference for hardcore gamers.

      Now we're seeing a shift from watercooled CPUs to watercooled graphics cards (can we guess where the bottleneck has gone?), which seems to yield a bit more performance for those highly ambitious hardware enthusiasts.
    • did you notice a difference between the 900 p3, and the 1.5tbird?

      when amd starts manufacturing those tbirds at 3.5gz, they'll probably have to come self-equipped inside a water cooling solution.
      • did you notice a difference between the 900 p3, and the 1.5tbird?

        Depends what I'm doing, but for most of my work not really. Yeah, it's a bit faster, so it'll load slashdot in, oh the same amount of time. IT'll boot up in 5 seconds less, it'll compile my files faster, that I do notice, yes, going +66% speed is noticable.

        But you're not going to get anywhere near +66% speed out of using water to overclock than using air.

        when amd starts manufacturing those tbirds at 3.5gz

        Which they won't, because the TBird platform can't handle it (funny that everyone shoots down Intel when their platform can scale way past 10GHz, or 6 AMDMHz ;> ), but when AMD does come out with that 3.5GHz machine it'll be aircooled.

        Intel demonstrated an aircooled P4/3.0. You can always make bigger heatsinks and bigger fans. The old Beetle car and motorcycles are all aircooled, don't forget. They generate FAR more heat than your computer ever will.

        Heat doesn't scale lineraly with MHz either. Future processors run with smaller transistors and lower voltages which decreases their heat emmissions.
    • Good cooling does not only allow overclocking. It also (and mainly) improves the life expectancy for the processor.

      The probability of failure increases a lot with temperature, and the effect becomes notable at relatively low temperature values (50-60 C).

      See for example [] but there are certainly many other references.

      • Good cooling does not only allow overclocking. It also (and mainly) improves the life expectancy for the processor.

        If you run your processor at 50% of the rated max as opposed to 35% of the rated max, how much more life are you going to get out of it anyways?

        I have yet to have ANY processor (or hear of any) that have "burnt out", much less from overclocking.

        And besides, in 5 years when the 15GHz machines are out, are you really going to need your 1.5GHz one? In 10 years when it finally does "burn out" and there are 50GHz machines out, who'll care?

        I don't really see that as being of a concern =) In 1 year this processor will be long gone or doing something else anyways =)
  • by PopeAlien ( 164869 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @07:34PM (#2438947) Homepage Journal
    I would have liked to see more focus on using the heatsinks without fans. I wish we could get away from moving the air past the heatsink with a big-ass whirring fan.. Between the fans and drives in my systems I can barely hear the phone ring. I've started putting foam and dynamat in my boxes to quiet them down, but I'm thinking it would be cheaper and simpler to just duck-tape the foam to my ears..
    • I agree, let's hear some more about totally passive cooling solutions. I'd trade speed for quiet any day of the year.
    • Then water cool your PC.

      Or use a Zalman passive heat sink: 00 G
      • I want to see a picture entitled "Water cooled PC", which is a picture of an expensive looking computer diving into a pool.

        I wish I could pull that off...

    • I read on (September Cooler roundup) there is a Zalman (sp?) fan that has the option of running in noiseless (passive) mode. It wouldn't be enough to cool an Athlon, but perhaps the Pentium 4 1.4Ghz would be stable with it.
    • Great Fan w/ low noise! r-10.html

      As they used to say where I grew up... It's not that Idaho is windy, it's just that Utah sucks.
    • I had the same complaint.. It's compounded by the fact that I have three machines running (Windows desktop, Linux server, and Linux firewall).

      I just ordered a VIA C3 800MHz CPU. It's a 0.13 micron manufactured chip, so it runs cool enough to use only passive cooling. But, it's performance is comparable to a Celeron in everything but gaming (floating point is weak). Toss a quiet power supply in there, with a Seagate Barracuda IV quiet drive, and it's a pretty quiet box.

      So, for my Windows box that spends 95% of the time doing WWW Browsing, E-Mail, Word Processing, Winamp, etc. This chip does fine. It will also be great for the firewall box. I'll keep my P3 box around for the occasional game.
    • Not to mention that the extra moving parts are a liability for reliability. The CPU fan is often the first thing to break down in my computers.
  • I read several reviews when building a Tbrird 1.333 system for where I used to work to compare to the latest and greatest Cow-boxen p4's we were getting.

    Most of the Reviews said the FOP38 was the most common found to cool Ghz Tbirds, but if you can find an Alpha, get it!
    Well, I did (, if you are interested) and it works like a beauty...even had a disclaimer "caution: loud!"...mild understatement.

    Under a full load for 5 hours (decoding/converting DVD's to DivX, highest thread priority) the max temp of the processor was 111 degrees F. Some of the newer ones average 110 to 115...not bad for an "oldie but a goodie".

    Tho I do admit some of the reviews now use thermal diodes under *and* above/near the top of the processor.

    Another reason to go for the alpha is it won't crack those poor durons/tbirds...not so much a problem with the Athlon XP, or so the common wisdom/thinking goes because the new chips use a fiber composite (IIRC) instead of ceramic. So if the chip is under excessive pressure, the base will flex.

    Just a satisfied customer here...I plan on getting 2 for a Dualie system I want to build.
    MP or XP Tboids (heh, I like saying it tha way, mad props to N.Y. for enhancing the english language!) or whatever their new names will be (sledge/clawhammer?).

    Heat sync technology has had to keep pace with the current procs (and the proc's current..err..watttage), so far so good, but a 1lbs heat sync on the P4...oye.

    We can only hope they keep up the good work making better syncs, ducts, fans lest things all go up in smoke.

    • Yeah the alpha's great, I use one as well.
      The FOP38 is actually even better, but completely unusable as you prolly wouldn't hear a vacuum cleaner while your box is running.
      The Alpha is relatively quiet when you compare it to other good coolers.
  • by narfbot ( 515956 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @07:51PM (#2439053)
    It's a good thing they're looking into better heatsink design. Because what if one happens to fall off, guess what happens? []

    And you can't blame my AMD for that! It was the heatsink not being there!!!
    • I'd like to see heatsink manufacturers get together with mobo peeps, and have a nice long talk about mounting HSFs. IMHO, there are two major issues that need to be ironed out. First, a better and easier way to secure heatsinks is needed. The current clip system is pretty annoying, as you have to either make a huge dent in your thumb pushing the thing down, or use a screwdriver, which a careful person can get right 95%+ of the time, but there's always that fraction of the time when something distracts you, and you end up punching a hole through your m/b. I've seen nice systems in a few m/b's for a 4 screw mount system, which i imagine would work well, but it needs to be standardised. Second, m/b manufacturers need to try and make more room around the socket for larger HSFs. Obviously this is rather hard, as they want to try and squese more and more circuitry into a smaller area, but I think many people would be a lot happier if big capacitors weren't crowded around the socket.
      • I've seen nice systems in a few m/b's for a 4 screw mount system, which i imagine would work well, but it needs to be standardised.

        They are standardized. I believe the standard (hole geometry and keep-out zone) was set by intel with the launch of the P4. However most new socketA mainboards also support them. (One caveat may be that there are two different hole dimensions used. This can be compensated for though.

        Both the 8045 heatsink mentioned in the article and some swiftech models use these holes, there propably are some others as well.
  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @07:52PM (#2439063)
    Keep in mind the noise comes from the FANs in your system (well, okay, the HDs, too, but mainly the fans). There _are_ fans that are quiet! Oftentimes the HSF fan is the loudest one in the system, too, so check your system carefully.

    The neat thing about high-end coolers like the Alpha PAL8045 is that the heatsink itself is so efficient that a 'whisper' fan with low airflow can still effectively cool a CPU. I just won a free Athlon XP 1800+ (1.53gHz) last week, and I'll probably be doing just that - a PAL8045 with a quiet CPU. I don't plan to bother overclocking the CPU, as it's already freaking fast.

    I went to some sites that specialize in cooling products, and when you buy an HSF at some of them, they let you choose the fan that comes with it, which is nice.

    And if you're 'stuck' with a really loud HSF - just replace the fan itself - they usually cost less than US$10.
  • Dual fans=better? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mac Nazgul ( 196332 )
    I recently set up a server at work and had a bunch of old pentium class PCs to do it with. Swapping parts I was able to put together a P233 with 256 MB SDRAM w/2 HDs (a whopping 3 and 2 GB) FIguring that this server was going to be running 24/7 I decided it would be good to add some more cooling capabilities to the unit.
    With the extra parts I had, I removed the small stock aluminum heatsink and replaced it with a heatsink with 3 inch riser. Then the voltage regulator (I think this was what it was- it was a "clip in" unit that got very hot and had its own small heatsink), which was located directly next to the CPU, was so hot that I replaced it's small 1" square heatsink with a medium sized heatsink from another PCs CPU. Now I had a big riser on the CPU with a .3 A fan and a medium riser on the voltage regulator next to it. Looking at my spare parts, i had another CPU fan of .2 A, which I decided to mount directly on top of the other fan on the CPU. So Now I had a double-decker fan system on the CPU, that was loud but pushed some serious air down onto the CPU. Across from the CPU was a fan on the front of the case with a duct that pointed towards the CPU heatsink. The crappy case design was choking this fan and it was hardly moving any air. So I cut away the grill on the case (the plastic front cover would act as a plenum and a guard) and removed the duct. This gave me enough room to install 2 fans (power supply size- about 3"across) again both blowing towards the CPU. Under full load the CPU would only rise about 10-15 degrees from ambient.
    What I am wondering is just how effecient my design is. You rarely see any mods with dual fans. Maybe the noise is bothersome, but this was a server that was going to sit in a corner so I don't care. So, would two fans (presumably the stronger pulling through the weaker is the best) mounted together both blowing in the same direction be effecient? What do fellow slashdotters think?
    • , would two fans (presumably the stronger pulling through the weaker is the best) mounted together both blowing in the same direction be effecient?

      Your design probably isn't the most efficient, but it gets results, so who cares. The dual fan thing doesn't strike me as a performance thing so much as a redundacy thing - lose one fan and you still have active cooling

    • Dual fans are not seen often because the bearing on your bottom fan will "go" rather quickly....
    • I know some of the more recent orb coolers have dual fan set ups, with the lower fan foing at a much higher RPM.

      So dual fan setups are out there, and yes, the weaker fan pushing to the stronger one would work better.

      Personally, I just stick wth stock on my computer. It runs fairly cool as is, so other than the getting the extra 10 mhz out of it, it's not worth useing a second fan.
    • no matter how long you keep a p233 running you wont need that many fans.... the idea its self is just insane. With the better heatsink on the cpu and then the single system fan you have more than enough... Whats next, drill a whole in the side of your fridge and run the wires through? I've actually pulled apart 1 p166mmx ibm machine ::shutters::(possibly the worst designed systems out there) that had 1/3inch of dust and dog fur blanketing the thing. it took two hours of cleaning to get done. And that system had never overheated, they kept it running for weeks at a time with no real problems they said. damn, that was a side track. but i had to get that injustice off my cheast.
    • Old superorb has dual fans. It's not a mod because many stock heatsink/fans come with dual fans.
  • by pforce ( 127543 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @08:20PM (#2439171) Homepage
    There was recently a physics presentation at my University about thermoacoustics and its ability to be used for heatsinks. The basic idea behind it was that a thermoacoustic engine could be made to take the heat from the processor and convert it into sound, dissipating the heat more effectively than conventional heatsinks. The group [] working on the project already has a number of prototypes and showed some of them at the presentation and they were quite impressive! These 'engines' are already being made smaller than a penny in order to fit a number of them on a processor to increase cooling ability. And if you're worried about the sound coming out of them (the heat is converted to sound), the engines are converting it to high enough frequencies that it's undetectable to the human ear. They also told us that they're working on converting the sound back into electricity, perhaps to be used to cool the processor even further. I can't wait until these are commercially available...
    • "the engines are converting it to high enough frequencies that it's undetectable to the human ear"

      I hope you don't have any pets around the house. Dogs are gonna freak when they hear it.
    • well someone did the dog joke already.

      what about those ultra sonic pest repellers?

      Im not intending to bash this invention but,id be more wary of these than liquid. the constant high frequency vibrations may disrupt the ever more precise moving parts of disk drives. And sound is the motion of molecules in a longitudinal wave, heat energy is also the motion of molecules so this could lead to a hotter case than presently normal.

      but on the upside, fun with harmonic resonance could come into play with a harware hack....

    • A thermoacoustic cooler glued to an aluminum case with double-sticky dynamat.
    • The basic idea behind it was that a thermoacoustic engine could be made to take the heat from the processor and convert it into sound

      I just read the webpage you referred to, and I think your description of the thermoacoustic cooler is not correct. It doesn't convert heat into sound (besides, converting heat into sound into electricity violates the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and would enable you to build a perpetuum mobile). The sound is generated by a speaker (getting its energy from the power supply). The way I understand it is that the whole setup has the same functionality as e.g. a Peltier element, but more efficient.

      • The fundamental laws of thermodynamics do not prevent converting heat into sound into electricity. They only prevent you from gaining more than a certain amount of energy (the Carnot Cycle limit) in the process, which is dependant upon the ratio in temperature of the Cold temperature bath to the heat source.


        This means that you can only use heat to generate sound to generate electricity as long as you have a temperature differential, which you certainly do in this case.
        • We can generate energy when heat flows from a heat source to a heat sink, that's true.

          But cooling is something different: we _add_ energy in the process to _increase_ the flow of heat from the heat source to the sink.

          Heat is somewhat abstract, so I like the water analogy to explain these things.
          Using a turbine, we can generate electricity when water flows from a high reservoir to a lower reservoir.
          But, if the high reservoir is constantly refilled at a high rate, it's possible that the natural flow from high to low is not enough, and we need a pump to make the water flow more rapidly. That's cooling. Adding a turbine to that would slow the flow of water, and the generated electricity would not be enough to power the extra pump capacity needed to overcome that (if all energy conversions would be 100% efficient, it would be just enough).

    • "Lassie, what's wrong boy?"
      "What's that?"
      "Our mail server's heatsink just failed and the processors gonna blow up?"
      "Thanks boy, you just saved the day."
      "Whadyamean Timmy's in a well again? Serves him right for playing near that thing."

      Of course, if its an AMD processor, then the thing is fried by the time Lassie hears it anyway...but you get the idea.
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @08:28PM (#2439203) Homepage
    Once upon a time software engineers would go through great lengths to optimize their code. Hardware engineers would work closely with the software folks to develop efficent and useful fast paths. Oft-cursed quality assurance teams would spend months hunting down elusive bugs and areas of poor performance. Physical equipment was both elegent and overengineered.

    Today we have copper heatsinks that have undergone more engineering than the typical Formula One racecar.

    Nevermind that we have to reinstall Windows every eight months or constatnly watch Bugtraq regardless of our platform.
    • We're still doing all that, in the embedded/telecom/PDA sector.

      Home computers are as far as I'm concerned, dead. I want something for my home-cinema set that allows me to browse the web, read my email and do my banking. I also want a PDA/phone combo that I always carry with me, about the size of the Ericsson T68 [] where I can be reached via Instant Messaging, check my net-synched calendar etc.

      Playing games? Dedicated machinery - just as I have separate components for playing DVDs, amplifying sounds and decoding digital cable.

      ... I work full-time as a software engineer. I _hate_ going home to yet another one of those hated machines that make a lot of noise, look ugly in my living room and tries to be everything but not really good at anything. PCs.

  • Hey... ya know what...

    I have a water cooled Athlon and aside from the cost and complexity (true.. not fun) it just looks friggin cool...It's completely worth it to me when people see it and stare for that extra 30 seconds...

    The best question I here is "What they hell is that?"

    And sorry but, I just have to add...

    It's gone from suck to blow!
  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2001 @08:33PM (#2439224)
    Way back in the dark dawn of the desktop PC age, I was a programmer and service tech for the local importer of Intertec Superbrain computers. []

    These were a CP/M based machine with two Z80 processors (the second one was dedicated to disk I/O but configured so that the main CPU was placed in a busy-wait loop while the IO occured. Obviously this was a crappy hardware solution to a problem caused by an inability to write decent firmware on Intertec's part.

    Anyway -- these machines were originally designed for the US market, so the PSUs were all 110V. Around these parts the mains voltage is 230V so they included a 230V-110V transformer with machines shipped here -- and it was mounted inside the all-encompassing case that also incorporated the screen and keyboard.

    Cooling on the machines was by way of a weak fan that exhausted down onto the table beneathe the machine. It was barely adequate for the 110V machine so when the extra heat from the transformer was added to the thermal input -- the machines began to overheat.

    The manufacturer was useless -- offering no suggestions and losing all interest in supporting the product.

    The solution was pretty simple -- use a bigger fan.

    However -- there was a rather unfortunate side-effect. When you turned on the computer, the fan-blast would blow every single piece of paper off your desk. Funny as hell -- the first time.

    Although attempts were made with the fan reversed so that it blew up into the machine, a couple of machines expired after a sheet of paper found its way under the case and got sucked up against the fan grill -- effectively stopping all cooling.
    • Must be something about those z-80's.

      I used to work for a seriously underfunded
      pbs tv station in ohio. When I went to our
      broadcast engineering facility for the first
      time, I noticed a 19" rackmount pc with a
      20" box fan(like the kind you put in windows
      on a hot day) laying down on top of the computer.

      I noticed it was on and asked if I should put
      fan back in its upright position. The engineers
      all wigged out and said that it was like that
      for a reason - all that airflow just barely kept
      the old cranky proprietary z-80 based broadcast
      system in working order. without it, it would
      overheat instantly.

      I guess things never really change.

      • Mind you, if you run the Z-80 at the speeds for which it was originally designed - a MHz or two - It doesn't need a heat sink, let alone a fan. Hell, many many adaptec SCSI controllers have Z80 chips on them.

        Kind of makes you want to run CP/M on them just for laughs.

  • Pah! I laugh in the face of using a heatsink, a real man would use liquid nitrogen [].

    Originally the Dreamcast was supposed to be liquid-cooled. We were pretty excited to open up the case and check that out -- no doubt it would involve hundreds of tiny valves and pipes and pumps and very small migrant laborers to work them. However, Sega seems to have engineered the Dreamcast to run without overheating and scrapped the liquid-cooling -- we saw no evidence of it when we poked around.

    Instead, heat is distributed out through a large metal plate that acts as both shielding as well as a heat sink. A sizable fan runs when the system is on to circulate air -- it's both effective and a little noisy. We've had no overheating problems with the Dreamcast, even after extended 12-hour or more sessions.

    - PlannetDreamcast []

  • I've purchased various super-silent heatsink/fan combos before, but they never remain silent for long. After about a year of leaving my PC on, the fans get louder and louder. I hope someone can find an simple, economical, non-fan alternative.
    • How about a VIA C3 (Ezra) CPU and mainboard? These can run with a passive heatsink -- no fan. This can run office productivity software okay, but they are poor for FP-heavy number cruncher software. Anyway, here is a review: [] [] -- Mike
    • An iMac or a Cube(if you can find one).
    • Get rid of the fan. I would like to see a system that used heat pipes and a large, convection cooled heatsink. I've seen this done with tactical military radio systems. The electronics are inside a waterproof box and the heat is conducted to a large cast aluminum heatsink on the outside of the box.
      • Some high end pro audio gear also uses heat pipes to large heat sinks. Getting the geometry right to sit on a socketed CPU is probably why they are not used. Big 3 lead transistors can simply be bolted to a copper block on the heat pipe. I've also seen convection oil cooled equipment.
      • A lot of laptops use heat pipes to eliminate the fan (not for noise, but to increase battery life). The heat pipe transfers the heat to the RF shield at the bottom of the laptop, giving you a much larger area to dissipate the heat. Its the reason that many laptops get really warm your lap :)
  • With all these aluminum cases running around (Dot Com Depot has some nice 4U rackmounts for $169, or did last I checked) I'd like to transfer heat from my CPU to my case and dissipate it there. I've got plenty of fans blowing through it already, but if my CPU fan fails there might not be enough airflow. How do I transfer the heat without liquid cooling?
  • A neighbor in an apartment building I was in in
    1999 built a water-cooling extension for the heat
    sink in his PC by soldering small copper tubes
    between the fins of the heat sink that was already
    there and running tubes from them to a jar of
    water that was above the board.

    As anyone who has worked with pumpless solar water
    heating knows (I myself read an article on this in
    popular science in the early eighties) to have
    thermal circulation you want the reservoir of cool
    water to be above your umm, solar panel.

    postercommently diagram available []

    A passive water cooling system can be built on
    the same principles: substitute a heat sink with
    tubing attached to it for the solar panel and
    there you are.

    During periods of intense load you can throw some
    ice into your cooling tank -- but then there is a
    danger of condensation.

    As long as the whole system is at ambient temp.
    or above, condensation will not happen.

    It is easy to imagine a server farm with cooling
    hoses running from each machine to a large central
    cooling tank with lots and lots of fins on it
    or more aggressive cooling strategies. Once the
    heat is out of the enclosure, size considerations
    are no longer as important.

    Rack mounted automotive radiators, anyone?
  • Our process, "MicroForging" is unique to our company

    Managerial eyecandy! In other words, a useless term that means nothing. Bet whoever came up with THAT term got a nice raise.


  • When you get down to it, better heatsinks are necessary because the engineering of processors is getting worse vis-a-vis heat production/dissipation.

    Only transmeta is approaching processor production with low-power-consumption/heat-production as a priority and they are not shipping in large enough volume to really affect the market, plus their newer chips have manufacturing problems.

    Instead of just touting gigahertz, there should be some inverse scale (so that higher is better) showing cool operation being marketed by the chipmakers. I can see the tagline: the hot chip that runs cool.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.