CPU Delidding refers to the process of detaching the IHS from the CPU. But that’s only the first part. After detaching it, you clean the stock thermal interface material (TIM), which is usually lower-grade material used for longevity rather than performance.
While the IHS and CPU Die may look smooth to the human eye, the surface is very uneven on a microscopic level. Thermal compounds are used to fill the gaps between the CPU and IHS surfaces. Low-quality compounds have low conductivity. The adhesive used to stick the IHS and CPU together can also expand and lift the IHS slightly, which worsens the heat transfer further.
When you replace the stock TIM layer with a proper amount of high-quality thermal paste or even better liquid metal, the conductivity improves significantly. This allows for much more efficient cooling of the CPU. A thinner layer of glue accomplishes the same thing.
Depending on the processor you’re using, how well or poorly the stock TIM was applied on it, the quality of the compound you choose to use, and how well you apply it, your results will vary. The results typically range between a 5 – 15° C improvement, with some people getting a 25° C+ reduction in the best cases.
Some people directly connect the CPU to the cooler, which reattaching the IHS, a process known as Direct Die Cooling. While leaving the chip naked like this does further reduce the CPU temperature, the risk of damaging it is also higher, so we don’t recommend it.
As for why people void the warranty and risk killing their CPUs for some reduction in temperature, it’s mostly an enthusiast thing. Overclocked systems regularly reach temperatures above 80 – 90° C. Overheating, in general, isn’t great for performance or the components’ lifespan. Thus, the reduced temperature facilitates overclocking.
How to Delid the CPU?
If you’ve decided to delid the CPU after all, we recommend gathering a few things before getting started:
- Delidding tool
- Thermal compound
- Silicone adhesive
- 99% pure isopropyl alcohol
- Microfiber cloth
- Nail Polish (optional)
Also, a quick reminder to check your CPU temperatures beforehand. People forget this more often than you’d think and end up having to estimate the temperature improvement later.
Detach CPU from the Motherboard
This is optional, but you can increase the CPU usage and heat it to 80° C+ to soften up the sealant and make it easier to delid the CPU. With that said, here are the steps for this portion:
- Turn off the PC and unplug all the power cables.
- Taking the motherboard out of the case will make it easier to work with. But if you’d rather not do that, you can instead lay the case on its side.
- Remove all the fan cables and screws and detach the CPU cooler.
- Press down on the lever to release the latch.
- Gently remove the CPU from the socket.
Separate IHS from the CPU
The next step is to separate the IHS from the CPU. People have successfully used razor blades to do this, but once again, we do not recommend this. It’s not worth risking your CPU just to save a bit of cash. There are some very affordable options, such as der8auer’s Delid-Die-Mate 2. Here are the steps to delid the CPU using a tool like that:
- Insert the CPU into the delidding tool. You can check the triangle on the CPU and the tool to align them correctly.
- Turn the screw by hand, and when you can no longer do so, continue with the Allen key.
- After a point, it should become pretty difficult to turn the key. This is normal. Keep turning it while paying close attention to the CPU. When you see the IHS move slightly or hear a click sound, you can stop.
- Unscrew the bolt and take out the CPU, and carefully separate the IHS from the CPU.
Clean Old Thermal Paste and Reapply
Well, there you have it. You’ve successfully delidded the CPU. Now, you should clean off the old thermal compound and apply a new one. While you can just use thermal paste, we recommend using a liquid metal thermal compound for best results. Here are the step-by-step instructions for this portion:
- Place the CPU and IHS on a flat, clean surface.
- Apply some isopropyl alcohol to the microfiber cloth and gently clean off the thermal compound from the IHS. Then, do the same on the CPU.
- Use a blunt blade or something like a credit card to scrape off the adhesive from the CPU. Take care so as not to damage the PCB while doing so. Once again, repeat the same on the IHS.
- Once it’s clean, let it dry for a few hours.
- Optional: If you want to get the maximum bang for your buck with CPU Delidding, now would be the time to lap the IHS and Cooler.
- Now it’s time to repaste the thermal compound. On some processors, the gold plated caps may be very close to the CPU Die. In such cases, you can use an insulating substance to protect them from being shorted if they come into contact with the thermal compound. In our case, we used a small amount of nail polish.
- Apply a rice grain-sized amount of thermal compound onto the center of the CPU die.
- Carefully use the thermal compound spreader to get a nice and even spread of the compound. If you’re using liquid metal as we recommended, take extra care not to let it get outside the Die.
- Mirror this spread on the IHS. Once again, take care not to apply too much compound, and don’t create a rectangle that’s too large as you don’t want to damage the PCB.
- Finally, reapply the silicone adhesive the way it was before.
Reattach the Components
There are two approaches to reattaching the CPU and IHS. Some people insert the CPU back into the socket, then attach the IHS there, sometimes without glue, and use the CPU socket latch to hold it in place. The steps for the second, more common approach, are listed below:
- Tying into the previous step, reapply the glue in the same pattern as before if you haven’t already.
- Place the processor back in the delidding tool to help hold it in place.
- Carefully place the IHS back on top of the CPU as it was before, matching the thermal compound coating with the Die.
- Adjust the positioning slightly if necessary and use the clamp mechanism to lightly push them together.
- Let the glue set in for a few hours, then reattach the CPU back into the socket.
- Clean the thermal paste off the CPU cooler and IHS surface and reapply a pea-sized amount onto the center of the IHS.
- Reattach the cooler with all the screws and cables.
- Reattach all the power cables as well and turn your PC back on.
Check the Results
Here we are, the moment of truth. You can use a hardware monitoring tool or a benchmarking tool of your choice to check the CPU temperatures. Let us know in the comments how much of a difference delidding made for your processor.