Removing a CPU cooler can be intimidating for many users, especially if you haven’t done the process before. Whether you want to install a brand-new CPU, reapply the thermal paste or upgrade the CPU cooler, you should be aware of certain things while removing the cooler.
Various CPU coolers come with different ways to attach to the motherboard, so you can’t use the same steps for all of them. Liquid coolers also come with other additional components that you must consider.
In this article, I will show you the best way to remove different types of CPU coolers from your PC.
Open the PC Case
First, shut your computer down and disconnect all cables from the PC case. It’s not a good idea to open the PC case with power still running.
Then, move on to removing the left side panel. If you have a liquid cooler, you may need to remove additional panels to take out the radiator. The process to remove them differs between separate PC cases. But in general,
- Unscrew and slide out the side panels.
- Front panels are generally connected using pressure clips. Hold either the top or bottom of the panel with one hand and pull out the panel starting from the other end.
If you encounter any issues, I recommend checking our How to Open PC Case guide for more information.
Disconnect CPU Cooler’s Cables
Disconnect the Fan/RGB cables of the CPU cooler from the motherboard or the fan controller. If you have a liquid cooler, do so for all the fans on the radiator as well.
If you have a larger CPU cooler that almost touches the graphics card or RAM, these components may obstruct the process. So remove these beforehand.
Remove Air Cooler
Air coolers use a heatsink with fans to maintain your CPU temperature. Depending on the heatsink’s locking mechanism, different coolers require different steps for removal.
Air Cooler with Retention Clips
- Using a little pressure, pull the cam lever to open the CPU cooler.
- Disconnect both retention clips on its sides. Start from one side first.
- Lightly twist the cooler sideways to loosen the thermal paste between the cooler and the CPU.
- Lift the cooler using as little force as possible.
Air Cooler with Spring Screws
- Unfasten the screws one diagonal at a time.
- After separating all screws, twist the CPU cooler to the sides using minimal force to loosen the thermal paste.
- Gently remove the CPU cooler from the CPU by lifting it.
Air Cooler with Push Pins
- Turn all the pins counterclockwise all the way (90°).
- Gently pull up the cooler.
- Use a slight wiggling motion if it is difficult to remove.
Air Cooler with Mounting Brackets
- Unscrew the mounting bracket that is fixing the cooler in place. You may have to unclip the hooks as well for some CPU coolers.
- If the fans on the cooler obstruct you, detach them first. They are usually connected using steel hooks.
- Remove the mounting bracket if it is detachable.
- Gently pull out the CPU cooler while twisting it slightly. Make sure not to pull or twist the CPU itself.
Remove Liquid Cooler
If you have an AIO liquid cooler, you have to dismount the pump from the motherboard and the radiator from the PC cases. A custom loop cooler requires far more steps— you need to drain and rinse the loop, remove all tubes and then the other components.
- Unscrew the mounting bracket of the AIO cooler’s pump.
- Gently pull out the AIO pump to unstick it from the CPU.
- Unscrew the radiator (along with the fans) from the fan slots on the PC case.
- Take out the cooler from the PC.
Since different people customize their loop differently, the exact process varies for all of them. In general,
- Take out all removable hardware devices like storage drives, graphics card, RAM, cables, etc.
- Drain the liquid inside through the valve. Then, keep rinsing the loop with distilled water until only distilled water remains inside.
- Keep filling the reservoir with the distilled water while rinsing it so that the pump doesn’t run on air.
- Drain the distilled water as well. Then loosen all the fittings and remove each tube from the loop.
- After that, unscrew and remove the water blocks and other parts of the cooler.
Final Things to Do
If the CPU cooler still works, you may want to place it back or store it somewhere else. It’s better to clean the cooler in such cases.