If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
PCs pack a lot of processing power into a small space. It’s part of tech evolution, but with all that power comes lots of heat generation, and if that heat doesn’t have anywhere to go, it can severely damage the product.
Heatsinks are all around a PC’s insides — the CPU, the motherboard, the power supply, and graphics card.
But all heatsinks aren’t the same, and even have different methods of dissipating heat when things get steamy inside.
Heatsink Buying Guide
Whether you’re building your own custom machine for gaming or just want to optimize performance in your current PC, here are the basics of what to know when looking for a heatsink or a part that contains one.
Types of Heatsinks: A heat spreader, usually a long and flat piece of metal, is among the most basic types of heatsinks you’ll find. The metal is able to transfer heat to the surrounding area, but doesn’t increase the area of the surface being used to transfer the heat. It’s one of the more basic heatsinks and will get the job done for common PC tasks, but for heavy gamers, it’s best to level up to something like a finned heatsink. These ones have a series of pins or structures all along their surface and are excellent at spreading the heat out far and wide. The downside, however, is that they’ll often be more expensive, not to mention use up more physical space inside your build. Vapor chambers usually consist of an outer copper wall, with an inside that shifts between liquid and gas, moving heat away from a precise heat source to a bigger array of heatsink fins that can break it up.
Materials: In general, copper is going to be a better choice for a heatsink than something like aluminum. And no two pieces of metal are ever going to mesh perfectly, leaving little gaps between them. That’s where a thermal interface material is going to be a big help. These fill the gaps in, allowing for better heat conduction between them. Good mounting and pressure comes into play here too, and if your heatsinks aren’t performing at the level they should be, it’s often because of space between parts like an air bubble.
Extras: Adding a fan to go along with a heatsink is strongly recommended here. Not only will this be a huge boost to the ability to break up intense heat buildup, but they’re also very affordable while being extremely efficient. Good airflow is vital to good PC performance. If things inside your PC are getting dangerously hot, crack a window and let some (preferably cool/cold) air inside the room. Lowering the overall room temp can be an almost instant help.
Taking steps like these to swap out the components that PCs commonly come with can have a big impact — often lowering internal temperatures by multiple degrees and keeping your machine running for years to come.
1. PNY XLR8 CS3040 Internal SSD
This SSD comes with the option of an integrated extruded aluminum heatsink, taking about 10 minutes to install. The thermal performance is excellent here, and can handle even the most intense and overloading applications and games, even when things look like they’re about to get overheated. Eight vertical fins are featured for the best streamlined airflow inside, and the sequential read and write speeds are both blazing fast: up to 7,500 MB/sec and 6,850MB/sec, respectively, and 1TB of digital storage capacity.
2. Advancing Gene Heatsink Cooler
If you’re not sure what type of machine you’ll be building just yet, but need one on-hand, this Advancing Gene is super versatile and can fit desktops, laptops, and even the PS5. There are dual heatsinks and dual thermal pads inside, cooling internal temps down 10-15 degrees to protect from overheating. The aluminum alloy build and grooves on the bottom help with heat dissipation, and it’s easy to install even for beginners.
3. Ineo M.2 Heatsink SSD
This budget-friendly option did a nice job at fitting into narrow laptop builds. It’s able to move air and break up dangerous hot spots quickly. There are also two silicone thermal pads included, that act as a cooling medium between the heatsink and your SSD to prevent any possible damage.
4. Samsung 980 PRO SSD Hard Drive
This SSD from Samsung utilizes a nickel coating to better control the unit’s heat levels while minimizing the negative effects of overheating. This can quickly be plugged into both desktops and laptops, and packs a ton of power into its small frame. Read speeds can hit up to 7,000MB/sec, seriously reducing load times whether you’re waiting on a game or massive software editing application.