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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Why use fans when you can cool your CPU with 8 lbs of copper?

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When it comes to PC gaming one of the biggest trials is keeping things cool. You can have all the power in the world packed into your case, but it’s for naught without cooling. More power often means more heat thanks to that big jerk physics, and plenty of builds bottleneck due to temps, rather than capabilities. This is why we see overclockers do wild things like douse their CPUs in liquid nitrogen or use about 8 lbs (nearly 4 kgs) of solid copper.

Copper is an amazingly conductive material, great for cooling, but it’s also hideously expensive. This is why I was in no way prepared to see a honking tower of solid copper sitting casually on top of one enthusiast’s CPU. The awe-inspiring, yet wallet-crushing image was posted to Reddit by That Desktop User and was also shared by Fanless Tech on Twitter.

Unsurprisingly, this wad of incredible thermally conductive metal does a fairly good job of keeping the CPU cool. This one is sitting on an i9 chip, which are known for turning up the heat. Apparently the setup maintains an idle temp of 95° Fahrenheit (35°C) and only gets to around 176° Fahrenheit (80°C) max. I like to keep my situation cooler than that and use an AIO, but it’s doing better than what just the fans in my PC could manage with an older i7.

Despite the efficiency this incredible copper phallus provides, it’s unlikely we’ll see this implementation reach the mainstream, no matter how much I’d love to. You could add flourishes to make it look like a cool lighthouse or rocket or something. With a little artistic flare it could go from a large obtrusive block to something aesthetic.

passive_cooling_an_i9_with_a_8lb_block_of_copper from r/hardwaregore

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But again, copper isn’t exactly cheap in such hefty quantities. Since it’s a great thermal conductor it’s not uncommon to see it used in PC builds, just in much smaller amounts. These IHS copper lid replacements are a great example of that for the keen DIY enthusiast. 

And copper isn’t just used by those looking to cool down their CPUs. One modder used some copper and thermal paste to bring their card temps down from over 100°C to closer to 60°C. Thanks to the size of the copper used, this is a much cheaper endeavour than say a giant tower on your CPU, too.

Speaking of size, we’re learning to make copper super thin, which could be great for the future of chips. Gold is another metal that’s used extensively thanks to its conductive properties, and thin copper could eventually replace it. Anything we can do to lower costs and reduce rare mineral mining is going to be great for PC gamers. Plus we have plenty of great recommendations for keeping your PC cool, even if you don’t have access to a girthy block of copper.

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