To shim or not to shim.
For many of you out there, I am sure you've heard of people killing their beloved Athlon and Duron processors during a heat sink install. It doesn't matter if you're a computer n00b or an old school hardware hack. You're all subject to Murphy's Laws; if you think you can't screw it up, you will. (If you don't believe me, either ask Kyle from [H] or read my review on the Vantec 6035d.)
Yep, that's right folks; even the pro's can totally botch an install sometimes and damage or kill a CPU. How does it happen? Well, there could be a lot of things that cause the screw up. Sometimes it's a poor heat sink design, which will put stress very unevenly on the core, which may chip it or even crush the core. Other times it may be arrogance that does it, where rushing an install may cause it, or even not checking for good contact with the core and burning it out.
While there is little hope for us in the biz like myself, there may be help for the cores of some of our readers. These handy little helpers are known as shims, and they seem to have gotten a somewhat bum rap. What they are designed for is to be a lightweight support for a heavyweight performance heat sink. The functionality is actually a dual mode thing, where it is designed to reduce pressure on the core during installation as well as prevent the heat sink from rocking by supporting the outer edges of it. In my opinion, this sounds pretty useful.
Recently High Speed PC sent me one of their newest shim designs, and I figured I'd give it a go and compare it to the 3 other ones I had. (Yeah, I had 3 shims randomly here.) Here's how the rundown looks:
CPU shims have gone thru a number of design changes since their introduction a few years back. As one would expect, they have gotten much more advanced and improved over time. The oldest design was pretty unsophisticated and needed the feet on the CPU to be removed for it to work. This was a really poor design and it didn't last long. Here's how this design looked:
The next generation of designs wasn't hugely different from the first, with one really notable difference. They had holes punched into the corners so that you could leave AMD's rubber feet on the CPU. This revision was still made from copper and looked like this:
After that type had been out for some time, an idea was spawned and someone made one of them out of aluminum instead of copper. This allowed the shim to be electrochemically colored in a process called anodization. This process bonds a dye to the metal and makes the metal harder and electrically non-conductive. All pretty good features for a shim. This type looked like this:
Now that shim has gone under a change of design. This new model removes a lot of the center metal, making it a lot lighter. This actually makes a lot of sense as a design, because nothing but the outside edge of the HSF can touch the shim. The design looks like this:
This new design from High Speed PC appears to be pretty well made. I like the fact that it doesn't come close to the CPU core, so that it can't chip it or anything accidentally.