When it comes to building a PC, most users tend to do so with the stock cooler that comes with whatever processor they’re using. This is called the stock CPU cooler, and if you’ve been wondering whether you can simply use this stock CPU cooler without any problems, then yes, you can.
However, some people suggest that it is better to update to a larger aftermarket cooler because it means you’ll have a quieter and cooler CPU. But how much does this actually help, and do you even need an upgrade? Or can your issue be solved by other alternatives, such as better thermal paste for in case of overheating?
AMD Stock CPU Cooler vs Intel Stock CPU Cooler
The most common stock coolers are by Intel and AMD, which they ship along with their different CPUs. Within these, the most popular ones are Intel’s low-profile cooler and AMD’s Wraith Stealth cooler, both of which ship with a number of CPU and APU models by each company.
Both these coolers have relatively small heatsinks, which means they can get a bit loud when under a heavier load, and they can heat up quickly too; with temperatures crossing 70 degrees Celsius even at the best stock clock speeds. That being said, AMD’s Wraith Stealth is the superior stock cooler. As the name suggests, it is much quieter, but both coolers do not have the right disposition for overclocking.
Some other popular coolers by each company include Intel’s large stock cooler and AMD’s Wraith Spire; both of which are superior in terms of cooling efficiency because they have much heftier heatsinks. If overclocking isn’t something you are interested in or care about, these stock coolers should be enough for you. It is worth mentioning that AMD’s Spire performs a bit better than Intel again.
AMD coolers are generally better, that much we’ve established, but AMD also has more options available than Intel, Wraith Max, and the Wraith Prism – two larger and better versions of Wraith Spire, which come with their own RGB rings. AMD also offers some bare-bones and low-profile coolers for their СPUs. But even though AMD’s coolers are better than Intel’s, do they compare to aftermarket coolers?
Stock CPU Coolers vs Aftermarket Coolers
Unlike the stock cooler market, which is limited more or less to the few options offered by AMD and Intel, the aftermarket for coolers is much more diverse. It starts with regular and low-profile CPU coolers, which you can get if all you want is a quick and cheap substitute for your basic stock cooler, and goes on to pricier and more serious models that offer far better cooling without needing to use of massive heatsinks – so they can be used even in compact computer cases!
But while we’re on the subject of massive heatsinks, it’s worth mentioning that if you do happen to have enough room for one, there’s no reason for you not to get a tower cooler. Tower coolers are the best air coolers out there for desktop PCs – not only do they offer excellent cooling efficiency, but they are also very quiet as long as they’re not being pushed too hard.
The only thing that beats a tower cooler is a liquid cooler. Liquid coolers are elite; they are the most expensive aftermarket option by far. They work by using a circulating liquid instead of a heatsink, to take the heat away from the CPU and towards the radiators comprising of multiple cooling fans.
Now that you understand why aftermarket coolers are superior, as well as what options you have in the aftermarket, let’s look at whether you actually even need an upgrade; and which one you should upgrade to if the answer is yes.
Is a Stock CPU Cooler Enough for Gaming or Should You Upgrade?
Gamers, in particular, need to pay attention here; the cooler you have in your PC is very important for the gaming experience you’re going to have. To answer the above question, if your only alternative to an aftermarket cooler is older and less-capable design – such as the small Intel cooler we talked about first – then yes, an upgrade is recommended.
That being said, if you already have a newer processor that has a more advanced cooler design, then you have more options, and an upgrade is somewhat less necessary. The larger Intel stock coolers and the AMD Wraith coolers we talked about above would still be comparable to an aftermarket upgrade to an old cooler, in terms of performance.
And last but not least, if overclocking is your thing, or if you would simply like a bit more flexibility when it comes to thermal setup, then an upgrade would be a plus – even a cheap one. Look at it this way, for half the price of a new game, you will be getting a very reliable reduction in temperatures as well as a much higher margin of error when it comes to expanding performance. Reduced noise is, of course, a given.
In short, any stock cooler will keep a CPU from overheating, but if you want a more efficient cooler and want to do some CPU overclocking, then an aftermarket cooler will almost always be the better choice – and it will achieve these things with less noise too.
If you do decide to upgrade your cooler, remember to be careful with the dimensions and compatibility of the cooler with your PC, and do, of course, make sure that the aftermarket cooler you have chosen is compatible with your CPU itself, and is able to physically fit into your PC case.