IntroductionIntel has within the past few years moved from solder to thermal grease as the thermal interface material (TIM) between its mainstream SKU CPU dies and the integrated heatspreader (IHS). This, along with a higher density of transistors on the CPU die as die shrinks continued to happen, has resulted in a larger bottleneck to heat transfer from the CPU die to the IHS, which in turn limits the amount of heat transfer from the IHS to the CPU cooler/waterblock/pot being used. Lowering said bottleneck would result in the thermal equilibrium of the CPU core/package shifting towards a lower value, and with fan curves set to spin faster as per CPU temperatures, a lower CPU temperature would lower fan noise, and ultimately your computer's. The potential for a quieter system alone has resulted in more people getting involved in de-lidding their CPUs to do so. There are other possible side benefits, including a higher overclock at the same core voltage or even lower power consumption, but these can vary from sample to sample and testing condition to testing condition.
The practice of de-lidding a CPU is simple in theory - take the "lid" off the CPU. In this case, the lid is the IHS, which is to be removed from the CPU die. Erstwhile methods include the vice technique wherein the CPU IHS is put between the two jaws of a bench vice and a hammer is taken to literally knock the CPU die/PCB off, another being a sharp blade you use to pry the two apart. Needless to say, these have a high risk of failure even among the more experienced, which had de-lidding a CPU never catch on until recently.
Today, we will take a look at two popular de-lidding and re-lidding tools on the market in an attempt to raise awareness on how easily this is done and to add another data point on thermal testing, before and after. The first of these is from Aqua Computer, who has a rich history in water cooling and electronics, but has recently also gone into modding and support tools. Aqua Computer's Dr. Drop leak test kit, for instance, uses air to leak test a custom loop before filling in coolant, as this is safer and prevents any issues if you have a loose fitting somewhere, for example. The second is from a startup company called Rockit Cool, who has been involved with the enthusiast community from day one and went through a kickstarter to get this product to the retail market.
The obvious route after having de-lidded a CPU would be to swap the TIM. Enthusiasts have for a while now complained about Intel using a cheap and inexpensive thermal paste that performs poorly and creates a huge bottleneck to heat transfer. Yet others have blamed the thick silicone glue in creating an air gap between the CPU PCB and IHS. Today, we will examine all this and more using the Intel Core i7-7700K. It goes without saying that you WILL void your CPU warranty, and TechPowerUp will not be held liable for any issues if you do so and something goes wrong. Get an older, less expensive CPU to practice on if you must.