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Shims on Athlon XP

By Vehementi · 42 replies
Feb 10, 2002
  1. I'm going to install a copper shim onto my Athlon XP, and I was wondering whether or not I should spread thermal compound on both sides of the shim, just on one side, or only on the contact between my CPU core and the heatsink?
  2. ToRN

    ToRN TS Rookie Posts: 156


    Would like to help, but don't have a clue what a shim is...
  3. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,686   +350


    Hope these images help explain what a shim is ;)
    Most installation guides I have read don't have Artic silver or other past on the underside of the shim. Infact none of the information that I could find about fitting a shim has any mention of putting any thermal paste on the shim at all. Just Artic Silver the core ;)
  4. Svoboda

    Svoboda TS Rookie Posts: 70

    arris is correct, no compound or anything on the shims, just put it on the core, but what are they for? just better contact? better heat dispersal?

  5. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 2,704

    But doesn't it make sense to spread some on both sides of the shim too? Or is it dangerous...I heard it was on the Xeon, but XP?
  6. uncleel

    uncleel TS Rookie Posts: 980

    The "REAL" uncleel

    I don't believe in shims. The HOT ZONE is the dead center (raised portion) of the cpu core. I'm not a fan of these trick shims etc. as too many people end up cracking or breaking something, throwing off the spring tension of their hsf.

    Theory wise, copper conducts heat better, but aluminum dissipates heat better, & one hsf I saw has both! Copper tanrishes, which is why nickel plated hsf are in vogue.

    So it's not just a matter of what you like but what AMD recommends.
    AMD Thermal Solutions

    I'd stick w/ a quality HSF & thermal compound (heat sink paste) like Artic Silver. This is the interface to conduct heat to the hsf, not the shim.
  7. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 2,704

    I'm ordering my shim from a site that's been around since '96, so they are very trusted. I would also think a shim can spread out the heatsink's contact with the CPU, because mine only touches the core. Although the heat is mostly generated at the core, I still think the shim would keep the other parts cool, and extend the life of my processor. Plus, the core of every processor is in a dead zone anyway, the fan motor is directly on top of it.
  8. uncleel

    uncleel TS Rookie Posts: 980

    The Real uncleel

    "because mine only touches the core"

    so does everyone else's! Did you read my reply? The ceramic "case" part of the cpu does not require cooling. More contact area does not mean better thermal transfer. The Law of Thermodynamics: Heat flows from hot to-cold. You actually may be transfering heat to your cpu!

    read this article-->

    Heatsink Guide Testing Methodology-->

    "site that's been around since '96, so they are very trusted"

    but it's just another high profit product to $ell. After a die is made, copper shim can be cranked out @ a machine shop for pennies. Your paying $5.95 for a piece of copper that cost 69¢ to manufacture.

    "should spread thermal compound on both sides of the shim"

    Caution: While much safer than silver greases engineered for high electrical conductivity, Arctic Silver II should be kept away from electrical traces, pins, and leads. The compound is slightly capacitive and could cause problems if it bridged two close-proximity electrical paths.
  9. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,946   +200

    Hi guys, I'm finally back! I see you have gotten this thing about shims a bit wrong here, let me explain.

    A shim is only used to protect the very fragile core of a CPU during installation of the heatsink, it's not designed to conduct heat in any way.

    Though when you use a shim you might make the heatsink sit a bit flatter on the core and thus increase the cooling performance but it's absolutley not because the shim conducts heat from the cheramic of the CPU into the heatsink; that would be impossible because of this fact:

    It's only the core in a CPU that gets hot (and extremley hot at that) now if you don't have any heatsink on the procesor core the heat will have to go down and into the cheramic, but since cheramic doesn't conduct heat your CPU will burn up in a matter of seconds...

    But when there is a HSF on the CPU core the heat will go into that and then slowly get radiated into the surrounding air by the fan that sits ontop of the HSF.

    Now this is a very slow process and thus the underside of the HSF can get quite hot, if we now have a shim with thermalcompund here so that it actually makes contact with both the HSF and CPU heat will be transfered from the heatsink and back into the CPU because the cheramic is *colder* than the heatsink... not good!

    Though if we don't have any thermalcompound here no contact will ever be made because the height of a typical AMD Socket A processor from the cheramic and to the top of the core is about 0,1 - 0,2mm more than that of a shim.

    So there you have it, Shim=Protection, not improved cooling...

    And the bottom line is: Always use a shim: They only cost a fraction of your CPU but can truly be the thing that saves it's life when you get your clumsy fingers in there and put on the new heatsink or watercooler ;)
  10. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +7

    Fire at will, Commander!

    I have nightmares about exactly that!:eek:
  11. uncleel

    uncleel TS Rookie Posts: 980

    Your paying $5.95 for a piece of copper that cost 69¢ to manufacture.

    If you do a lil' research, (link preforementioned) the object of the "non-conductive" shim or spacer is exactly what Per said, "protect the very fragile core of a CPU during installation of the heatsink, it's not designed to conduct heat in any way. "

    I have yet to see a test or an ad that says temperatures are lowered by copper shims. Any product that can be marketed, will be marketed.As Seen On TV
  12. SilvrNBlack

    SilvrNBlack TS Rookie

    Pop goes the XP!!!!!

    All I have seen in reviews of shims is a lot of complaint about rises in temperature and broken chips.
  13. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,946   +200

    Well then those people can't be very technically minded; I mean there is really noting you can do wrong if you just use that thing between your ears a wee bit...
  14. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 2,704

    So I shouldn't get a shim? I'll just get another case fan and some Arctic Silver then :giddy:
  15. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    If I'm not mistaken..

    Shims were not designed for cooling, but to keep you from crushing your processor. I might be mistaken though, but that has been the major application for them around here.
  16. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 2,704

    Hmm. So is it worth it or not?
  17. Mudshark

    Mudshark TS Rookie Posts: 101

    Hotter with shim

    I have read numerous reports that shims in fact raise the temp.
    of the CPU by trapping the heat close to the core, which would
    otherwise be free to dissipate.
    They do however offer the less experienced system builder a bit
    of "protection" from crushing or chipping the core during Heat-
    sink installation.
    As Per Hansson correctly points out, there is (should be) no
    contact between the shim and heat sink, therefore no thermal
    compound is needed, the shim is not for cooling, it’s just there
    to keep the heat sink square on the core …….and to keep that
    extra little bit of heat in there ;-)
  18. PHATMAN5050

    PHATMAN5050 TS Rookie Posts: 593

    STOP, do NOT install the shim on the processor. I read somewhere that shims are NOT to be installed on the Athlon XP systems as they will fry. I will look for a link for you later, but till then do not put on the shim...
  19. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,946   +200

    For crying out load read my post Phatman!

    If you check that the shim is not/isn't/do not make contact with the L bridges on the CPU everything will be fine!

    If you want to go further put a small dab of arctic silver on the core but don't smear it out; Put the heatsink on and then remove it; If the Arctic silver has been squished together everything is fine!

    Do you want me to make a small movie of it? It's really not complicated if you just do some fore-thought...
  20. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 2,704

    Yea, only an incorrectly installed shim would do that. There are spaces to fit over the various components displayed on the surface. They're specially made for XP's, or whatever CPU is being protected. Thanks for enlightening me on the subject...I now will not install a shim, only Arctic Silver 3 over the core...They really need to design fans to accomodate only the core getting hot, which is right over the fan motor...
  21. PanicX

    PanicX TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 669

    This is exactly why I'm a fan of the Thermosonic Thermoengine, this heatsink channels heat from the core through the "dead zone" of the fan's airflow, and then radiates the heat to fins located directly in the airflow created by the fan. I also like how the design allows air to circulate around the edges of the CPU core that's not in contact with the heat sink.

    Personally, I think that with as hot as these CPU's run, they should have a "cold plate" installed on the core by the manufacturor for better heat dissipation, and more surface area contact with the heatsink.
  22. Wolfridr

    Wolfridr TS Rookie

    Do you guys do any research??

    Just a really curious question... Ok the copper shim is good for a few things:

    1) It prevents you from cracking the core with tight heatsinks.

    2) DONT EVER... EVER... EVER... put thermal paste on your ceramic part of the cpu... ESPECIALLY if you are using Arctic Silver or any paste that is conductive. You WILL fry your cpu. The ONLY thing the paste should go on is your core. (the little thing that rises up from the center of your cpu). Its a BAD BAD BAD thing when bridges get connected that shouldn't be!

    3) Don't say using a copper shim doesn't help conduct heat away from your cpu, when I installed mine, my idle temp dropped 2 degrees because it made my heatsink LEVEL. The copper shim helps to create MORE spring tension on the heatsink, causing a tighter fit with NO GAPS. The whole point of the shim is to keep your heatsink LEVEL on the CORE so the WHOLE CORE touches the heatsink. Used properly with arctic silver instead of the crappy thermal tape that comes with most heat sinks or with the regular white non conductive paste can drop your cpu temps by up to 10 degrees. When I switched to this combo, it did on my system, and according to the rest over the gang at overclockers cafe, it does for them too...

    Couple of notes for people changing the heatsinks for the first time: Always use Arctic Silver I, II, or III depending on your preference, it is waaaaay better than the white paste. 2) Always shine a flashlight UNDER your heatsink from all sides to make sure there is NO space between your heatsink and the core... If there is space, the core doesn't conduct heat to the heatsink effectively. If there is space, it is usually because your clips on your heatsink are BENT and a SHIM fixes this, it keeps your heatsink LEVEL. Bottom line, if you crack your core when using your shim, you are an *****. Nothing personal, but do you know how much force that would take?? If you do something like that, you should really NOT be playing around inside your computer... Chances are 1 person installing a heatsink can't put that much torque on the cpu while holding the heatsink with one hand and securing the clip with the other! BTW: When installing a heatsink, always leave your computer in the final position it will be in when you are done... If you keep your box verticle, and unless you have a server, chances are your box is taller than it is wider... That way it doesn't shift position when you lift it up. Plus, you just can't put that much pressure to crack the core when you have one hand on the backside of your mobo to keep it standing upright and the other trying to secure the clip...

    Lets see, to buy a new XP+2000 cpu is about $246 according to www.pricewatch.com if you screw up when changing your heatsink... The price of a shim, $4.95... Seems like more than a fair price to FEEL SAFE when changing your heatsink. Lets face it, good heatsinks, like the Volcano7s or the Alpha PALS are VERY heavy, with very strong springs (as in the case of the thermaltake Volcano7) or tension screws right into your mobo (as in the case of the Alpha) and you can crack your core when installing them if you are careless and don't know what you are doing... 5 bucks for the piece of mind that you won't crack your core is worth it.

    Here's a link to help you make the choice whether you want to use a shim or not:


    Just wanted to let you know!!

  23. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,946   +200

    As you see I never said that a shim doesn't improve cooling; I just said that the shim itself doesn't transfer heat ;)

    Oh, and welcome to the 3DSpotlight forums!
  24. uncleel

    uncleel TS Rookie Posts: 980

    C -or- F ?

    Ditto Per!
    A *2° drop in idle temperture cannot be directly attributed to the shim w/o confirming thru use of a probe. More likely better seating & tension is the reason. Every article I've read says to use ceramic shims, not copper. In fact copper HSF are discouraged unless they are nickel plated, due to tarnishing (green goo) problems.

    Newcomer Wolfridr's post is sound & well written. We all seem to agree; Quality Termal Compound & Quality HSF!

    * C -or- F ? Apx. 2°f drop would = 1.1°c, conversely a 2°c drop = 3.6°f
  25. Wolfridr

    Wolfridr TS Rookie

    Yup! I totally agree. Putting a shim on gave my HSF better tension and made it completely level... So why the SHIM ITSELF didn't decrease my temperatures, it was a cog in the wheel of my cooling system :). The decrease was in C, and was monitored by Motherboard Monitor 5. If you don't use it, check it out, once you set it up correctly, it is an excellent tool. Here's a link for you guys:


    How many fans do you guys have in your box?? I've done a few minor adjustments with inexpensive equipment to make my system run really cold. Here's the few things I've done.

    1) I have 2 3 fan hard drive coolers. I have four 5.25 drive bays. I took the bottom where the is no drive to restrict airflow, and put one in their, sucking cool air in. I took one of the hd coolers apart and put the fans in backwards so they blow out, and put that in the top 5.25 slot, so it blows warm air from the top of my system out.

    2) Cleaned up the top blow hole by cuttting it out and put an 80mm enermax thermal control fan on it, but put the sensor on the heatsink so it always runs at 3100 rpms blowinr air up and out of my system.

    3) Cleaned up the bottom blow hole by cutting it out and put the same 80mm enermax fan on it with sensor also on cpu heatsink.

    4) Took 3, yes 3 slot fans. Took my soundblaster card and put it in bottom slot, put a slot fan above it, blowing any warm air out that rises off the back of the card.

    4b) Took my second slot fan and put it in the AMR slot above the AGP slot because I don't have an AMR modem. This takes hot air rising from the Geforce3 TI500 and blows it out the back.

    4c) Took apart the slot fan so that it sucks in air, rather than blow it out, and turned it upside down (real easy, for one, you can pull them right apart with your bare hands to reseat the fan, and to turn it upside down, the bracket is reversable, so it takes about 2 mins to do) and put this under my video card, so the cool air sucks in and blows on the card. It is a good 6 inches away from the bottom slot fan, so while it may be getting a little hot air feedback from that, that is outweighed by the cooler air it is getting from the room, rather than in the case...

    5) Got a thermaltake volcano7, but took the heat sensor off of it, so it aways runs at 5500rpms. Of course, with a SHIM :) hehe. And Arctic Silver II, III wasn't out yet when I did it, and I'm not going to order III until I run out of the II.

    6) Took my original chipset heatsink off, took off the crappy thermal tape, cleaned the chipset with nail polish remover, cleaned the heatsink as well, and then sanded it down with a metal finishing pad, put arctic silver on the chipset and the superglued the edges of the heatsink down. Then I took an old 60x60x20 heatsink fan and superglued that to the heatsink, and it keeps my chipset really cold. I can overclock way higher now (about 14% higher now) just because of the chipset cooling.

    7) Got thermaltakes ACTIVE memory cooling kit (a 40x40x20mm fan on your memory) Takes about 5 mins to install. And keeps your memory very cool!

    Now my system runs really cold between 40-44 degrees, and that is overclocked to 1725 with 150fsb...

    Next project is to put two of the 80mm fans in the left side, 1 blowing down by the pci slots, and one blowing up high by the cpu. I'll have to put one more fan up high to keep the air movement in and out relatively the same. And, next week, I'm adding rounded cables, they should help with better air flow...

    Well, thats my neverending battle :) It seems I can always find a pet project to do... Also, you need a really good Power Supply to to this, personally mine is 425W with a 230TCO.

    Getting back to the original idea of the post, Motherboard Monitor 5 will also monitor your voltages to tell you if your PSU isn't quite up to the task!

    Thanks for all the good thoughts on my first post here!

    Be cool! :grinthumb

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