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Frequently Asked Questions about Thermal Management for Intel® Mobile Processors


Last Reviewed: 04-Dec-2017
Article ID: 000005953

Recommendations for thermal management in systems using boxed Intel® Mobile Processors are for professional system integrators building mobile PCs from industry accepted build-to-order laptops. You should have general knowledge of and experience with PC operation, integration, and thermal management. By following the recommendations, you can provide customers with more reliable PCs.

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What is thermal management?

Laptops using boxed Intel® Mobile Processors require thermal management. Thermal management refers to a properly mounted cooling solution with effective airflow to evacuate heat from the system. Thermal management keeps the processor at or below its maximum operating temperature.

Highly efficient cooling solutions rely on proper processor installation. In all laptop designs, the processor must be properly installed and attached to the laptop cooling solution.

 

Thermal management example 1 Thermal management example 2 Thermal management example 3

 

What is active cooling?

For high-power processors, most laptops employ one of two active cooling solutions:

  • Using a heatsink attached directly to the processor
  • Using a Remote Heat Exchanger (RHE), which allows the heatsink and fan to be placed far from the processor

A typical laptop cooling solution is more sophisticated than a desktop system cooling solution. Limited space and varying laptop design, layout, and processor location cause laptop cooling solutions to vary greatly. In all laptops, the processor may use passive and/or active cooling methods.

Some laptop designs use the RHE design along with a passive element to increase cooling efficiency. To add a passive element, a large metal plate is usually attached to a part of the RHE design. Extra heat dissipates passively from under the keyboard.

 

laptop cooling solution
 

What is a heat pipe?

Heat transfers from the processor to an attachment block. The heat pipe is typically a hollow copper pipe containing a fluid and wicking material that runs through the attachment block. By vaporization and recondensation, heat travels through the heat pipe to the fans of a heat exchanger (heatsink). Localized airflow then moves the heat from the system.

What is thermal interface material (TIM)?

Thermal interface material (TIM) provides efficient thermal exchange between the processor and attachment block. The TIM type may vary depending on the laptop manufacturer.

Proper installation of the TIM is crucial. Improper installation can cause the processor to overheat. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure the TIM makes 100% contact with the processor's exposed die and thermal solution attachment block.

Never touch the TIM. Any foreign substances like oils from your skin or chemicals can reduce effectiveness of the thermal contact between the processor and attachment block.

 
Note If the thermal interface material is removed from the processor, you most likely need to replace it. Thermal interface material has different thicknesses and thermal properties depending on the manufacturer. Contact your laptop vendor, manufacturer, or place of purchase for replacement.

thermal interface material Application of thermal interface material example 1Application of thermal interface material example 2
 

Do I need to replace the TIM if I replace my mobile processor?

If you remove the mobile processor's thermal solution, you should replace the TIM.

Where do I get TIM?

Each laptop has different size restrictions and thermal requirements, so laptop vendors or manufacturers must provide different thermal solutions. Thermal solutions are not provided for boxed desktop products.

What is a thermal sensor?

The Intel® Mobile Processors incorporate an on-die diode that monitors the die temperature (junction temperature). A thermal sensor on the motherboard, or a standalone measurement kit, can monitor the die temperature of the mobile processor for thermal management or instrumentation purposes.

What is thermal testing?

If you are building Intel® Mobile Processor-based laptops, consult the manufacturer to determine the highest power processor your laptop supports. Most laptops support throttling, a method of slowing down the processor if it exceeds maximum operating temperature. Throttling may cause performance reductions. Do not rely on throttling to manage the processor thermal solution.

If the processor is installed correctly and the system accommodates the power of the processor, you may not need thermal testing. Your laptop manufacturer may still provide software utilities that help monitor the processor temperature. Intel® Mobile Processors have built-in thermal diodes, and most laptops have built-in circuitry to convert diode readings into temperatures that can be monitored. Consult your laptop manufacturer for thermal monitoring utility availability.

Using thermocouples to measure processor temperature may be impractical, as any attachment of thermocouples may compromise the thermal solution's performance.

For more information on thermal specifications, processor power specifications, or Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology, refer to the processor datasheets below.

Datasheets

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