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Delidding your Intel Haswell CPU

Manufacturer: PC Perspective



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Since the introduction of the Haswell line of CPUs, the Internet has been aflame with how hot the CPUs run. Speculation ran rampant on the cause with theories abounding about the lesser surface area and inferior thermal interface material (TIM) in between the CPU die surface and the underside of the CPU heat spreader. It was later confirmed that Intel had changed the TIM interfacing the CPU die surface to the heat spreader with Haswell, leading to the hotter than expected CPU temperatures. This increase in temperature led to inconsistent core-to-core temperatures as well as vastly inferior overclockability of the Haswell K-series chips over previous generations.

A few of the more adventurous enthusiasts took it upon themselves to use inventive ways to address the heat concerns surrounding the Haswell by delidding the processor. The delidding procedure involves physically removing the heat spreader from the CPU, exposing the CPU die. Some individuals choose to clean the existing TIM from the core die and heat spreader underside, applying superior TIM such as metal or diamond-infused paste or even the Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra metal material and fixing the heat spreader back in place. Others choose a more radical solution, removing the heat spreader from the equation entirely for direct cooling of the naked CPU die. This type of cooling method requires use of a die support plate, such as the MSI Die Guard included with the MSI Z97 XPower motherboard.

Whichever outcome you choose, you must first remove the heat spreader from the CPU's PCB. The heat spreader itself is fixed in place with black RTV-type material ensuring a secure and air-tight seal, protecting the fragile die from outside contaminants and influences. Removal can be done in multiple ways with two of the most popular being the razor blade method and the vise method. With both methods, you are attempting to separate the CPU PCB from the heat spreader without damaging the CPU die or components on the top or bottom sides of the CPU PCB.

Continue reading editorial on delidding your Haswell CPU!!

Razor Blade Method

The razor blade method involves using a double-edged razor blade to cut through the RTV material fixing the heat spreader in place, gently prying the heat spreader from the CPU PCB's surface. You carefully work the blade very carefully under all four corners of the heat spreader to weaken the RTV bond and slowly pry the heat spreader up off of the CPU's surface. This method has many potential pitfalls though. One of the largest is the possibility of cutting into the CPU PCB surface while attempting to cut through the RTV holding the heat spreader in place. Another pitfall to avoid with this method is the possibility of cutting through the circuits along the right and left sides of the CPU die. This is more likely to occur if you attempt to insert the blade too far underneath the heat spreader while attempting to cut through the RTV.

Vise Method

The vise method involves locking the CPU in place by the heat spreader in a bench vise and using a rubber mallet to forcibly remove the CPU PCB from the heat spreader. You basically place a wood block against the edge of the CPU PCB and lightly tap the wood block until you notice separation between the CPU PCB and the heat spreader. While this method seems much more prone to CPU destruction than the razor blade method, it is actually a much safer method and much less prone to pitfalls. As such, we chose to use the vise method to remove the CPU PCB from the heat spreader. In the following pages, we document the necessary tools, the vice method in detail, and the gross results of our freshly delidded Intel 4770K processor.

August 25, 2014 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

if you do go direct to die, if you are running and ek block you could use their adapter kit so that the mount is correct.

August 25, 2014 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

The MSI Die Guard *should* give the same amount of protection as the EK mounting system, theorectically.  But after my *adventures*, I don't think I'll be returning to the land of "direct-die cooling" (and I don't think my wife will let me either)...

November 20, 2015 | 04:14 PM - Posted by Lorenzitto (not verified)

You bought CPU with your wife money?

August 25, 2014 | 11:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is that a sort of pun on it being the wiser method or do you not know how to spell 'vice'?

August 25, 2014 | 11:31 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Or maybe....

August 25, 2014 | 12:18 PM - Posted by Daisyahoy

seems harbor freight doesn't know how to spell it either. Or maybe......

August 25, 2014 | 02:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thats how you spell It for crying out loud!

August 25, 2014 | 02:47 PM - Posted by sixstringrick

The British spell it "vice" in America we spell it "vise".


August 25, 2014 | 09:09 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Thanks for checking.  I did double check that before posting, but you never know...

August 25, 2014 | 02:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Though, in the case of the Haswell CPU TIM, both may be acceptable depending upon interpretation. :P

August 25, 2014 | 11:28 AM - Posted by razor512

With the older AMD CPUs, the dies were much smaller, which allowed for easier and safer heat sink use without a heat spreader in place.

The larger dies, also cause issues for some users who only use a tiny drop of thermal compound which fails to property cover the die area.

August 26, 2014 | 12:02 PM - Posted by Dusty

That is not true, over time die size has remained similar, but transistor count has increased significantly. This means, that even though TDP has gone down, there is more heat being produced in a smaller area. Smaller transistors are also less resilient to heat. This is the need for a the IHS. Secondly, if contact between the CPU and the heatsink is good, the less TIM is used, and the better the transfer of heat will be. This is because heat transfer is a function of thickness of the material.

August 25, 2014 | 11:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

dont use the MSI guard, just exchange the TIM and put the old heatspreader back on! my 4770K runs just fine like this.

August 25, 2014 | 11:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sorry that happened to you, Morry. That is one strong reason why I don't bother with extreme overclocking, and thus never need to resort to such "in-depth" methods to boost overclocking potential. The benefits never seemed to outweigh the potential loss of a chip.

August 25, 2014 | 12:45 PM - Posted by Lord_Exodia (not verified)

What type of temps are people getting with this method using air or standard enclosed kits found in most stores? Also what type of overclocks are people getting with these impoved temps? None of this was addressed so I'm not even sure if it's worth the trouble.

August 25, 2014 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah, I was expecting some sort of comparison between temps/stability or something.

August 25, 2014 | 03:21 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Unfortunately, my CPU die cracked before i could really get any in-depth analysis done on temps and overclocking.  However, I did see a 20C drop in temps initially (until that of which will not be spoken occurred :))

At the first incident, I was not really willing to possibly sacrifice another CPU to the CPU-gods...

August 26, 2014 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Lord_Exodia (not verified)

Understood Morry, 20c is nothing to scoff at. That will at the very least extend the life and stability of your CPU since intel's boost will likely react better to temps in the much healthier threshold. I'm curious if this will net someone the elusive 5Ghz + overclocks that were initially rumored but then denounced once the chips released and were reviewed.

Anyone have a good experience with this? What were your OC results? We can't expect Morry to possibly sacrifice another flagship chip :)

August 26, 2014 | 04:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

yes mine droped arround 20°C under water.

August 25, 2014 | 02:50 PM - Posted by sixstringrick

Sigh...if only Morry had the used MSI Die Guard

August 25, 2014 | 08:10 PM - Posted by willmore (not verified)

Do you ever get the impression that people don't even read the articles? Heck, at least look at the pretty pictures!!!

August 26, 2014 | 01:14 AM - Posted by razor512

It is absolutely amazing how well it worked! :)

If only all things worked that well; I could try to turn on my TV and have the stove leak gas instead.

August 25, 2014 | 04:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If only that big x86 CPU monopoly had used better thermal interface material to begin with, no one would have to flip their lids, or crack their dies.

August 26, 2014 | 12:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

And the world would be a more boring place.

August 26, 2014 | 12:49 AM - Posted by Laststop (not verified)

Thank the gods haswell-e will be going back to soldered tim like my i7-980x. Finally upgrading my x58 system and I thought I was going to have to delid to be able to properly overclock the i7-5960x 8 core. Since 8 core haswell-e will only be 3.0ghz at stock getting the best OC potential out of this chip is very important as single thread performance will suffer without a healthy overclock.

Now that haswell-e is back to quality soldering as the tim delidding is no longer necessary. I know 8 core haswell-e is not going to hit 4.6-4.7ghz like the quad cores but I am hoping I can get it up to 4.2ghz at least like my i7-980x 6 core is clocked.

I'll be water cooling it. EKWB supremacy full nickel waterblock, Alphacool Nexxos 60mm thick Full Copper Triple 140mm Radiator (420mm total) with 6x 140mm noctua a15 fans in push pull (really need push/pull with 60mm thick rads), XSPC dual 5.25" bay reservoir with dual mcp655 pumps in serial with 1/2" ID tubing at pump speed 3(i use dual pumps in serial for my water cooling because I need the extra power running through my loop as it cools not only the cpu but full coverage of the motherboard as well as my videocard and using 2 pumps allows me to lower the pump speed on both to reduce noise. Thats also why i have a huge 420mm 140mm x 3 and triple thick 60mm radiator. Just 1 massive loop that cools everything. I'm not totally crazy with that huge a setup just to cool the cpu.

Basically if I can't get the 8 core haswell to 4.2ghz nobody is.

August 26, 2014 | 07:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Basically if I can't get the 8 core haswell to 4.2ghz nobody is."

Laststop is my heeeeeero. Just be sure to keep those radiator fans running quiet. You don't want the noise to leave the basement and anger your mom and dad.

August 26, 2014 | 09:40 AM - Posted by Lord_Exodia (not verified)

They'd better use the Tim fit only for the Gods on that $1000+ CPU!

August 26, 2014 | 12:27 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Ahhh- to be able to afford to trashing, I mean delidding, your CPU ....

August 28, 2014 | 09:45 AM - Posted by Dr_b_ (not verified)

Does intel bin the Haswell-E chips before packaging them?

Since its just a Xeon with bad cores that failed QA and were shutoff/cutoff from the rest of the die, they are using the same solder pack process as they would for dice that had all 12 functioning cores that would be sold as a Xeon, and that is likely happening regardless of the binning.

August 26, 2014 | 02:00 PM - Posted by PhoneyVirus

I was considering this approach when I got no more then 200MHz overclocked with the system locking up from BSOD. Changed my mind and said it's not even worth the headache.


August 27, 2014 | 08:27 AM - Posted by Berserkism

Sick to death of hearing the "sub par TIM" argument.

In fact, it really fucking annoys me.

The reduction in distance between the die and heatspreader, due to the removal of the glue, is the reason you get lower temps.
It has next to nothing to do with the quality of the TIM.

God damn it!

August 28, 2014 | 09:57 AM - Posted by Dr_b_

Since Haswell-E is just a Xeon with bad cores that failed QA and were shutoff/cutoff from the rest of the die and down marketed to consumers, they are using the same solder pack process as they would for dice that had all 12 functioning cores that would be sold as a Xeon, and that is likely happening regardless of the binning.

Even without OC, regular Haswell reaches very high temps under certain work loads, 70C+, although it still works.

September 7, 2014 | 08:59 PM - Posted by Ben (not verified)

Why doesn't intel just solder their dies to the spreader? There wouldn't even be a need to delid.

October 26, 2015 | 12:25 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"should reassemble" > "should resemble"

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