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Improving the Thermal Performance of the Intel Kaby Lake CPU

Manufacturer: RockIt Cool

The Tools of the Trade

Tools Required

To remove and reattach the processor's heat spreader, you will need some parts that can be obtained from the manufacturer, Amazon.com, or maybe even your local electronics store (if you happen to live in an area that has a Fry's or Microcenter locally that is).

  • RockIt Cool's RockIt 88 delidder tool
  • Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra thermal compound
  • RTV adhesive
  • clear scotch tape
  • paper towels and/or Q-tips
  • high grade Isopropyl alcohol (> 90% concentrate)
  • credit card or hard rubber/plastic card

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In addition to the delidder tool, the other two items that you might not readily have on hand is the thermal compound and RTV adhesive. We chose to use Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra thermal compound to interface the processor die with the heat spreader because of its high conductivity and easy application (with care that is). High thermal conductivity is key for this operation because we are doing this whole procedure to replace the sub-par TIM used by Intel in the first place on the Kaby Lake processor. The TIM should also be easy to spread in a thin layer because you do not want that highly conductive material to bleed off of the processor die into the surrounding surface mounted circuitry. For adhering the heat spreader back onto the processor PCB, we chose to use Black RTV silcone-based adhesive because it is high temperature automotive grade adhesive, meaning that it is high strength even under punishing temperatures and is plastic as well as electronics safe (which is even more important).

RockIt Cool RockIt 88

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The RockIt 88 kit as shown supports delidding of an LGA1150, LGA1151, or LGA1155 processor. The base kit comes with the bottom and top pieces. Also shown is the add-on LGA1150 Re-Lid Kit for attaching the heat spreader back onto the CPU PCB. The kit used supports re-lidding for both LGA1150 and LGA1151 processors. A separate kit is available for use with LGA1155 processors. All parts are made from high quality, CNC-machined plastic for durability. RockIt Cool also includes case stickers with the RockIt 88 kit.

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The base RockIt 88 kit is a simple affair consisting of the acrylic top and bottom peices, held together securely with three acrylic topped metal screws that hold the top peice in place by screwing directly into the threaded holes in the bottom peice.

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The bottom plate holds the processor in place with an inlay that fits the bottom of the supported processors snuggly and a cutout section underneath the processor inlay to accommodate the circuitry on the backside of the processor PCB. Pictured in the lower left corner of the bottom plate is a triangle cutout for processor orientation purposes - you simply line up the triangle on the processor PCB with triangle on the bottom plate. The depth side walls of the processor inlay match the the processor thickness so that the sliding mechanism in the top plate can push the heat spreader off the PCB without interacting with the PCB itself. Note that their are circular indentations along the top and bottom sides of the process inlay for easy placement to and removal from the device.

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The top plate of the RockIt 88 consists of the top plate itself, a sliding metal plate and a torque screw. The top plate contains three pass through holes so it can be mated to the bottom plate using the provide thumbscrews. The top plate contains a main chamber that fits over the processor heat spreader as well as a channel which the metal push plate slides along. The metal plate is held in place via a metal screw through the top of the main plate. The torque screw exerts force to the metal plate to push the heat spreader off of the processor PCB. The torque screw fits into the main plate via a threaded pass through in the side of the device.

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The Re-Lid Kit consists of a hold down plate, a torque plate, and a thumbsrew. The hold down plate snaps directly onto the RockIt 88's bottom plate, holding the PCB in place and orienting the heat spreader correctly on the PCB's surface. The torque plate sits on top of the hold down plate, held fast using the three thumbscrews from the RockIt 88. The kit's thumbscrew screws directly into the torque plate, exerting downward force onto the top plate to fix it in place.

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The torque plate, or re-lid spider as RockIt Cool refers to it on the site, is an acrylic triangular part with three pass throughs and a threaded pass through in the center, as well as built-in spaces at the end of each arm. The spacers are high enough to provide space between the top of the plate and the heat spreader so that the center thumbscrew can apply downward pressure to the processor heat spreader plate. The triangular assembly allows the device to apply the downward pressure to the center of the heat spreader to ensure that the thumbscrew provides pressure evenly over the processor PCB and die surface.

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The hold down plate is made to snap directly onto the RockIt 88 bottom plate with inbuilt clips to its underside. It has an upper hole and two side cutouts that are pass-through holes for the thumbscrews. From the top view, you can better see the genius in the design. The hold down plate locks the processor PCB in place and also acts as a guide for the heat spreader. Along each side of the center space (for the heat spreader) are channels to accommodate the side wings on the heat spreader with downward angled feet along all sides to better guide the heat spreader in place.


March 13, 2017 | 02:19 PM - Posted by willmore

Yay, Morry's back!

March 13, 2017 | 03:03 PM - Posted by Zach Davis (not verified)

Great article guys!

March 13, 2017 | 03:48 PM - Posted by Mobile_Dom

I think the impressive thing is that not only did you receive a 20 degree delta on hottest temps, but how much easier it is to do with these kits now.

Though the fact the Ryzen IHS and TIM is already pretty great means you dont need to do this etc etc.

March 13, 2017 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Very true there.  AMD took the solder route, similar to what Intel does with their LGA2011 processors.  Makes heat transfer and dissipation much more efficient.

March 13, 2017 | 04:27 PM - Posted by Jann5s

Intel TIM: Thermal Isolation Material, it works as advertised :D

joking aside....

I think it is a nearly a crime that intel can sell $300+ dollar cpus without proper TIM. It seems that the material they used is even worse than ketchup.

@Morry, do you have any tips for us about the expected lifetime of the Coollaboratory Liquid Metal? Is it advised to re-apply after a year? And would you then recommend using the adhesive to glue back the heat spreader?

March 13, 2017 | 04:56 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Liquid metal application should last for the life of the proc.  This should be a "one and done" type procedure.  You could do it more then once, but every time you crack the heatspreader off the PCB, you risk ruining the proc.

As far as re-adhering the heatspreader to the proc PCB, I used black RTV.  relaively cheap, easily found as your local walmart or automotive store, and is electronics and plastic safe.

You *could* try naked cooling the CPU die, but I wouldn't recommend it, especially after my failed attempted with teh 4770K....

March 13, 2017 | 05:29 PM - Posted by Buyers

When HardOCP did their de-lid/re-lid testing on the 7700k/7600k processors, they attempted naked die cooling and it sounded really risky. Basically, the head spreader also spread the clamping force necessary to adequately seat the processor into the socket. Without the heat spreader, all that downward force is is isolated to the bare die unless you make some kind of shim. I think their results with bare die cooling was that it was only a few degrees better than just re-lidding with the better TIM, but not worth the added risk to the die.

March 14, 2017 | 01:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Intel TIM: Thermal Isolation Material, it works as advertised :D"

TIM is fine, it's the separation between the IHS and die surfaces that is the issue. If you delid and then relid and don't even touch the stock TIM, you'd get the same improvement in thermal performance.
https://forums.anandtech.com/threads/delidded-my-i7-3770k-loaded-tempera...

March 14, 2017 | 04:27 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

While that forum post from a few years back remains relavent to the conversation, it discussed delidding of an entirely different processor.  There may be an issue in the separation between IHS and die surface, but for the 7700 series, the TIM is most definately problematic.

Thanks...

March 13, 2017 | 06:33 PM - Posted by Admiral_Akbar

@Morry, it feels like you're missing an image near the bottom of page 1.

We go from "Next, carefully snap the Re-Lid hold down.." to "At this point, you are almost done. Before applying the black RTV.." without showing the application of the RTV

Hopefully I'm not imagining things

March 13, 2017 | 06:44 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

yeah, I noticed that too.  Unfortunately, I did not get a pic of the RTV applied to the heatspreader before putting humpty dumpty back together again. And I didn't want to press my luck after getting a good mating...

March 13, 2017 | 06:57 PM - Posted by Admiral_Akbar

True, a good mate is hard to find.

Maybe moving the picture with the headspeader down so it sits above "Screw the center screw into the torque plate and then carefully fix the torque plate in place over the..." would help?

March 13, 2017 | 09:02 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Good idea, thanks for the input...

March 13, 2017 | 07:04 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Morry - Do you have any recommendations for a thermal paste that would last for years like the original TIM would? My only concern with de/re-lidding is you might need to reapply the paste in 2-3 years as it does dry out over time..

March 13, 2017 | 08:58 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

not entirely sure.  Some reports say that liquid ultra does degrade within a year, but on most of those forum posts, people were using direct die cooling without an IHS installed.  That introduces direct air contact as well as possible humidity affects.  The IHS would better protect the die area and the TIM from "open air" type affects...

March 13, 2017 | 10:35 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Good point. Thanks!

March 14, 2017 | 11:03 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Morry, it looks like the original heatspreader adhesive application left a small air gap. The adhesive does not appear to make a closed loop all the way around the perimeter of the heatspreader. Did you replicate this when you re-adhered the HS to the PCB? If so, doesn't that allow air under the HS and potentially cause the open air/humidity issues?

March 14, 2017 | 11:20 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I'm not sure if I left the gap when I resealed it.  While it is true that the gap would leave a section for air exchange, the IHS is very securely fixed to the PCB surface, so the gap is minimal.  So it still wouldn't be as greatly affected as a naked die would...

March 14, 2017 | 01:03 PM - Posted by Buyers

They leave an opening to let out air pressure created as the die heats up. Old processor IHS's used to have a small hole for this.

March 13, 2017 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sorry your onclusion is wrong. Conclusion should be that Intel is doing shit this time. How come an experienced CPU manufacturer like Intel does not make it better than all what they did in the past? Someone at Intel is paid way too much and should be fired. Teenagers still at school can do better.

March 15, 2017 | 12:25 PM - Posted by Dennis (not verified)

Scotch tape... for real?! You never heard of ESD i take it.
From now on use Anti Static Tape. Kapton Tape is my choice.

March 16, 2017 | 01:41 AM - Posted by Danny (not verified)

Nevertheless, delidding IHS voids warranty, and may possibly damage CPU unless he/she uses proper delidding tool.

March 16, 2017 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Be careful with that Gallium. It eats aluminum and corrodes copper.

http://www.overclock.net/t/1313179/official-delidded-club-guide/14340#po...

March 19, 2017 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Learn some stuff, guys:

http://overclocking.guide/the-truth-about-cpu-soldering/

When you consider the thermal density of these small dies, it is much easier to have micro-cracks in the solder due to constant thermal cycles, which will increase the chance of killing the CPU. That's the reason why Intel doesn't solder their mainstream chips ever since Ivy Bridge. They could get away with it with sandy because it was on a larger node.

While paste doesn't perform as well as solder, it eliminates this issue, which is why the Engineers went with it.

The reason why liquid metal wasn't used is because it was not necessary. As you can see in most reviews, you're only gaining a few degrees from your typical paste vs. liquid metal. Hardly meaningful from a temperature standpoint, and especially from a cost standpoint. Remember, Intel is making hundreds of thousands of these CPUs, and liquid metal isn't cheap, nor is it as easy to apply to a product as paste is.

The reason why we are seeing increased temperatures isn't primarily because of the TIM used, but because of the gap between the heatspreader and the die. The glue they use to stick the heatspreader to the die raises it away from the die. As you can see in PCPer's picture, they took all of that glue off, so of course heat transfer is going to be more efficient due to it being closer. But doing so greatly increases the risk of damaging the die, but so does delidding.

March 20, 2017 | 07:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

4.8GHz is very easy to get to with a decent cooler and airflow. So I'd be looking at a 300MHz increase if all goes well, or a 6.25% increase, for about $50.

On a CPU limited game at 50fps that's an extra 3.1fps. On a compiler run that's CPU limited it'll be 56.5 seconds instead of 60.

I love reading this stuff but I guess I'm old and jaded anymore, it's cool for bragging rights though ;) Thanks for the write-up and the pictures, I like that you kept it so concise and informative.

July 16, 2017 | 01:17 PM - Posted by ExpatZ (not verified)

Yeah, exactly.
It's why I don't bother to overclock any more.
However, I have one of those Eurocom X9E3 laptops using a desktop i7-7700k processor and before I delidded and used some OCP I had around from an old overclock project I was throttling at 99C under full load in a 21C room.
After delidding and OCP application (using standard Arctic Silver 5 between the top of the HS and the heat spreader) it max's out at 78C, no throttling and idles at 34C instead of 40C in similar conditions.

So if you are having cooling issues and can't use a better CPU cooler (as I couldn't, laptop and all) a delid and OCP does seriously help out.

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