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The NorthPole XE can be mounted in one of three ways, depending on what kind
of chip it is meant to cool. The basic mounting procedure is the same for all
three, but each differs slightly in the exact hardware it requires. Microcool
well-illustrated installation guide on their web site, but no such documentation
came with our samples. Telling the difference between the various parts can
be quite a challenge! Mounting hardware is included for
- AOpen's Pentium M based motherboards (compatibility with other manufacturers
is unknown, but probably possible)
- AMD-based northbridge chips that mount through holes in the motherboard
- Intel-based northbridge chip that mount through hooks on the surface of the
No matter which version you require, the basic parts are the same: Two brackets
are attached to the top of the heatsink, and two mounting posts
are attached to the motherboard. Installation is as simple as slipping the heatsink
between the mounting posts, making sure the brackets are in place, and screwing
down a nut to secure it in place.
The tricky part is getting the parts right. For some reason, each different
mounting system has its own mounting brackets, even though the Pentium M bracket
could probably accommodate all three with only minor modifications. The real
difference is the mounting posts, which must connect to the motherboard in exactly
the right way, and be just the right height to maintain the correct tension.
Mounting Posts ? Pentium M and AMD Boards
Most motherboards require mounting the posts through the board itself. A easy
to tighten thumbnut makes the installation a breeze, and two plastic washers
make sure that the metal post doesn't cause any short-circuits. The posts for
the Pentium M are 4 mm longer than the basic posts to account for the height
of the CPU socket, but the mounting procedure for a northbridge is otherwise
exactly the same.
The two washers sandwich the motherboard, and the thumbnut keeps things
Mounting Posts ? Intel Northbridge
A different kind of mounting post is needed for boards that have hooks instead
of holes for mounting the northbridge heatsink. In this case, there is a metal
sleeve that fits loosely over the hook on the motherboard. The mounting post
is secured with a single screw as shown in the illustration below. Even when
properly installed, the posts do not quite stand straight, and can easily be
moved from side to side by hand.
A single screw holds the post loosely in place.
To prevent damage to the chip, Microcool provides four soft foam pads
that can be applied to the base of the heatsink to take pressure off the edges
of the chip. Unfortunately, they proved to be too thick, and caused performance
issues later on. So long as the system will be stationary most of the time,
we recommend leaving them aside.
The good: Offset pads protect the CPU die;
The bad: They interfere with cooling performance.
Getting it under Tension
Next, two brackets are screwed on to opposite corners of the heatsink. This
is quite straightforward, but make sure you're using the correct brackets for
your mounting system!
The final step is to position the heatsink between the mounting posts and screw
everything in place. This is also quite straightforward, but there are a number
of potential trip points.
As mentioned, it is very important to use the correct parts. Use the wrong
mounting posts, and the tension will either be too much or too little. Use the
wrong brackets, and the mounting posts may not be straight.
It is also very important to use a plastic washer between the bracket and the
spring that keeps things under tension. I learned this the hard way: Without
the washer the spring can slip through the bracket, releasing the tension on
Correct: Washer separates the bracket from the spring.
Incorrect: Without washer, spring slips through bracket, releasing tension between heatsink and chip.
The springs are fully compressed when correctly installed.
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