Introduction: Ziptie-Mounted Heatsink and Fans

Picture of Ziptie-Mounted Heatsink and Fans

I will show you how to mount two different heatsinks: one that I pulled out of an old Dell PowerEdge server and the default AMD heatsink that comes with most processors. As a bonus, I will show you how to mount case fans to heatsink fins!

Why?

My favorite thing to do with old computers is to salvage and use the old parts. Unfortunately, you always end up with odds and ends that don't match. This is a simple, easy way to reuse heatsinks and case fans - with decent cooling results!

What will I need?

  • Heatsink
  • Motherboard+ CPU
  • Thermal paste
  • Isopropyl alcohol (as high % as you can get!)
  • Cotton pads
  • A bag of small zipties (I found mine at the local dollar store)
  • A pair of scissors
  • Optional: A small knife, like a mini pocket knife


Word of Caution

In this Instructable I will not be going into detail about things such as electronics safety, how to apply thermal paste, etc.I assume that anybody using this guide is already familiar with the basics! Thank you!

PLEASE FOLLOW ALONG WITH MY PICTURES!

Step 1: Mounting a Heatsink WITH a 'gap'

Picture of Mounting a Heatsink WITH a 'gap'

Preparing and Cleaning your Hardware

First, lightly wet a cotton pad with isopropyl alcohol and wipe off any thermal paste gunk that might remain on your CPU or heatsink. Don't be afraid to use up a bunch of cotton pads to really get it clean. If your motherboard is still inside of a case, remove it before beginning the mounting process.

The Dirty Work

I recommend you go through these steps without thermal paste the first time you attempt it. If you mess up at any point, you can take a small knife and push it under the ziptie lock to free the ziptie so that you may retry.

  1. Put two zipties through one side of mounting holes and add a ziptie on each to extend them (see picture)
  2. Align your heatsink on top of the processor
  3. Slip each line of zipties through the heatsink's gap and into the mounting hole that is diagonally across. (I recommend making a cross with the zipties to make the firmest grip) If the zipties aren't long enough to make it through the hole, just use an extra.
  4. Lock the ends that are poking through the bottoms of the holes using another ziptie's head. Push each ziptie head as far as possible so the line is as tight as possible and the heatsink is being pressed as much as it can

Once you're done, you can clip any long ziptie leads with a pair of scissors to keep it nice and clean.

Step 2: Mounting a Heatsink WITHOUT a 'gap'

Picture of Mounting a Heatsink WITHOUT a 'gap'

Preparing and Cleaning your Hardware
First, lightly wet a cotton pad with isopropyl alcohol and wipe off any thermal paste gunk that might remain on your CPU or heatsink. Don't be afraid to use up a bunch of cotton pads to really get it clean. If your motherboard is still inside of a case, remove it before beginning the mounting process.

For the AMD heatsink, take off the bracket holding the fan in place by using a small knife or other prying tool. Keep the fan and bracket to the side for later.

The Dirty Work

I recommend you go through these steps without thermal paste the first time you attempt it. If you mess up at any point, you can take a small knife and push it under the ziptie lock to free the ziptie so that you may retry.

  1. Put two zipties through one side of mounting holes and add a ziptie on each to extend them (see picture)
  2. Align your heatsink on top of the processor
  3. Pull the zipties through the heatsink's copper pipes. The second zipties should be able to fit snuggly through the line of fins.
  4. Using a third ziptie, lock the second zipties in place and pull the third zipties' lead through the copper pipes and into the mounting holes. (see picture)
  5. Lock the ends that are poking through the bottoms of the holes

    using another ziptie's head. Push each ziptie 'head' as far as possible so the line is as tight as possible and the heatsink is being pressed as much as it can.

  6. Put the fan and bracket back on

Once you're done, you can clip any long ziptie leads with a pair of scissors to keep it nice and clean.

Step 3: Extra!: Mounting Case Fans to Heatsink Fins

Picture of Extra!: Mounting Case Fans to Heatsink Fins

What will I need?

  • 8 medium/long zipties
  • 2 fans of equal dimensions
  • Scissors
  • Optional: a small knife like a pocket knife

The Dirty Work

  1. Align the two fans to either side of the heatsink, making sure they are both facing the same way.
  2. Push a ziptie through one set of corner holes until the head is against the hole.
  3. Use a second head to lock the first ziptie in place, making sure not to tighten it too far - only snug!
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the zipties are through all four corners and are locked in place.
  5. Use a pair of scissors to clip off any long leads - such as on the zipties you used as locks.

Done!

If when you turn on your computer you hear a clicking noise of the fans hitting the heatsink, you've tightened the fans too far! Push a small knife under the ziptie's lock and loosen them a bit. They should be loose enough that you could pull them off the top.

Comments

yeerk21 (author)2016-03-18

zip ties eventually becomes brittle under the change in temperature, should change them out after half a year or so

amdtoad (author)2016-02-06

the zip ties on the heatsink has a risk of melting. and saying good bye to one's mainboard and cpu and so on. I don't see myself doing things this way. nylon melts very easy near even a little heat..I wish you good luck with your project man!!

JackieLope (author)amdtoad2016-02-06

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon

Wikipedia says nylon melts at several hundred degrees. I have run this setup for several months without stop and there was no sort of warping or melting.

Yonatan24 (author)JackieLope2016-02-07

You can always use hose clamps instead...

JackieLope (author)Yonatan242016-02-07

That's an interesting idea. I just used what I had around the house at the time, and I knew that other people have done it in the past (IE LinusTechTips) so I wasn't going in completely blind.

akyle5 (author)2016-01-25

Won't the zip ties melt?

JackieLope (author)akyle52016-01-26

Zip ties are made of nylon, which can survive anything that your machine is putting out.

Yonatan24 (author)2016-01-22

I can keep staring, And staring, And staring at these heatsinks...

STOP! :)

JackieLope (author)Yonatan242016-01-22

Never! It's either this or they sit in my storage :P

Hashem_Mehyar (author)2016-01-22

i'm doing some experimenting with stock Intel's heatsinks. awesome work man, love it !

JackieLope (author)Hashem_Mehyar2016-01-22

You'll have you let me know how it goes, I've not tried using the stock Intel heatsink yet! Good luck, and thank you!

Just4Fun Media (author)2016-01-21

Interesting idea. I will have to give it a try.

Have a great day! :-)

Thank you for the kind comment!

seamster (author)2016-01-21

Nice work, and very good instructions too. Thanks!

JackieLope (author)seamster2016-01-21

Thank you!