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A64/Opteron IHS Removal Guide


Many of us have been into overclocking, CPUs, and computers long enough to know that the current day Athlon/Opteron CPUs with their heatspreaders are nothing more than the same old CPU die covered by a huge, ungainly IHS. This heatspreader, initially used by Intel on the Pentium 4s, was adopted by AMD but isn't welcome by most enthusiasts. For those of you who want to go oldschool and have your heatsink or waterblock directly contact the CPU die on an Athlon 64, X2, AMD2 or Opteron CPU, check out this guide but read the disclaimer and follow these instructions carefully!

Note: This guide covers an AMD Athlon64 3500+ Venice Core and an Opteron 146, but the removal technique will work on other 64-bit AMD cpus" such as 754 and 939/940 cpus. AM2 CPU's has not been tested yet so I cannot confirm they will work, I do not see why not but you never know.


This mod has the very real potential to go wrong. You can cut too far and cut of one of the capacitor networks (small surface mounted components around the core) which will either result in a cpu that doesn't work or one that won't overclock as high as it would have done.

Another risk is that during the cutting, you may bend, break, or otherwise damage the pins. Many of the pins are redundant "key" pins so you may get lucky if you break one off, or you might not be so lucky. I almost forgot to mention, the warranty is void when you do this, so if you mess up or you kill the cpu later by too much voltage or whatever then you can't rma it.

Benefits and considerations

Why take the risk?

So what is the point of all this? The idea is for the heatsink or water-block to have direct contact with the cpu core. The temperature improvements will depend on several factors including the extent to which the following is true: the IHS is not flat, the application of the internal thermal interface between the core and the IHS (looks like shin-etsu) is poor, the heatsink/water-block base is not flat.

Heatsink considerations

Because removing the IHS also changes the height of the CPU, you have to consider the effect on the heatsink or retention mechanism. A bolt down heatsink or waterblock should work without modification unless the surface of the sink/block extends over the cam block (where it says "Socket 939") and then you will have to see if the cpu core is at a higher point than the cam block. If it is then the sink/block can lie flat on the core and you have no problem, if the cpu core is lower than the cam block then you will have to sand down the cam block enough so that it is lower than the surface of the cpu core.

If you have a heatsink that uses a clip-on retention mechanism then you can make it work by modifying the base of the bracket.

Modifying a retention bracket

In this guide I'm using a Thermalright XP-120 as an example heatsink, and the base of the plastic retention bracket needs to be modified for the cooler to properly contact the exposed CPU core after we remove the IHS.

These need to be filed down but NOT all the way. You only need to file these down about 2mm (the thickness of the central part of the IHS). Filing down any further will put additional pressure on the core and will also likely cause problems with component clearance on the motherboard. Here you can see the bracket has four small "feet" and then two larger tube-like structures for the bolts.

In the photo above the heatsink bracket is shifted over to reveal one of the components around the socket that is relatively tall. When the bracket is in its normal position the component is underneath the bracket and causes the bracket to rock because the bracket rests on the component (there is one on the other side too). The small mosfet sink that is circled around the top of the picture would pose a problem if i had filed down the feet any further as one of the heatpipes *just* touches this heatsink. If the mosfet sink had caused a clearance issue with the lowered heatpipe, I would have had to file it down. Luckily I didn't.

  1. Benefits and considerations
  2. Results
  3. Tools & The danger zones
  4. Cutting Technique & Video footage
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