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How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi single board computer is an excellent choice for a wide variety of applications. Because it's designed to be tinkered with, one of the things users can do is overclock their Pi. However, overclocking can lead to overheating and irreparable damage. The Pi is designed to run quite warm; However, if you're overclocking to get the best performance from your Pi, you might run into issues. Luckily, you can avoid this by adding sufficient cooling to your Pi.

ContentsHow does cooling work?What happens if my Pi overheats?Heat sinkWhere to apply the heatsinkFansHow to install a fanCold water

How does cooling work?

Electronics generate heat. This heat can adversely affect the performance of these electronic devices, so keeping them cool is paramount. Fortunately, there are a few affordable ways to achieve this. The first is with a radiator.

How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

Another way to cool your CPU is to use a fan. A fan draws heat away from the processor and other heat-generating components. This lowers the overall CPU temperature and improves performance and stability.

What happens if my Pi overheats?

Obviously, heat is bad for computers. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can damage the motherboard and other components in your computer. If you are unable to start your Raspberry Pi, chances are you have suffered a CPU failure due to excessive heat.

How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

That being said, Raspberry Pi single board computers are designed to operate at a very high temperature, around 80 degrees Celsius. However, if you're pushing your Pi to its limits, it's not uncommon to see temperatures soar well beyond that point. The Raspberry Pi will try to avoid damage by reducing processor speed in an attempt to cool itself. Unfortunately, this will cause a performance hit. Long story short, the best case scenario is that your Pi will run slower. In the worst case, you fry your Pi.


How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

Heatsinks for your Raspberry Pi are super cheap and really easy to install. As we mentioned earlier, the two most common types are aluminum and copper. Both types can be used with your Pi. However, copper has a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum, allowing heat to pass through it faster. This means that copper heat sinks are generally better at dissipating heat than aluminum ones. That being said, copper is a more expensive material and is generally more difficult to manufacture. Due to these factors, copper heatsinks are more expensive than aluminum ones.

Where to apply the heatsink

Since the CPU, GPU, and more are all housed in the SoC (system on a chip), we'll focus on cooling that component first, as it generates the most heat. You can also add heat sinks to the memory chip and the Ethernet/USB controller. However, you won't see many performance increases if you do. That being said, it could reduce the overall temperature by about a degree, so it certainly wouldn't hurt.

How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

Installing a heater is very simple. Most heatsinks available for the Raspberry Pi have thermal tape pre-applied to the bottom. This means that all you have to do is locate the SoC and place the heatsink on it. Although thermal tape is very handy, we recommend using a dollop of thermal paste/grease instead. This is because thermal grease/paste has better conductivity.


The most common fans you will see for the Raspberry Pi are 30mm x 30mm computer case fans; however, larger (and smaller) fans are available. The size of fan you end up using will largely depend on your setup and the type of case you are using. There are cases that have built-in fans, and others, like the official Raspberry Pi case, have a removable top so the fans can be installed.

How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

Whether you want cool air drawn in or warm air expelled is up for debate. The general consensus seems to be that if your Pi is in an enclosure like a case, you want to attach the fan so that it draws air up and out of the case. If your Pi is in the open, you can place the fan in either direction. Whichever way you choose, as long as you have air circulating, you should see a significant drop in temperature.


Different fans will have different installation instructions; however, most will attach with nuts and bolts. The fan will be powered by the GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins. To spin your fan, place the red wire on the second pin from the outside of the outer row of GPIO pins. Plug the black wire into the third pin of the same row of GPIO pins, and you're ready to go.

Cold water

If you've ever built a PC, you're probably familiar with water cooling. Liquid cooling is the best way to cool a PC simply because water transfers heat much better than air. For many people, water cooling a Raspberry Pi will be overkill, but kits exist if you think you need them. Warning:if you opt for water cooling, be sure to follow the instructions!

How to Cool Your Raspberry Pi

With proper cooling methods applied, you can overclock your Pi to run intensive applications like the N64 emulator in RetroPie. Remember that once you get Golden Eye operational, Odd job is prohibited.