Raspberry Pi computers manage to achieve some truly incredible things despite their small and unassuming size. You might not think it just by looking at one, but a Pi computer has loads of power packed into its perfectly engineered build.
There’s a reason these computers have proven so popular not only as mini personal computers but also as amazing educational tools. Their simple but precise construction makes it easy to learn a lot about building computers, while the Raspbian OS makes it easy to learn how to code and program like a master.
However, as with any computer, overloading a Pi with too much information to process can lead to overheating. This is especially risky, as Pi computers do not have onboard cooling.
So, is it best to install a heatsink to a Raspberry Pi 3? How would you do it if you had to? Are there any other ways to cool down the Raspberry Pi 3?
If you’ve got questions like this spinning around your head, don’t worry, we’re here to settle them once and for all! Read on below to find out whether your Pi 3 needs a heatsink!
What Is A Heatsink?
A heat sink is a form of cooling designed for computers that transfers all of the heat that is generated by a motherboard into a separate medium. This separate medium is usually air or liquid. The medium absorbs all of the heat from the board so that the heat can naturally dissipate and return the motherboard back to its ordinary temperature.
Does The Raspberry Pi 3 Need A Heatsink?
No. Luckily, the Raspberry Pi 3 is perfectly constructed so that it does not require the installation of a heatsink. First, the Pi 3, in its original form, has no outer shell, so the motherboard is completely exposed.
This makes it much easier for it to cool down. Many recommend placing your Pi 3 into a vertical position during use, so that the airflow to the board is more improved, which can help to keep it cool.
As well as the exposed design of the Raspberry Pi 3 helping to keep it cool, the actual internal CPU of the computer actively helps to keep it cool. The clocking speed of the Pi 3 is throttled so that it never rises above a general average of 1.4 GHz.
As soon as the CPU detects that the clocking speed is being increased, and thus the temperature, it actively seeks to throttle the clocking speed, to keep the motherboard from heating up.
Thus, there isn’t actually much of a need for a heatsink, as the pi 3 will actively seek to prevent any overheating in the first place.
Does The Raspberry Pi 3 Need A Heatsink If You Are Overclocking It?
Now, while you may not need a heatsink at all when operating your Raspberry Pi 3 normally, you most likely may need one should you choose to overclock it.
Overclocking refers to the act of forcing a computer to exceed its usual clocking speed so that it can achieve greater processing power, at the cost of producing more heat.
By overclocking a Raspberry Pi 3, you will be effectively bypassing the CPU’s attempts to throttle the clocking speed to keep your Pi cool. Thus, it is quite risky, and you run the risk of overheating the motherboard to a dangerous point beyond repair!
If you were to attempt to overclock your Raspberry Pi 3 computer, then it may be necessary to have a heatsink installed, to help to keep it cool.
Are There Any Other Cooling Options For A Raspberry Pi 3?
Yes. One of the best ways you can keep your Raspberry Pi 3 cool is by placing it into an appropriate casing.
One of the best cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 is definitely the Flirc Raspberry Pi 3 case, which features solid aluminum construction, and also features a thermal pad, which actively absorbs any heat that is produced by the motherboard.
The great thing about this is it is able to cool the Pi down entirely silently, without any need for a fan.
There are also numerous fans (see also ‘Does Raspberry Pi 4 Need A Fan?‘) that can be hooked right up to the motherboard to provide endless cooling for the entire board. These are often very affordable and very simple and don’t take up too much space, so your Pi can continue to be compact and entirely portable.
How Do You Install A Heatsink To A Raspberry Pi 3?
Thermal imaging shows that the areas of the Raspberry Pi 3 that generate the most heat are the CPU and LAN chips. Thus, you will want to ensure that your heat sink is as close to the two components as possible.
Luckily, placing smaller heatsinks onto a Raspberry Pi 3 is incredibly easy. Simply remove the seal from the adhesive pad that is found at the bottom of the sink. Then, all you need to do is carefully place it down onto the CPU chip. Do the same with the LAN chip as well.
Make sure to be careful when sticking your heat sinks down onto the CPU and LAN chips, as you don’t want to apply too much pressure and run the risk of incurring rough and irreparable damage.
What Happens When A Raspberry Pi 3 Overheats?
Say you were to overclock your Raspberry Pi 3 and you ended up overloading it, which would cause it to heat up. The first thing you would likely notice is numerous glitches and crashes within the programs you are using. The Raspbian OS would begin operating very slowly, and may even freeze multiple times.
If you were to touch the Pi’s motherboard, you would likely find that it has become very hot. In some cases, it can overheat so much that it becomes very dangerous! This is why the clock throttling is included within the Raspberry Pi 3 CPU’s operations, to keep your hands safe!
Consistent overheating may even cause lasting damage to the motherboard itself. Certain components could be worn down, which would cause the Pi to operate sub-optimally.
You may even find that the motherboard warps as it melts slightly as a result of the heat. This is why it is crucial to only ever overclock your Raspberry Pi 3 if you have adequate cooling.
Luckily, if you are operating your Raspberry Pi 3 under normal conditions, you don’t need to install a heat sink at all! Pi computers will actively seek to prevent overheating by throttling their own clocking speeds, so that they don’t run the risk of overloading, and thus overheating.
However, if you do wish to overclock your Raspberry Pi 3, then it is very recommended to install some heatsinks in crucial areas or to buy adequate casing for your motherboard, such as a case with thermal padding that can absorb and dissipate hot temperatures away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Raspberry Pi 4 Need Heatsink?
No. No models of Pi computers require any kind of additional cooling to be installed. This is because of the internal clock throttling controlled by the CPU, which helps to prevent any situations in which the temperature of the motherboard could rise.
However, if you are overclocking any Raspberry Pi computer, you will need some form of coolant.
How Hot Can A Raspberry Pi 3 Get?
The Raspberry Pi 3 has a soft temperature limit of around 60 degrees. At this point, the CPU will already be seeking to slow down the clock rate, so that the computer can cool down. Past this point, the Raspberry Pi 3 is at a considerable risk of facing long-lasting damage.
Can You Leave Raspberry Pi On All The Time?
Pi computers can run for very long periods without encountering any significant hiccups. However, it is best not to actively try to leave yours running 24/7. Leaving any computer on for extended periods will cause long-term damage to their motherboards which can significantly reduce their lifespans.