Four washers could help drop Intel Alder Lake CPU temps by up to 5°C

Intel Core i9 12900K up-close images with the chip exposed
(Image credit: Future)

It has been reported that some Intel Alder Lake processors may run hotter than expected due to a slight bending of the processor and socket. But, if you get to your motherboard early enough, you may be able to prevent the bending from occurring in the first place with a simple fix. Doing so could result in your 12th Gen chip dropping a few celsius in operation, and you need only a handful of washers, a Torx T20 screwdriver bit, and a decently steady nerve to get it done.

Igor's Lab reports that by following this method, first noted by overclocker Buildzoid, it managed to reduce Core i9 12900K temperatures by up to 5°C under load in Prime95. That's nothing to be sniffed at, as that sort of reduction in temperature could make for a much happier, quieter PC build over time.

The core concept of the mod is to reduce a minor bending of the heat spreader (IHS) and processor at the point of high pressure from the Independent Loading Mechanism (ILM), which is the actual socket and locking mechanism on the motherboard itself. 

Igor's Lab found a slight bending of the ILM to be a potential problem prior to the mod's discovery, and that shoring up the motherboard backplate prior to a CPU's installation could prevent any issues. However, further to that, it appears as though applying four washers to the socket, where it attaches to the motherboard PCB, could circumvent the issue altogether and make for a happy, cooler chip.

The ILM is attached to the motherboard with four Torx screws, which once removed can be easily fitted with M4 washers. Rebuild, tightening to a reasonable amount by hand, and this should be enough to prevent any unwanted bending in the processor and ILM.

The four Torx screws are located around the socket edge and should be fairly accessible. (Image credit: Future)

From Igor's Lab's results, it appears that 1mm washers are best suited to the task, with the largest drop in chip temperature (by 5.76°C) during Prime95 testing once installed with an Intel Core i9 12900K.

That's a serious reduction, and no more so needed than on Intel's top chip. The Core i9 ran hottest of all its contemporary competition at 84°C peak during our benchmarking, so anything that can be done to reduce its temperature is much appreciated.

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(Image credit: MSI)

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The efficacy of the mod may differ from motherboard to motherboard, and socket to socket, though the ILM configuration ought to be set to the same specification across 12th Gen compatible motherboards. Similarly, we have no data on the long-term affects of the modification, so obviously apply at your own risk. Personally speaking, I can't foresee a 1mm washer equally fitted on all four corners having any major adverse effects to the system over time, anyways.

Igor's Lab's testing definitely found a consistent reduction in temperature as a result of the mod, however, proving its immediate worth. Kudos for the discovery.

There may be further optimisations that can be made to motherboards by their actual manufacturers to mitigate this mod entirely with future LGA 1700 boards, which may prove to be the best outcome of this discovery overall.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.