Intel responds to Alder Lake CPU bowing issue

Intel Core i5 12400
(Image credit: Future)

Intel's latest generation Alder Lake chips are some impressive silicon, taking some of the top spots in our list of the best CPUs for gaming. That said, it hasn't been all good news for the latest-gen chipset: the Independent Loading Mechanism (ILM) which locks the processors into their LGA-1700 motherboard sockets has been shown to cause a degree of warping in the processors, with the middle bowing inward and the top and bottom edges coming up.

This causes the processors to make uneven contact with CPU coolers, leading to higher operating temperatures and less overclocking headroom. While this bowing does not seem to pose a significant risk to the life of the processor itself, AnandTech's review of the Core i3-12300 processor shows that the ILM can also cause the back of the CPU socket itself to bend, raising concerns of the long-term health of LGA-1700 motherboards. The video clip below demonstrates the warping of the processor in action:

Absent official word from Intel, some enthusiasts developed their own responses, such as removing the ILM and placing 1 mm washers between it and the motherboard, reducing pressure, or even 3D printing new, custom ILMs to replace the ones on consumer motherboards. These fixes have been shown to improve the thermal performance of Alder Lake chips, but bring their own risks of user damage during installation and the unknown effects of long-term use.

Intel has finally broken its silence on the issue in correspondence with our colleagues at Tom's Hardware. An Intel spokesperson told them that all reports of Alder Lake bending so far conform to manufacturer specifications, and that there are currently no plans to redesign the LGA-1700 ILM. Further, the spokesperson stated that aftermarket modifications like the washer hack or 3D-printed ILM are not covered by official warranties:

"We have not received reports of 12th Gen Intel Core processors running outside of specifications due to changes to the integrated heat spreader (IHS). Our internal data show that the IHS on 12th Gen desktop processors may have slight deflection after installation in the socket. Such minor deflection is expected and does not cause the processor to run outside of specifications. We strongly recommend against any modifications to the socket or independent loading mechanism. Such modifications would result in the processor being run outside of specifications and may void any product warranties."

Intel's statements to Tom's Hardware are somewhat comforting regarding the health of the processor itself, but as Tom's Hardware editor Paul Alcorn points out, Intel's response regarding the backplate bending and its potential effect on motherboards doesn't seem especially definitive either way:

"When there’s backplate bending occurring on the motherboard, the warping is being caused by the mechanical load being placed on the motherboard to make electrical contact between the CPU and the socket. There’s no direct correlation between IHS deflection and backplate bending, other than they can both be caused by the mechanical socket loading."

For Alder Lake owners like myself who aren't adventurous builders willing to chance those warranty-voiding socket modifications, it seems as though we have no choice but to wait and see regarding the long-term health of LGA-1700 motherboards. I'm certainly hopeful that Intel's confidence in the socket's design is warranted, and that it won't pose significant issues down the line.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.