Some Intel Skylake CPUs are literally bending under the weight of heavy aftermarket CPU coolers. Or, more specifically, the pressure exerted by some coolers seems to be causing damage to Skylake chips. The likely culprit: Intel used a thinner wafer on Skylake CPUs than past chips. According to Intel, the thinner substrate is still rated for the same 50 pound static load, but this issue is definitely real: we’ve experienced it ourselves.
Left: Haswell CPU.
Right: Skylake CPU.
Note the thinner wafer on Skylake.
Recently, while moving a Skylake i7-6700K between two systems, our colleagues at Maximum PC experienced this exact bending issue. The damage was caused by installing either an EK-XLC Predator 240, Deep Cool _ or Corsair H90 liquid cooler. We thought too much force had been applied to the chip by installing one of those coolers with an electric screwdriver. It’s still possible that the screwdriver applied a damaging amount of force and the damage was user error, but we’ve never experienced a similar issue on older Intel CPUs with thicker wafers.
PC Games Hardware in Germany first reported on the problem on November 30, and several aftermarket cooler makers have commented on the issue. Arctic recommends removal of the CPU cooler for transport (if the system is dropped, a heavy cooler could apply a damaging amount of force to the chip). The pins, motherboard contacts and even the CPU itself can be bent, especially if your PC experiences any bumps.
EK and NZXT told Tom’s Hardware that their coolers are fully compliant with Intel’s force regulations, but both recommended against using older generation coolers that may apply too much pressure. Scythe has said on its support website that it is reducing the mounting pressure of its coolers for Skylake by adjusting the screw set. It will be sending a new set of screws to its customers free of charge.
Intel told Tom’s Hardware it’s investigating the issue. We’ve reached out to Corsair with a request for comment and will update when we hear back.
If you’re installing a Skylake CPU anytime soon, be gentle.