I've stated this plenty of times in some of my posts that the central processing unit better known to many as the CPU is the single most important piece of hardware in not just computers, but smartphones, tablets, just about anything that uses the CPU to process information. It's the absolute brains of any system.
Here's the thing, the processor while performing its duties gets extremely hot and is subjected to overheat if not properly cool. The temperature of a processor in full operation without proper cooling can reach 221 degrees. In comes the Heat Sink, the single most important apparatus your computers basically can't do without. Modern computers as we know it today would not exist without the heat sink. An overheated processor can cause major damage to your motherboard,rendering your entire computer useless.
What exactly is a heat sink? In technical definition and how it works goes as follows.The heat sink is an apparatus that disperses heat from any object,usually attached to the heat sink is a fan which draws out the heat. Heat sinks are more common in computers, there also found in smartphones, gaming consoles and even TV's. The heat sink is by far more important to the computer because the processor in modern day 2015 has become much faster and is able to perform an array of instructions at once at a rapid fire pace. The temperature of a processor in full operation without proper cooling can reach 221 degrees.
To broaden the explanation for the less tech savvy folks,think of the heat sink as being a car radiator. Similar to the way a radiator draws heat from the cars engine, the heat sink draws heat away from the computer's processor. The heat sink itself has what's call a thermal conductor, this carries heat away from the CPU into fins that provide a large surface area for the heat to dissipate throughout the entire computer, this process cools both the heat sink and processor.
The most common metal used in most heat sinks is aluminum. Aluminum has a thermal conductivity that measures 235 watts per Kelvin. The actual thermal conductivity number for aluminum you see is 235, this measures the metal ability to conduct heat, the higher the number,the better that metal can conduct heat. Probably the best metal for thermal conductivity is copper which has 400 watts per Kelvin. But aluminum is very cheap and light in weight, plus it's less stressing on the motherboard.
Once heat has been conducted from the processor through its heat sink, the fan moves air right across the heat sink and straight out of the computer. Its not surprising to find most computers today with heat sinks having additional fans installed above it ,this helps properly cool to the processor. Heat sinks with additional fans are called active heat sinks, while single fans are called passive heat sinks. Additional fans within the computer case can aid in cooling the processor down several degrees, most computers today especially high-end gaming machines have several case fans, this draws air from outside of the computer,expelling air out the rear.
Every integral hardware within the computer is important,but without proper cooling the life cycle of each hardware can diminish rapidly.