Should I Buy a Used CPU Cooler?


So you’ve bought yourself a new, or used, CPU. 

But there’s a problem:

Your CPU didn’t come with a CPU cooler! 

Without one, you’ll be experiencing your own mini-meltdown when your CPU overheats. 

But coolers are expensive these days…

So instead of buying a new CPU cooler, could you cheat a little bit: 

Should I buy a used CPU cooler? Yes, you should buy a used CPU cooler. Being, basically, chunks of metal, CPU coolers have a near-infinite lifespan. So long as the CPU cooler is clean, the heat pipes are kink-free, and the fan is working, you should absolutely buy a used CPU cooler. Also, you can easily save as much as 50% buying a used CPU cooler instead of a new CPU cooler. 

In this article:

  • Your question: “Should I buy a used CPU cooler”, will be answered in more depth
  • You’ll discover where you can buy a used CPU cooler
  • You’ll learn the difference between a refurbished and used CPU cooler
  • I’ll show you a list of tips to help you confidently buy a used CPU cooler
  • Finally, you’ll get a conclusion and a look at what you can do next

Now you’re ready to dive into the first section. Let’s get started!

But first, a quick note… 

As I’m from Wales in the UK, I sometimes talk about prices in UK pounds. 

The reason for this is simple:

I want to be as authentic as possible by using my own experience of buying used PC parts here in the UK.

UK prices can be easily converted to US dollars. 

The price in US dollars and UK pounds are pretty much the same cost after taking into account UK VAT Tax. So £100 is roughly equal to $100.

Why you should consider buying a used CPU cooler 

A beast of a CPU cooler. I wouldn’t mess with it if I saw it a dark alleyway! Though you should measure it to make sure it fits in your case!

Buying a used CPU cooler… Saves you money

The main reason why you should consider buying a used CPU cooler instead of a new one is you’ll save money. 

High-end new CPU coolers, especially water coolers, can cost well over $150. 

By buying used, you could easily save half that amount: $75 or more. 

That’s $75 you could spend on a better GPU, more games, or, as in my case, a $75 giant sack full of dog chews for the doggy.

Anyway, I didn’t want to just tell you how much you could save… I want to show you. So I found some cracking examples of low-cost high-end CPU coolers on eBay. 

Prepare to be shocked by the savings…

Sorry, that was a bit dramatic, wasn’t it?

Air Cooler: Cool Master AMD Wraith Ripper

Cool Master’s awesome Wraith Ripper CPU cooler is site behold. With RGB illuminations making it look like a Las Vegas strip on steroids, the Cool Master is something any gamer would be proud to have stuffed in their rig. 

This colossal house-sized cooler envelopes a 12cm fans to force the air, there’s no subtlety here, through an exaggerated twisted maze of copper and aluminum cooling fins giving your CPU no other option than to submit to a frosty existence. 

Suffice to say, this crazy sounding cooler doesn’t come cheap. 

With an RRP of around $135 and a usual price of around $105, you better have deep pockets

Or maybe not. 

On ebay, I found the same Cool Master AMD Wraith Ripper CPU Cooler, used, for only $57 plus $5 P&P. 

That’s a huge $43 over the new version. Or, in percentage terms, a saving of 52.4%! 

So you’re getting a fantastic cooler, plus you’re saving $43 that you can spend on better components or games. Win!

Water Cooler: Corsair Hydro H80i V2 Dual 120mm CPU Water Cooler

When it comes to keeping your CPU cool, there’s nothing more effective than water cooling. 

Ok, that’s not strictly true: liquid nitrogen is far more effective but that’s a whole different ball game, in a whole different sport. 

Anyway, for the average gamer, water cooling is the height of CPU cooling. But water coolers tend to be more expensive than traditional air coolers. For many PC gamers on a budget, water coolers are simply a luxury they can’t afford.

Take, for example, the Corsair H80i. This water cooler has nearly 4000 5-star reviews on Amazon. And for good reason. The time-honored simplistic design is extremely efficient at keeping your CPU cool, without adding needless bulk to your build. 

In fact, an H80 can keep your CPU 20-30% cooler than a traditional Air cooler giving you more thermal headroom to overlock if you so wish. 

However, this ice-cold cooler comes at a price: a $115 price to be exact. That’s way out of reach for many, especially considering you can buy great AMD CPUs for about that price! 

So what’s the answer?

Buy a used CPU cooler. 

I found a used Corsair Hydro H80i selling on eBay for $51 plus $4 P&P. So by buying used would save you a whopping $60! 

60. Dollars. 

That’s a saving of 52%! 

Buying a used CPU cooler… Helps save the environment 

I think I could make a few gaming rigs for this trash… Or maybe not.

If you’ve read some of my other used PC component articles (You can check them out here), you know I believe gamers can play a pivotal role in creating a cleaner pollution-free planet. 

Like it or not, gaming is not the greenest of hobbies. Our PC’s guzzle watts of power. Mountains of discarded monitors stand as monuments to a wasteful past. 

And plastic fans, GPU guards, PCB boards, and other innumerable components end up incinerated. Their legacy: particles that clog the air with carcinogenic malice. 

Our planet’s environment can only take so much punishment before total ecological collapse. That means no crops, no water, extreme weather, and eventually, bye-bye, oxygen. 

I know, I know: Your real motivation to buy used is to save a buck or two. 

I’m not gonna lie: that’s my main motivation too. 

But I think it’s worth knowing that by buying used you are directly helping to hold back a looming tsunami of global warming and environmental armageddon. 

Buying a used CPU cooler, or any other electrical device directly contributes to a more sustainable future. 

Your purchasing decisions can and will make a difference. Remember that next time you upgrade. 

Buying a used CPU cooler… Lets you buy a better CPU cooler for the same money.

Simply put, the money you save buying used can be put towards buying an even better cooler. 

For example, say your budget is $120. I could just buy that Corsair Hydro H80i for $55 used and make a saving of $65.

Or I could buy an even better CPU cooler, such as the Corsair H115i Pro RGB. I found this dual fan water cooler on eBay for $90 including P&P.

You’d still be under your CPU cooler budget, plus you’d make a saving of $50 over the price of a new Corsair H115i.  

Buying a used CPU cooler… Lets you buy better computer components for a given budget. 

Taking the example of the $60 saving you’d make by buying a used Hydro H80i, you could put that saved $60 into buying a better CPU, GPU, or buying more RAM. 

That’s like a free upgrade from 8GB of RAM to 16GB or an upgrade from a Ryzen 5 3600 to Ryzen 5 3600X.

Don’t underestimate small savings when buying used. They can make a huge difference when added up. 

CPU cooler are essentially indestructible

One last big reason why you should buy a used CPU cooler:

They are indestructible. Well, nearly. 

They are essentially big blocks of metal conducting heat away from the CPU. The only thing that can break, pretty much, is the fan. But fans are readily and cheaply replaceable. 

The actual Metal cooler, so long as it’s not assaulted with a hammer, or chewed on by a dog, will last as long as any metal would. 

Even water coolers are essentially indestructible and in theory, will last decades. 

Where can I buy a used CPU cooler?

This is my list of the best shops and websites to buy used and refurbished CPU coolers. If you can think of anywhere else that I could add to this list, let me know in the comments. 

Websites 

Shops 

  • UK 
    • CeX – Offers a good 2-year warranty, but you do pay a little extra fee for this. 
    • Game – Sometimes sells used computer components, but not often. Usually sells them cheaply.

Difference between a refurbished and a plain used CPU cooler

Low Profile fans are great for low powered CPUs. But be sure to check those wires when buying.

Plain Used CPU cooler

Used CPU coolers are sold by individuals. Usually, because they’ve upgraded to a new CPU and they fancied cooling it with a snazzy RGB cooler. Or because they upgraded to a monster 16 core plus CPU and their old cooler wasn’t up to the job. 

There is usually nothing wrong with the old CPU cooler they are selling. It’s just being sold because it’s surplus to requirements.

You’ll find lots of individual sellers selling their old cooler on websites like eBay. Take advantage of their desire to sell. 

A used CPU cooler, being sold by an individual, can be an absolute bargain. 

Just remember, you won’t get a warranty or any guarantees when buying from an individual. 

Refurbished CPU cooler 

Refurbished CPU coolers are usually sold by businesses not individuals. 

To be considered refurbished, the cooler will undergo a thorough inspection by a trained technician. 

The CPU cooler will first be checked for physical defects. These can include dents to the CPU contact plate, kinks in the heat pipes, damage to the fans, and damage to the heat sink fins. 

If the cooler passes this first inspection, it moves on to the second round of electrical testing. 

The technician will now mount the cooler on a CPU and power the cooler on. 

The technician will check that the fan is turning as it should, that the pump for a water cooler is pumping, and that any lighting is working. 

Finally, the CPU will be stress-tested to raise its temperature to test that the cooler is doing its job. 

If the cooler works as it should and keeps the CPU cool, it’s passed as refurbished, and promptly put up for sale. 

Refurbished CPU coolers often come with a limited 1 year warranty. 

Tips for buying a used or refurbished CPU cooler

Intel fans are usually not comparable with AMD fans unless you the correct mounting bracket.

It’s worth noting that these tips are not in order of importance. I have put them all in random order in order (sorry) to emphasize the importance of working through each tip to ensure what you are buying is worth your money. 

Tip 1: See it working

Be sure to see the cpu cooler working before you buy. 

And I don’t just mean pictures of the fans spinning and the pretty lights twinkling. 

Ask to see the information panel of a CPU monitor program such as CPU-Z, or a picture of the info panel of the BIOS, so you can see the CPU temps for yourself. 

Tip 2: Clean it before you use it 

Some gamers will sell their old CPU cooler and won’t bother to clean it before shipping it to you. 

So be sure you clean any dust or other crud off the fan and fins before you use it. This can be done with a can of compressed air and an anti-static dust brush

Or you can do as I do and buy a PC repair maintenance kit to help you clean it. 

Tip 3: Are the lights working properly 

If the cooler comes with RGB lights, check that they are working.  

Tip 4: Does the CPU cooler come in the original box?

When buying a used CPU cooler, it’s always a good idea to buy one that comes packed in its original box.

The inclusion of original packaging usually indicates that the previous owner looked after the cooler with the knowledge that, one day, they would sell it.

Also, the original box was designed to keep the cooler safe in transit. So it helps protect the item in postage. 

Tip 5: Compare to new cooler prices

Before committing to buying a used or refurbished CPU cooler, check the price of a new version of the same cooler. 

Because of sales such as Black Friday, you may find that a new cooler is actually selling for the same amount, or less, as the used version of the same cooler. Such is the crazy world of supply and demand! 

So always compare the used price to the new price. You may not be getting as much of a bargain as you thought you were. 

Tip 6: Paypal offers buyer protection: use it

Do not pay in cash: you get no buyer protection what-so-ever. 

By using Paypal you get buyer protection. It protects you in the event of a poorly described item or if the seller tries to take your money and run. 

Tip 7: Check warranties before buying refurbished

Buying refurbished will mean you get a limited warranty. This is great, but be sure you are not paying too much. 

Some sellers add a massive price premium for the “security’ of a warranty. 

Be sure you’re not paying over the odds for a warranty by checking the price of the same CPU cooler when new. 

If possible, also check the price of the CPU cooler when it is just plain used, to get an idea of the difference in price. 

Tip 8: Watch the postage and packaging (P&P)

If you buy a new CPU cooler from a website like Amazon, chances are you’ll get free P&P. 

However, when buying used, you will have to pay for P&P. 

This usually costs around £4 or $4 if you are buying the CPU cooler from within your own country. 

So take the cost of P&P into account when buying used. 

Tip 9: Does the fan on the cooler spin?

Check that the fan/fans actually work. Does it spin up when the computer is turned on? Does it make any scratching sounds or repeated knocking sounds? 

If it doesn’t work or odd sounds are coming from it, chances are the fan is either dead or is close to death. 

Fortunately, fans can easily be replaced and fans are very cheap to buy

Just be sure to buy the right fan size. If you are not sure what fan size the cooler takes, consult the CPU cooler manufacturer’s website. 

And just remember, take the cost of the new fan into account when buying the cooler. 

Tip 10: Is the cooler plate that makes contact with the CPU in good condition?

The cooler plate is the flat copper plate that makes contact with the top of the CPU and wicks heat away from it. 

You want to make sure that the plat is flat in the central area. Check that there are no holes, dents, or cracks. 

However, some dents or marks around the edge of the cooler plate is ok, as this can be part of the machining process when making the cooler. 

Tip 11: Is the CPU cooler free of thermal paste? 

Thermal paste is the grey goo that bridges the gap between the top of the CPU and the Cooler plate. 

When you press the CPU and cooler plate together they seem like they are cleanly connected. However, at a microscopic level, there are actually countless gullies, peaks and troughs cut into the metal by the machining process that stop the transfer of heat. 

Thermal paste is used to fill these gaps and help make a clean bridge between the two pieces of metal. 

However, old thermal paste attracts dust into it affecting its ability to conduct heat. 

So you should clean any old thermal paste off before using the CPU cooler. 

I suggest using a thermal paste cleaning solution to remove the old thermal paste. You can buy some thermal paste cleaning solution here on Amazon. Then you can reapply new thermal paste. 

Alternatively, you can use a thermal pad which is far less messy and just as good as a thermal paste at cooling your CPU. 

I use graphite thermal CPU pads and I love them. And 2400 other people on Amazon agree that they are amazing. 

Check out the Graphite Thermal cooling pad here

Tip 12: Are any of the heat sink fins dented or bent?

Dents or bent heatsink fins shouldn’t affect the CPU cooler’s ability to work at all. And you can always bend the fins back with long nose grip pliers

Tip 13: Are there any dents or kinks in the heat pipes

Copper heat pipes can get bent out of shape. This limits their ability to transfer heat.

Most CPU coolers have heat pipes that snake out from the top of the cooler plate to eventually fan out as the cooler fins. 

Cheaper CPU coolers fill these pipes full of copper fiber. Whereas more expensive coolers use solid copper pipes. 

If the copper pipe is kinked or broken, you should not buy the cooler as its heat transfer ability may be compromised.

However, I have never seen a CPU cooler damaged in this way.  

Tip 14: Are the wires for the fan/Lights in good condition 

Check that the wires that plug the CPU cooler into the motherboard are in good condition. If they are frayed or the plastic plugs are broken, do not buy as you would need to do a bit of rewiring to get it working.

Tip 15: Water coolers: are there any leaks? 

Check that there are no leaks. If there are, do not buy. 

Tip 16: Does the watercooler pump work? 

If you are buying a water cooler check that the pump, the little box that goes on top of the CPU, is working. When turned on you should hear low volume hum coming from the box. 

Also, if the pump isn’t working the CPU will very quickly overheat and the PC will shut down. 

If this is the case, do not buy. 

Tip 17: Are the Water pipes kink free?

Check the pipes leading from the water cooler pump to the cooler block at the other end of the pipes. They should not be bent harshly in any way. If they are, the pipes have been forced into that position. 

This can cause a number of problems including putting more stress on the pump to push the water through a smaller gap in the bent portion of the pipe. It can be a stress point that can lead to a leak. The pipe could also catastrophically fail if bent too much at this weak point. 

Again, if there is a kink in the water pipe, do not buy the cooler.

Tip 18: Does the cooler come with all the necessary hardware to mount it? 

Regardless of how good a bargain the CPU cooler is, do not buy it if it doesn’t come with the correct hardware to mount it on your CPU.

Different manufacturers of CPU coolers use different brackets and methods to mount their coolers. So brackets are hard to buy for particular brands of cooler outside of buying a new cooler. And in the instances that brackets are available to buy separately, they are really expensive. 

Also, remember that Intel and AMD CPUs need different mounting brackets. 

If you are looking to buy a cooler for an AMD CPU, and the person selling the cooler used it for an Intel CPU, check that they still have the hardware needed to mount the cooler to an AMD CPU and vice versa. 

A lot of people throw away the hardware they don’t use/need, only to regret it later on. 

Tip 19: Check the size of the CPU Cooler

Some CPU coolers can be huge such, as the one mention earlier the Cool Master Wraith Ripper.

So, before you buy, find out the size and height of the CPU cooler, then measure your case’s depth to make sure the cooler can fit inside your case.

This Fan just about fits in this case. Always measure your fan and case before buying to be sure it will fit.

Conclusion

I honestly believe that buying a used or refurbished CPU cooler is a great way to keep your costs down when building a new gaming PC. 

Alternatively, it’s a great way to free up part of your budget to buy better, more important components, or to buy a better cooler that’s ready and able to battle the heat when overclocking.

To me, the answer to the question, “Should you buy a used CPU cooler” is clear: 

You absolutely should buy a used CPU cooler. 

What’s next?

Can I buy other used refurbished parts? Yes. GPUs, CPUs, motherboards, Blu-ray drives, you name it, I’ve bought it used and built a system out of it. I’ve never had any failure or problems. 

What about used fans and cases? Yes, you can buy used fans and cases. You can also buy used CPU cooling solutions. 

What about the PSU? I have bought used PSUs in the past and they have worked absolutely fine. However, PSUs degrade over time. Their power output drops by about 5% every year. So, an old PSU will supply less power than a new PSU. That being said, if you buy a very powerful old PSU, it should easily have enough power to power even the most power-hungry modern components.  

I’d like to build my own gaming PC from used parts, how would I do that? Ah, you are in luck, I wrote a “how to create a gaming PC from used parts” a few months back. You can take a look at it here.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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