After-market coolers for LGA1366/1356 Xeon CPUs

This is based on a previous post I made on building a NAS server from a SuperMicro X8DTL-3F, and cuts to the chase for people who are googling for the relevant information on how to mount an after-market cooler to a LGA1366 server motherboard (a.k.a. serverboard).

It covers the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, and has now been updated to cover the Arctic Freezer Xtreme Rev 2 and also 120mm AIO water coolers from Cooler Master

Although Xeon 5500-series / 5600-series serverboards use LGA1366 and hence you would think that any cooler designed for LGA1366 would work, that’s not the case. Server motherboards use a different mounting to consumer boards. The latter often use push pins but with server boards you screw directly to an M3 threaded mounting plate which is part of the motherboard (see pic).

Rear of the motherboard, showing the heatsink mounting plates

Rear of a dual CPU serverboard, showing the heatsink mounting plates

Some coolers, like the Noctua NH-U12DX (discontinued) and NH-U12DX i4 (still available), are specifically designed for serverboards, however they are expensive. A much more cost-effective solution (as in less than half the price) is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO or its successor, the slightly updated Hyper 212X. These coolers use a bolt-through design with their own backing plate, which makes them ideal for use with a serverboard that already has a built-in backing plate.

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO uses M3 captive screws in its upper mounting bracket (the X-shape in the picture), and the mounting holes of the serverboard are also M3, so all you need is an appropriate standoff to bridge the gap. The rest of the fitting kit is discarded.

I bought an assortment of standoffs that came with 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, and 20mm standoffs, to ensure that I would find the right size.

Brass Standoff Assortment

Brass Standoff Assortment

As it turns out, 10mm does the trick. You simply screw the standoffs all the way into the threaded sockets on the motherboard, and then screw the captive screws of the cooler into them. Job done.

(Edit: Obviously you apply thermal paste between the cooler and CPU. I thought that went without saying.)

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO fitment for Xeon

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO fitment for Xeon

Credit: An informative post on servethehome pointed me in the right direction on this solution.


Arctic Freezer Xtreme Rev 2

As it turns out, this one is even easier to fit. I was upgrading a consumer motherboard i7-3770K desktop into a workstation (see this post if interested), and it had an Arctic Freezer Xtreme Rev. 2 in it and I decided to see if it would fit the Xeon as well.

Although this cooler has push pins for its mounting bracket, they are removable. Removing the pins and placing the mounting bracket over the Xeon processor gave a perfect fit, and standard M3 motherboard / device screws were all that was needed to secure it to the motherboard.

Arctic Freezer mounting bracket

Arctic Freezer Xtreme Rev2 mounting bracket

It’s then a simple matter to screw the cooler to the bracket, and then insert the 120mm fan down the centre.

Arctic Freezer

Arctic Freezer Xtreme Rev2, fitted

My only concerns with this cooler over the Cooler Master 212 EVO is that the Arctic uses a proprietary fan rather than the Cooler Master’s standard fan, which means that when the fan eventually needs replacing it must be bought from Arctic, assuming spares are even available. The other concern is whether the width of the double stack design and central fan means it will foul a similar cooler on the 2nd CPU. But for a single CPU install it is fine.

Update 2:

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGB and Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 120mm

It is also  possible to use water cooling. I explored this possibility as the exhaust from CPU #2 was exiting straight into CPU #1 and was causing elevated temperatures in CPU #1

Although the MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGB does not specifically mention that it is compatible with LGA1366, it is.

The ML120L is supplied with some chunky double-ended M3 standoffs & thumb nuts, and these are absolutely idea and make for a very neat install.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGB

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGB (dry fit)

NOTE: This is a pic of a dry fit of just one cooler, as I decided to send these back and get the cheaper MasterLiquid Lite  instead.

The MasterLiquid Lite specifically does mention LGA1366 but it does not come with those nice standoffs, so instead I had to re-use the 10mm standoffs I used for the 212 Evo (see above). So unless you want to save money and/or don’t like RGB, I would recommend the ML120L instead.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 120mm

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 120mm

Fitting was much the same as with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO inasmuch as you discard most of the fitting kit and screw directly into the server board’s backplate, using your own standoffs or long M3 screws, as desired.

NOTE: Do make sure that your case is suitable. I had to change cases to get the fit that I wanted. Specifically, you should ideally make sure that the rads are higher than the block as otherwise the pump can cavitate if it is at the highest point.

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About DataHamster

The Data Hamster stores facts and information in its capacious cheek pouches and regurgitates them from time to time.

8 Responses to After-market coolers for LGA1366/1356 Xeon CPUs

  1. motoxer913 says:

    Thank you very much for this article. This cooler fit great on my Xeon Supermicro MB. BUT, a warning for those wanting to use 2 CPU, you cannot use these coolers that are WAY too big to fit two. So if you want to use 2 CPU’s you’ll need to find another option.

    • DataHamster says:

      Yes, I did suspect that this would be an issue with the Arctic cooler. Thank you for confirming.

      I can confirm that two Cooler Master 212 EVOs work fine on the X8 board though.

  2. Marcus says:

    Thanks for this post. Ordered the same standoff set for my X8 build with 2x Hyper 212 Evos.

  3. Christopher Myers says:

    This is hilariously convenient, Im also trying to figure out the same issue with the same exact board!!!

    I cannot believe you figured it out for me!!!

  4. Hi,

    Great post, the cooler master evo 212+ works with supermicro x8dtn EEATX dual xeon ?

    big regards!!!

    • DataHamster says:


      Should work on any X8 board (I use two on an X8DTL-3F), but I don’t know the X8DTN specifically.

  5. harro says:

    i bought two second hand evo’s and they fit like a glove on a DUAL socket 1356. 10mm spacers indeed.

    thx for the excellent blog

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