Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


How to kit out your Raspberry Pi with a cooling case

While small heatsinks are good for cooling, when things start to get hot, you need a cooling case.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Kelsey Adams
Raspberry Pi fitted with a fan-cooled case

Raspberry Pi fitted with a fan-cooled case.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Most people never think about cooling their Raspberry Pi. They build a project around it, fire it up, and let it run.

But if you're pushing your Raspberry Pi hard, then adding some cooling is cheap insurance against problems that arise from overheating -- problems such as the CPU being throttled and the Raspberry Pi running slow, or even hardware damage.

The easiest way to cool a Raspberry Pi is to stick heatsinks on the chips to dissipate the heat generated. But if you're pushing your Raspberry Pi to the limit, then you might want to invest in a cooling case.

Don't worry, they're really cheap!

Also: My 3 must-have Raspberry Pi accessories

There are two types of cases – passively-cooled (or fanless), and fan-cooled. The fanless ones use less power, are quieter (although the fan-cooled cases I've tried are also basically silent), and don't have a fan for your finger to jam up.

I find that most of the time when I need extra cooling, a fanless case does the job just fine. But here I'm going to show how to fit a fan-cooled case. The process is almost identical except for when we're dealing with the fans. 

Also: The 5 best laptop cooling pads

Here's how to fit the case.

1. Gather all the parts

You'll need a Raspberry Pi, the case, and all the screws. The Allen key you need for the screws is supplied with this case.  

Also: Where to buy the latest Raspberry Pi and alternatives

Parts for Raspberry Pi cooling case

Here are all the screws, thermal pads, and the Allen key needed.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

2. Fit the fans

On this case, the two fans are attached to the case using four fasteners each (the fasteners with the smaller heads). Screw these down finger-tight and no more.

The side showing the fans

Fitting the fans.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

3. Fit the thermal pads

This kit comes with four thermal pads that are self-adhesive. Peel off the paper side and stick that to the case. Then peel off the other side, and that side will stick to the chips when the case is clamped together.

Make sure to peel both sides -- if you don't do this, the cooling won't be effective.

The first photo below shows a thermal pad before being peeled, the second shows the thermal pads fitted in place.

Fingertips holding a small strip

The thermal pads -- peeling these can be tricky.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Four blue thermal pads on a Raspberry Pi

Thermal pads, fitted.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

4. Clamp the case together

Align the two halves of the cooling case, and clamp it together using the remaining screws. Again, go finger-tight only. Overtightening can damage the Raspberry Pi.

The case from the side

Clamping the case together.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

5. Connect the power to the fans

This connects to pins 3 and 6 on the GPIO.

Cords plugged into near the left end of the edge near the fans

Power connected to pins 3 and 5 on the GPIO.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

6. You're done

All that's left is to power up the Raspberry Pi!

If the fans aren't turning, you've likely connected the connector to the wrong pins. Switch the Raspberry Pi off, check, and restart.

Raspberry Pi plugged in

Powering up the Raspberry Pi and checking the fans are working.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Editorial standards