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I risked blowing up my Raspberry Pi 5 to answer readers' most asked question

You have questions -- risky questions -- about cooling and overclocking, and I have a Raspberry Pi 5. What could go wrong?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
Raspberry Pi 5 alongside the official case

Raspberry Pi 5 alongside the official case.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I love the Raspberry Pi 5 Active Cooler -- I think it's the best way to keep the Raspberry Pi 5 running super cool, no matter what the load on the board.

But after I tested the cooler, several of you had a question relating to the official Raspberry Pi 5 case and whether that would be enough to keep an overclocked Raspberry Pi 5 cool.

Also: The Raspberry Pi 5 cracks passwords twice as fast as my Pi 4, but there's one issue

I have a Raspberry Pi 5, a variety of parts, and time on my hands. What's more, I'm willing to risk sacrificing a Raspberry Pi 5 in the name of science.

So, I took a Raspberry Pi 5 and the official case. This case has a built-in fan, and a stick-on heatsink that goes on top of the processor of the Raspberry Pi 5. Finding this case is about as difficult as finding a Raspberry Pi 5, which is hopefully a situation that improves soon.

Note: If you want to know how to overclock a Raspberry Pi 5, you can find that information here.

Fitting the case

OK, I've managed to get my hands on the official case, so let's take a look at how good it is.

Everything that comes with the official Raspberry Pi 5 case, and a Raspberry Pi 5.

Everything that comes with the official Raspberry Pi 5 case, and a Raspberry Pi 5.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Fitting the Raspberry Pi into the case is easy.

1. Fit the heatsink

First, find the heatsink, remove the self-adhesive backing, and stick this part on top of the processor on the Raspberry Pi 5.

The heatsink

The heatsink.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Heatsink stuck on the processor on the Raspberry Pi 5.

Heatsink stuck on the processor on the Raspberry Pi 5.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

2. Fit the Raspberry Pi in the case

At this stage, I recommend removing the little plastic cover that lives over the fan connector. 

Also: Finding Raspberry Pi: Where to buy the latest model and its alternatives

Removing it after you've fitted the board into the case is tricky and you usually end up having to remove the board (so, don't make the mistake I made).

Remove the cover over the fan connector.

Remove the cover over the fan connector.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Then, slide the board into the case. The board is held in place beneath little tabs. You'll know when you have it seated right because the screw holes in the Raspberry Pi 5 line up with the screw holes in the bottom of the case.

Slide the Raspberry Pi 5 into the case.

Slide the Raspberry Pi 5 into the case.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

3. Fit the fan

The next step is to wire up the fan to the board. The connector will only fit one way (yellow wire nearest the edge of the board).

Fitting the fan connector.

Fitting the fan connector.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Next, clip the top cover in place. It slots into a lug in the case opposite the ports on the Raspberry Pi 5.

Clip the fan cover in place.

Clip the fan cover in place.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

4. Getting ready to fire up the Raspberry Pi 5

There are a few things you'll have to do to finish up, such as popping the white top cover in place, and sticking the rubber feet onto the bottom of the case (they not only help prevent it from sliding around, but also help reduce noise and vibration), and pushing an imaged microSD card into the slot (yes, there's a slot in the case for it).

Installing the microSD card.

Installing the microSD card.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

5. Ready to run

Now, all that's left to do is plug the Raspberry Pi 5 into power and fire it up.

It works!

It works!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Can the official case keep an overclocked Raspberry Pi 5 from overheating?

Now, I wouldn't run an overclocked Raspberry Pi 5 without decent cooling because it's either going to be very unhappy or suffer an untimely demise. I've tested the Active Cooler and found that tool to be excellent at keeping the Raspberry Pi 5 cool.

But what about the official case? It has a fan and heatsink, so will that work?

With the Active Cooler and Raspberry Pi 5, and then running the Hashcat password-cracking tool in benchmark mode, I couldn't get the temperatures to exceed 55ºC (131ºF). Without the Active Cooler, Hashcat would have pushed the temperatures up to 71ºC (160ºF).

Also: How to set up your first Raspberry Pi

So, what about running the same test with the official case and heatsink? Under these conditions, I pushed the temperatures up to 80ºC (176ºF), which is hot, but not warm enough to throttle the processor, so it's certainly good enough, which is impressive.

I did discover that if you unclip the fan frame from the top cover and omit the clip on the top, a Raspberry Pi 5 kitted out with an Active Cooler will fit into the case. In order to protect the fan from fingers and things falling into the case, I fitted a simple plexiglas top cover that I picked up from a UK outlet.

What's more, my solution looks pretty good.

I think my workaround gives you the best of all worlds.

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