Use of composite heat sinks (CHS), constructed using a vertical array of 'fins' (or elemental composite heat sink, ECHS), made of large latent heat capacity phase change materials (PCM) and highly conductive base material (BM) is a much sought cooling method for portable electronic devices, which are to be kept below a set point temperature (SPT). This paper presents a thermal design procedure for proper sizing of such CHS, for maximizing the energy storage and the time of operation until all of the latent heat storage is exhausted. For a given range of heat flux, q″, and height, A, of the CHS, using a scaling analysis of the governing two dimensional unsteady energy equations, a relation between the critical dimension for the ECHS and the amount of PCM used (φ) is determined. For a φ, when the dimensions of the ECHS are less than this critical dimension, all of the PCM completely melts when the CHS reaches the SPT. The results are further validated using appropriate numerical method solutions. A proposed correlation for chosen material properties yields predictions of the critical dimensions within 10% average deviation. However, the thermal design procedure detailed in this paper is valid, in general, for similar finned-CHS configurations, composed of any high latent heat storage PCM and high conductive BM combination. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.