Beat the Heat
Last night was a strange, it was about 12 months ago, nearly to the day that I upgraded my PC. Intel Core i7 (mine is the 3770K) with 32GB G.Skill DDR3 RAM, GTX760 OC Video Card, Sabertooth Z77 Motherboard all siting inside a Silverstone Raven RV03 case. The weather was hot last time I did this and now, I bought a new part for this computer and it is reaching 43°C (109.4°F & 316°K) so it seems about right that I am doing it again with hot temperatures coming around.
But it is the hot temperatures is why I am getting this particular part. Backstory – I like to play games, which I am sure many of you might know, I play them on my PC and I live in Australia. These combinations mean, my PC runs a little on the warm side as the ambient temperatures are often hotter, and in summer it is more the case with the ambient temperature even higher than normal. Suffice to say, playing games I then see a warning (by games I mean, SWTOR) telling me the CPU is over 70°C (158°F & 343.15°K), this from my understanding is hot. Hot, it is the temperature at which if a Barista made my coffee and the milk hit that temperature I would return it as it would be burnt. But these 70°C temps were going to get worse when the air outside the case was hotter than it was when I was first reading these temperatures.
If you run your CPU at high temperatures constantly it will reduce its life span. CPUs will not run forever and the more stress they are p[physically put under then it will shorten their lives. Also a note to understand something about the way CPUs are made.
CPUs are made on wafer of semiconductor material (usually Silicon crystal). This material, when made can be of varying quality. The better the quality the better the ability to withstand higher temperatures. The wafers that perform the best go into Intel’s best CPUs their Extreme Editions, ones that weren’t quite as good start making up the lower end processors. I say weren’t so good is to state that it couldn’t cope at the higher end of the spectrum but did well at lower ends, so they can run it at a lower speed and it will perform very well.
The K CPUs, the ones capable of overclocking use a better wafer than a normal unlocked CPU. Meaning my 3770K has a better wafer than the stock 3770, simply because they have designated this to be overclockable and must still be stable if it is overclocked (to a point, which I am sure Intel will not tell us which point this is). But, if they fill their quota of top line and they have wafers that are considered top left over they would go and make the next one down and the next one down and so on.
So, what were my options? I had very good airflow into my case, I had 6 fans on the case alone, 2 exhaust and 4 intake. But my CPU was still hit 70°C+, which I thought was hot. Is, well, Intel don’t say what is too hot, hot enough for the CPU to begin throttling. But it is wise to push the CPU to its maximum safe temperature just to find where it will throttle, unless you have the ability possibly not, I have seen that the i7 will go has high as 100°C before it will internally throttle, so, if this is a mark of the CPU causing itself to cool down by reducing the load, 70°C is not too bad, but it means my overclocking ability is limited.
So, I could add a massive heat-sink and fan to the CPU like this. But this seemed very gaudy to me and if you look at where my CPU sits on my motherboard there isn’t a lot of room as that Thermal Amour as they call it, comes up high around the edges and might prevent it from working, or fitting. So I decided to go for liquid cooling, it works for the car which gets far hotter than any CPU so why not use the same technology that has been around for ages, but this time for a new application. So time to hit the internet. There are lots of different systems around. Closed loop, refillable, double radiators, different liquids coolants, all so much. Intel released one, which I thought was not too bad, but then in the end I decided to go with;
When I was looking at this, it crossed my mind a couple of times and the Corsair Link software was what caught my eye. Plugs into a USB header on the motherboard and then enable you to control the speed of the fans based on certain parameters.
I then dropped the cash on the Corsair H80i. I felt this could do the job, provided that ability for me to control the fan speeds (therefore the cooling) and enabled me to help overclock the CPU a little more than I have.
So, I get home (sorry for the no unboxing video, why do people want to show the unboxing, when this this become something that people want to see, anyway, I digress). So, I looked at the radiator, the 2 fans, the pump and brackets and I felt I have bit of more than I could chew.
So I removed the rear exhaust fan and find that when I attached both fans to the radiator, I do not have the room as the motherboard gets in the way. I looked more into it, the top exhaust fan, starting to run into the CPU which means the curving of the pipes is a little higher than I would like, which means more pressure on the joints. I had to leave it be. Come back after dinner.
I think more, remove one of the HUGE intake fans at the bottom of the case. There is room there for the Radiator and fans, it lines up nicely with the CPU and there are holes there for attaching it. I decide to have my dinner. My youngest has decided to help, he inserted some various screwdriver heads between the memory slots, though a circuit tested would look good stuck into the PCIe x16 slot. So with the all cards removed, some fans disconnected I decided to unplug the bottom fan (after removing the various additions added by my son.
BUT, looking more and more at this change is making me uncomfortable. Simply put, I am losing one of the massive fans, which I am sure pull a lot of air and direct it to the CPU (currently). I have no other place to put it (the fan that is). After more looking at the situation and thinking more, I realised that I could not fit, anywhere in its entirety, both fans and the radiator. I was starting to look at this situation as needing more than more to solve it. Not wanting to give up, I realised that I could mount it in an unorthodox way, and looking more into it I realised the top exhaust fan, could be removed, have the radiator and one fan on the inside and then mount the second fan on the outside of the case.
I proceeded to do this, checking the direction of the fan flow, since it talks about better cooling is with air intake. So I did this, both aligned correctly I also took the grill that prevented fat fingers getting into the fan blades onto the outside fan, attached that to the radiator.
Attached the back plate to the underside of the motherboard. I then screwed this in (mind you I don’t have big hands but there wasn’t a lot of space for me to screw these in), but I managed. I removed the CPUs heat sink and fan and realised a possible reason for the high heat, there was some small areas where air could sit between the CPU and the base of the heat sink.
Air isn’t a great conductor of hear, so what can happen is the heat in those pockets gets far hotter than the rest, this heat is transferred into the heat sink but also back to the processor. For this transfer to happen it needs very high temperatures. So it is a bad cycle. So, I applied the pump to the top of the CPU, attached to mounting bracket and screwed it down, making sure I work on opposite corners. One thing I didn’t realise was just how big, or think it was. The pictures are deceptive and though it tells you the thickness of it, you can perform some calculations to determine its size, but nothing beats seeing physically how big it is. This is the size of it, on the side. Fans are black radiator is grey.
This is as accurate as I can get it for the screen. Based on a typical 96 pixels/inch for screen resolution, those running a higher DPI would not see this accuracy of this.
Same with this this is it front on. So, you can see the space. So if you are looking into water cooling, understand the size of the rans and radiator in the images is deceptive. And this is a single radiator those with doubles I am sure take up more room. But as with me, I didn’t have enough room all inside the case, but, a mix between inside and outside I was able to get it in.
I plugged everything back in, turned it on, it worked.
NOTE. Water coolers will NEVER cool the CPU down to anything below ambient air temperature. Why, because the air being sucked through the radiator is at this temperature and it cannot therefore cool the liquid down to below that temperature. If you want colder cooling you will need to look into Phase Change cooling This is a silly name, certainly meant to sound way cooler than it is. This operates like an air conditioner, the difference here is instead of blowing cold air out, it uses the same process but in an enclosed loop. It uses a combination of pressure and heat transferral to change the refrigerant (the liquid) into a gas then back to a liquid. It is called Phase change as it is meant to describe the phase change from liquid to gas.
So I ran up a game, but I couldn’t run up a game that I have seen the 70°C warning (as they were down with a patch) so I still tried a game, Lord of the Rings Online. Considering the ambient air temperature inside the house which was about 35°C, the fact that I managed to get a max of 50°C from it means it is working.
I have not taken the time to set up my temperature profiles yet. But also note the link on the site for the software (and you need to download it. If you are running Windows 8 or 8.1, don’t get it, instead use the following link.
This takes you to their forum page with a download for the software. The version of the software on their site, Corsair Link Installer RC v2.4.5110 will not work with Windows 8. Please do not download this, use the beta version from the link above.
A note on cooling in general. NEVER let anyone person tell you that the stock CPU fan is no good. All tests carried out in the labs in the CPU makers are done using the stock CPU fan and heat sink. If you do not plan to overclock, or cause your CPU to run at 100% for a long time chances are you will not need anything more than the stock CPU heat sink and fan.
Well if you think your CPU is running hot you can get applications that enable you to read the temperature of the CPU you can download some software called CoreTemp and for GPU you can use GPU-Z . The CoreTemp will provide information about the CPU and will provide a per Core temperature reading. It will also show the MAX temp of the CPU before throttling will occur.
Laptops will always be hotter than Desktops, but that are also harder to cool down. Cooling pads help as it enables the air under the laptop to remain cooler, sucking in cooler air will result in a cooler inside. But you will know if things get heated since the air from the CPU and GPU (if available) will be blowing out and those vents can be hot to touch.
Without adding extra features like water/liquid cooling or additional fans look at what you have. If you have only 2 fans, CPU and power supply then maybe an extra one can help. But it will do nothing if the airflow is restricted. Keep it off the floor (hot air rises so you don’t want it too high), but high enough not to suck in the crap from the floor like dust.
Go into power settings, Control Panel | System and Security | Power Options. Then the active plan (the one selected radio button), click Change plan settings and the following dialog will be displayed.
Under Processor power management you can set the cooling or the power state (Max or Min values of how much processing power to use, self throttling)
Active cooling will keep the fan running at max to cool the processor.
Passive will keep the fan at a lower speed and will speed it up as the load increases. If the load doesn’t increase the fan won’t.
Self Throttling, it is the max state, setting it to a % of total. If you set it to 75% it is a total CPU. If you have a 4 core CPU, it will not disable 1 core and have the others max at 100%, if you set it at 75% it will run all cores at that value.
Disabling Cores – Silly if you ask me, but possible and from the BIOS. I would not recommend this, but if you system is running hot and you want to make sure that it doesn’t break before its time, then this might help (especially if you don’t need the power), only surfing the web or looking at emails. Watching HD movies you need the grunt, leave the cores alone.
Cleaning you PC out will help, dust can block airflow and prevent the maximum cooling to happen. This is prevalent on the CPU heat sink, if you suck in dust it will land on the CPU as the fan blows onto the heat sink. If that is starting to crude up; as you can see with this stop Intel CPU fan and heat sink, the dust is blocking up the gaps between the fins of the heat sink. This prevents the air circulating through the fins and cooling down the CPU.
This one might need to have the fan removed to be cleaned, but you can get air kits that help the process, make sure a protective mask is used as this dust will go everywhere.
Filters can help decrease the dust inside PCs, and not restrict airflow. very fine netting used for curtain sheer to diffuse the light coming from windows is good if fine enough. A test,. blow through it, if it is too hard to blow through then your fans will unable to suck air throughout it.
To find out where air is coming into your case, use a tissue. Hold it against open areas, or areas that have access and hold it gently to the corner. If it is drawn into the case, then air is coming in. The more visible the movement the greater the airflow. The greatest airflow should benefit from using that filter type material.
Regular cleaning can help massively with the cooling ability of your PC and if it is running cooling it will last longer.
Fans on the case can help, adding a fan to the inside of the case (if room) can bring cooler air into the case or push it out. But, if air is getting pushed into the case then it needs to be pushed out of the case, either through vents or sucked out by fans.
So, Cool PCs are Clean PCs and Clean PCs are cool. But, more air flow, colder air, all of them help, but there is lots you can do without spending money.