Are AMD CPUs prone to overheating?
January 30, 2005 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Are AMD CPUs prone to overheating?

I have had one in the past (Athlon XP 2000+) whose temperature was uncontrollable, until it finally died. Now I have one (AMD XP 2600+ Barton) that is hitting 88C according to MBM5 (CPU diode temp). The computer shut down earlier today, probably because it has a thermal sensor that kills it before 90C, which is the temperature AMD claims will kill their CPUs.

I have not overclocked it. This computer is 2 years old and has worked fine the whole time. Using the stock heat sink and fan. What should I do?
posted by knave to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
Response by poster: I should also note the CPU socket temperature is about 60C.
posted by knave at 8:48 PM on January 30, 2005

Strange that it started happening recently — is the airflow obstructed for some reason? Is there anything that you've changed about the system? Barring that, you can look into getting a new fan, either a larger one or one of the fancy water-cooling systems.

FYI, the (90mm) Athlon 3500+s clock in at about 30-45 C.
posted by brool at 8:53 PM on January 30, 2005

Make sure to apply BIOS firmware updates. These not only fix temperature irregularities, but also any problems with sensors that give bad readings which shut down your CPU.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:07 PM on January 30, 2005

I'm running a 2200+ with a Zalman 6000-series heatsink and a passive (no fan) Antec Phantom power supply. There is only one fan in the whole case and that's the big quiet thing that was bundled with the Zalman (set at its slowest setting).

I haven't noticed any problems, though I am careful not to run it when the room temp. gets too high.
posted by krisjohn at 9:09 PM on January 30, 2005

My AMD 64 3200+ is at 34C right now, with the heat on in the room. I think part of your problem is how much air is going in and out of your system. It's not a case of sticking 16 120mm fans in the case and thinking it's enough. You need to balance the airflow taking into account turbulence and airflow paths.

I would suggest you upgrade to a better case with good airflow. My system has 2 undervolted 120mm fans, they run slow and silent. And a PSU with an 80mm silent fan, so my system is based around negative pressure, the 120mm fan at the back along with the PSU fan hot air out of the case, a 120mm fan sits by the harddrives sucking air in, along with air sucked in via airvents in the case. The wires and cables are all neatly folded out of the way, or tied down using multipurpose nylon ties, and sticky base mounts holding it down. This allows for air to flow through the case without the turbulence the wires and cables cause.
posted by riffola at 9:12 PM on January 30, 2005

Oh and I'm using the stock AMD heatsink and fan using Cool N Quiet, so the CPU ramps down to idle mode when it's not being heavily tasked. All this allows for a rather moderately warm case even while gaming, I haven't seen the temps go above 50C even after playing Half Life 2 or Doom 3.
posted by riffola at 9:14 PM on January 30, 2005

In general Athlons are less heat efficient than Intel chips, although not enough to be a big problem in a consumer pc. Older Athlons had a problem with Windows where they never went into low power mode when idle. vcool solves this problem in Windows, athcool in Linux. I don't think a 2800+ Barton will have that issue, but give VCool a try.

60C isn't bad if your machine is doing something. 88C is bad. Here's a max temperature chart which shows 85-90 as max temperature.

If you're really overheating, you may just need to improve the cooling in your machine. I'm very happy with for quiet PC components; they sell heatsink/fans you can install yourself if you have a steady hand.
posted by Nelson at 9:37 PM on January 30, 2005

I had a 2800+ that ran too hot for about a year, and then started running WAY too hot (i'm talking 90C) and so I sent it back. They replaced it but it's still hotter than it should be. So I'd say yes, at least in my experience, they are prone to overheating.
posted by Evstar at 9:40 PM on January 30, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I am not certain if this problem is a recent thing or not, but this is the first time I've had the computer just power off while I was using it. (I was playing Call of Duty at the time.) I just installed MBM5 today to see what it was reaching.

The case is an Ahanix Noblesse, which is pretty spacious, and has a single 80mm exhaust fan. I didn't take any extraordinary measures because I feel that a CPU should just run at a reasonable temperature unless you're overclocking it. I have even taken the side panel off the case, and (from being cold) managed to get it to 85C in about 10 minutes of gaming.

Should I be looking to return this thing? Is it unreasonable to assume a single case fan and the retail box CPU cooler would be sufficient?
posted by knave at 10:28 PM on January 30, 2005

Fans are mechanical devices, and they wear out.

there's a time you gotta go and show you're growin' now you know about...
posted by NortonDC at 10:54 PM on January 30, 2005

If worse comes to worse, open the side of your case, and position a desk or clip on fan blowing right into the side. I had a defective hard drive I kept going this way for a long time.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:17 PM on January 30, 2005

If it's 2 years old, you might just have buildup of dust on and inside the heatsink. A computer can eat a lot of dust in 2 years, especially if it sits on the floor. You could get one of those compressed air cans and try clean the sink, maybe even removing the fan.
posted by lazy-ville at 1:01 AM on January 31, 2005

AMD chips do tend to run hotter than Intel, but not that much hotter, heh. I haven't bothered cleaning out my heatsink/fan since I bought this Athlon 2600 . . . 2 years(ish) ago. It's running right now at 55C/129F using the stock heatsink/fan. That's quite a bit on the hot side (I need to clean), but survivable. As a rule of thumb anything above 60C is just bad news, period.

88C is not. The first thing I'd do is, as everyone suggests, clean it out. The second thing I'd do is visually inspect the thermal transfer sticker (or the artic silver paste) on the bottom of the heatsink. This is what's responsible for getting all that heat out of the chip and into the heatsink - and I've seen both paste and stickers degrade *seriously* over periods as short as a year, so make sure yours is OK.

If both of those fail to provide any indication as to the nature of the problem, your choices are to buy a new heatsink/fan or sent it back to AMD for a replacement. I'd opt for the latter if I were you.
posted by Ryvar at 1:50 AM on January 31, 2005

I second lazy-ville's point about dust buildup. Also, where do you live? Have you hit a cold snap? My laptop started randomly (I thought) shutting down from overheating recently, and only after much puzzlement did I conclude that a nearby baseboard heater was the culprit.
posted by onshi at 2:14 AM on January 31, 2005

I downloaded and installed MBM 5. It's telling me:

Case: 38C
CPU: 48C

I started a CPU intensive compression job two minutes ago and the temps have risen 2 degrees.

At the 3 minute mark and the job is starting to thrash the hard drive. Temps are still at 40 and 50 respectively.

4 minutes: 41/51
5 minutes: 41/51

I'd say that neither brand is particularly prone to overheating, but most people don't even put in a moment of thought as to airflow and heat removal. I want my PCs to run quiet, so I get big cases, huge heatsinks and big, slow, quiet fans (if any). I have to think about how heat travels in the case. Many name-brands have some thought along the same lines, but most home-built PCs I've seen are just a thick mat of cables.

9 minutes: 42/51
posted by krisjohn at 4:30 AM on January 31, 2005

just on the off chance you're as stupid as me - you're sure this is cpu temp? i was confused when a little fan on my chipset (or whatever it's called - the northbridge or southbridge or something) failed. never noticed the damn thing and was convinced my cpu was overheating for some reason.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:18 AM on January 31, 2005

My 2500+ that is slightly overclocked (2 GHz) never gets above 50 deg C. It has the stock AMD heatsink/fan.
posted by rfs at 6:40 AM on January 31, 2005

I've owned a number of CPUs over the years, and the only CPUs that have overheated or been damaged by heat were Intel devices (well, one was a motherboard chipset and not a CPU, it was still Intel's).

AMD processors typically are rated for rather impressive levels of heat output, but like I said, they are rated for it; it's hot, but it's not overheating. A proper cooling subsystem, well-maintained and free of dust and cat hair, is likely to last years and keep heat problems at bay.
posted by majick at 6:55 AM on January 31, 2005

If you clean out the dust bunnies, be careful with the air-can. They can put out enough pressure to break parts on a circuit board.

I'd also try what AlexReynolds is suggesting; sometimes a motherboard BIOS update will fix temperature issues.

Like someone above said, the position of your case is very important. Check that your fans are working okay and make sure there is room in front and behind your case so the air can flow. You might also try can replacing your IDE cables with rounded cables to help improve airflow.

Also, the vcool program listed above will force the CPU to idle during its downtime, thereby lowering the temperature; however, if you're doing something CPU intensive (with no CPU downtime), it won't help.

Or you could try reapplying thermal paste to the CPU. Just don't put it on too thick.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 7:08 AM on January 31, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I'm going to pull the heat sink tonight and try to dust it. I'll also make sure there is ample room for air flow, maybe I'll replace my IDE ribbon cables with rounded cables.

I'd like to note that the CPU diode reading is not what most of you are talking about. I'm pretty sure you're all talking about CPU socket temperatures, and the two can be as much as 30°C apart.
posted by knave at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2005

I'd put in yet another vote for thermal paste. When you take off the heatsink/fan to clean it, make sure you completely clean off any old paste, then apply a very thin layer before sticking the heatsink back on. There are some tutorials around on various tech site that are worth looking at but I can't remember where at the minute. It's crucial to get a thin layer that covers evenly but won't squirt off the edges when you put pressure on it.
posted by mikeh at 9:13 AM on January 31, 2005

I've had an Athlon XP 2000+ running continuously since September (and most of the time since November 2003), about three inches from a radiator which has been on basically since October. No problems so far.
posted by oaf at 10:06 AM on January 31, 2005

Be careful when you reinstall your heatsink/fan. First, the clips that hold that thing on take a lot of force, so be steady and careful. And say a prayer you don't crack the PCB or the core. Second, when you reinstall it you need to apply new thermal paste. You can't reuse what was there before, you have to clean it off and put something new in. Arctic Silver is the good stuff if you're careful when applying it.
posted by Nelson at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2005

Yeah, careful removing the heatsink. I cracked my old Duron wrestling with a crappy heatsink. Not a big deal, I was doing a CPU upgrade, but I would have passed it onto a friend if it had lived.
posted by krisjohn at 4:20 PM on January 31, 2005

Also if you smoke some brands a leave a residue on fans and heat sinks that acts as fairly effective insulator. This coating doesn't blow off so apply a little rubbing alochol with a q-tip.
posted by Mitheral at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the late reply, Mitheral. :-) Nope, I'm a non-smoker.

  • I have the case panels open
  • I blew out the dust from the heatsink and fans
  • There are no obstructions between the CPU and the 80mm exhaust fan
  • I removed all thermal compound and re-applied a small dab of silver paste, reattaching the heatsink carefully
  • I updated the BIOS on the mobo (Asus A7V8X) to the latest revision (1014)
  • I tried to use 'vcool' but it doesn't support my northbridge
I start up the computer and within 5 minutes:
CPU socket: 60°C
CPU diode: 87°C (...and climbing, I powered off at this point)

Still completely ridiculous. Thanks for all the help guys, I'd appreciate any other thoughts!
posted by knave at 3:26 PM on February 3, 2005

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