PC Upgrade
September 8, 2016 2:38 PM   Subscribe

My PC has been overheating. I cleaned it out as best I could, and it ran better for a while, but still overheats and crashes when playing a taxing game. I've taken to opening the case and pointing a small fan into the case, against all the advice I've read, but it works. What's a long term solution?

GTX 970
AMD FX 6300 3.5 Ghz CPU
Windows 10
Lots of RAM
750w power source
I don't know the provenance of the motherboard.

I think the main issue is either:

The case, which is old and shitty and hard to arrange things inside without messing up the DIY wiring it had when I bought it. There is only one fan.

The CPU, which is pretty old and the dirtiest thing when I cleaned up inside.

If I get a new case, should I get a new MOBO? Powersource? CPU? I've been able to run taxing new games at pretty high settings (Deus Ex!) through long play sessions in the evenings with the fan running down by my feet but I can't imagine that's a sustainable set up.
posted by kittensofthenight to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the computer have more fan locations? Fill all the fan locations with fans. Fans are pretty cheap.

I had a buddy run his computer with the side of the case off, with a fan pointed at it for years and years. He had no problems.
posted by gregr at 2:50 PM on September 8, 2016

I'd start by replacing the heat sink compound on the CPU. It's a pretty easy and cheap job - look for a YouTube tutorial. If you're not getting good thermal contact there, crashes will happen.

A good fan setup should be pulling air in through one end of the case and carrying it out the opposite end. Having two fans in the case can help a lot with this.
posted by pipeski at 2:50 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding heatsink compound. Follow static precautions and don't slather it on.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:56 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you need to start with figuring out what specifically is overheating. It's most likely either GPU or CPU. If its CPU replace compound/heatsink, if its the GPU (with integrated fans etc) your best bet is increasing airflow across the fan. Also make sure the BIOS / fan control software is running properly, or just manually set them all to full blast and see what happens.
posted by H. Roark at 2:58 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing checking the heatsink compound. It's also possible that the heatsink itself isn't mounted correctly to the CPU. Also check that if you have a separate video card that its fans are actually working.

Download HWMonitor, and it should tell you which component is heating up.
posted by cnc at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the link, cnc, I'll check that when I get home. Interesting about the heatsink compound. I opened up the heatsink while cleaning to spray it out (there was lots of dust) and didn't re-apply heatsink compound to the CPU. Don't recall seeing any heatsink compound on the CPU, even, hopefully that's the problem.
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:25 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Since I'd rather not order online and be able to fix the problem this evening, is this the kind of product I'd need? From Home Depot.
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:26 PM on September 8, 2016

It looks like the super lube would work. The traditional heat sink compound is Arctic Silver, but you would need to find a computer store to get it.
posted by H21 at 4:43 PM on September 8, 2016

I found some at radio shack, about 3x the price as newegg, but that's fine. I'll update later if it all matters and thanks for the help. I assumed I'd have to get a new case, ha.
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:46 PM on September 8, 2016

You might also want to pick up a few magnetic dust filters to place in front of any inlet fans. I live in a pretty dusty apartment and used to deal with this same issue, but the last time I built a computer I made sure to find one with built-in removable filters. Makes a huge difference, you just need to remember to clean them every now and then.
posted by Venadium at 5:18 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Long story short I'll have to order online- good advice though, thanks mefites!
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:22 PM on September 8, 2016

Yeah, just chiming in, but I can almost guarantee the reason your computer is overheating is the thermal paste on the heatsink. Even removing it momentarily, the principle in use of the thermal paste is its aptitude for heat transfer to the heatsink, which acts as a sort-of radiator - and so that would almost certainly introduce some air bubbles, decreasing its ability to do that.

I'd recommend cleaning first with some isopropyl rubbing alcohol solution (+70%) and some sort of paper towel or cloth which won't leave any debris behind. Watch some videos on YouTube if need be - essentially, you'll want about a pea sized dollop in the middle, enough so that you'd get solid coverage once skwushed down. If you need to pick up the heatsink to reapply it, you're better off wiping it off and starting over again. Recently, I had to do that three times in a row, and I consider myself fairly experienced! But it's worth it if you can be certain you've gotten a good application across most of the CPU surface! Best of luck.

Oh, and, have a look for CPU temperature applications (i.e., HWmonitor, Speccy) - or even better yet, see if you can boot into the BIOS and observe your temperatures from there. You'll be able to compare your results from before and after the reapplication.
posted by a good beginning at 8:30 AM on September 9, 2016

If replacing the heatsink compound doesn't do it for you (and especially if you're running with a stock heatsink), you should make sure that the heatsink itself is thoroughly cleaned of dust so that the airflow through the fins is good, and also check to make sure that the heatsink fan is running when the computer is on.

You might even consider getting an aftermarket heatsink to replace it with; the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is a popular and relatively inexpensive option and kept the i7-920 I put it on a good 10 degrees Celsius cooler over the stock heatsink. Main downside if you have an older case without a CPU cooler cutout on the underside of the motherboard is that you'll have to remove the motherboard from the case to attach it.

At that point it may be worth it to you to get a newer case with better airflow and spaces for more fans, though your options there vary widely based on budget. I'd lean towards the Corsair Carbide 100R or 200R for a relatively inexpensive but good case, personally. And no, you shouldn't need to replace any of your existing components to replace the case, assuming that they are standard-sized parts.
posted by Aleyn at 12:58 PM on September 10, 2016

Arctic Silver applied, inside thoroughly cleaned, and the CPU is running much cooler than before.

I still plan on getting a new case and probably an after-market cooler, as suggested, in the future but the immediate crisis is averted! When you get old the rare time for video games is precious and must be protected, and the new Deus Ex ran great all afternoon yesterday.

For posterity, there wasn't much cleaning to do as I had cleaned the inside a few times over the past month hoping that was the main cause of overheating. The heat sink compound made a big difference.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:23 PM on September 12, 2016

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