How do I run an XP3200+ at its rated speed?!
August 23, 2007 9:27 AM   Subscribe

How do I run my AMD Athlon XP 3200+ at the actual rated speed and not have it overheat ridiculously?

I've had this CPU for a few years now - but have been having severe issues in running it reliably at the speeds it's rated to run at. It overheats like a mother, and so I've resorted to running it at 2500+ speed, which it's very stable at.

Although I don't have the model number to hand, I have a very decent and quiet socket A cooler which I simply cannot get it to stay cool with at 3200 speed. I have uninstalled, cleaned and reinstalled it several times.

Initially I wondered if I had been sold a slower CPU, but have checked the label - it IS a 3200 as far as I can tell, and I am not overloading the die with paste either - just a consistent, light, all-over coating.

I have tried two different CPU coolers - I initially had a Thermaltake Volcano which was OK, no problems, but the sound it made was that of a Volcano - and I use this PC to write music. So I really could do without having a windtunnel in the room.

My biggest issue is that having an older system, I don't have the four point mounting brackets around the Heatsink. If I did, I would just go out and buy a Big Typhoon and have done with it. At this point, I may just go buy another Volcano.

Do you have any suggestions for quiet (or not so quiet, fuck it), still (or ebay) purchaseable, non-4 point mounted Heatsink and fan combos that would keep it cool, or other general advice that could help me "upgrade"?

posted by 6am to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
What is the actual max stable clock speed?
posted by Good Brain at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2007

Assuming there's nothing wrong with the heatsink, I bet you might just need more case cooling to push out that hot air. Does your case have a fan in the back blowing out (not the power supply but a seperate fan)? If not you might want to purchase one. If so you might want to add a fan in the front that blows air in.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2007

Everything I know about cooling computers and running them quietly, I learned from Silent PC Review.

Your CPU's heatsink/fan doesn't exist in a vacuum -- it needs good airflow through the case to function well. Huge numbers of things affect that -- the design of the case, the position of the power supply intake, the case intake or exhaust fans, whether you have ribbon cables strung across the middle of your case, blocking the airflow. And, of course, the heat generated by the other components also plays a role.

Read SPCR's Reference/recommended articles to ground yourself in the basics, then ask any specific questions in their forums.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2007

Oh, also, do you know what iteration you have? (Barton, etc)
posted by Good Brain at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2007

Maybe you need to consider the ventilation of your whole case, or getting a sound-damping case/environment.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2007

You have a defective four year old processor. It's at a point where it doesn't make economic sense to keep it running.

You can purchase a similar but faster processor (the Sempron 3600+) for $25 ($25!) on Newegg. I can't imagine you'll find another Volcano or similar quality heatsink for much cheaper. You don't mention what socket you're using, SO perhaps it's just a swap-in operation.

If it's not a direct match for your current mobo, you can spend $100 and get a processor/mobo combo and replacement RAM if you need it. With more details on what kind of motherboard you're currently using, we could provide more details.

If you really, really, really don't want to spend $100 to upgrade, you may want to assess how good your thermal paste is. If you're not using Arctic Silver or the like, and are using cheap Radio Shack paste, you're likely to get a few degrees of coolness by switching to the good stuff.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Check your BIOS for voltage controls. You can often get away with undervolting a little, which will reduce the amount of heat the chip puts out. Do be aware if you go too low you run the risk of instability and data corruption, though; the signals get weaker and thus are more prone to error. Test well.

Thermalright used to make my favourite Socket A coolers; SK-6, SK-7 and a few others. Their bigger ones do want proper mounting holes but the smaller ones are pretty good and are happy with the socket lips and modest fans. Actually finding one might be tricky though (I do have a small collection sat in a box somewhere..)

What's your case cooling like? If the heat's hanging around inside the case any heatsink's going to lose effeciency, and a better fan churning the same hot air around isn't going to help that much. In a pinch, some cardboard + sticky tape to duct air around the heatsink can help increase airflow without needing more fans.

If all else fails, consider upgrading. A low end AMD64 will be faster and cooler for a pretty small outlay.
posted by Freaky at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2007

You might be applying too much thermal paste, thermal paste is fairly inefficient at heat transfer, and is only useful because air is an even more efficient insulator. One millimeter is the recommended thickness of thermal paste to apply, and both surfaces must be clean before you apply it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2007

If the paste is fine as you say, it may just be a bad unit. Processors are checked at the factory but it's entirely possible for some failure after the warehouse. At some point, it's worth it just to get a new processor and mobo rather than continuing to troubleshoot the reliability issue.

Think about how much your time and sanity is worth and then an upgrade doesn't sound so bad or costly.
posted by junesix at 3:50 PM on August 23, 2007

Case cooling is pretty key. I had a barton 2500+ that I overclocked to 3200+, and I also had a volcano. I eventually replaced the fan on the volcano (keeping the copper heatsink) with a nice quiet 80mm Vantec case fan. The system ran a little warm, but not ridiculously so, and was fairly stable during normal operation.

You could try that route, but honestly I think you'd be better off doing as some others have suggested and getting some new hardware.
posted by benign at 6:02 PM on August 23, 2007

Some details about above: The heatsink was from a volcano 11, and the case I was using was an Antec Sonata that had pretty good airflow. CPU temperatures were in the mid 60s (C).
posted by benign at 6:05 PM on August 23, 2007

Oh, sorry about the thermal paste answer, I didn't see that you'd addressed that in your question... Instead of a fan on the Processor, you could just put a good heat sink on it, and then install a $19.99 230mm side mount fan in the side of the case opposite the heat sink. That would cool all but the most defective processors, and give you a fan that you could move to your next case. You need tin snips to install, but they are remarkably quiet despite the high CFM, due to the size of the blades, and relatively low RPM.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:37 AM on August 24, 2007

Thanks for the wicked responses - I've been having a good read of these links and it certainly seems like case cooling was a lot to do with it. For anyone else having similar issues this is what has sorted the problem:

I was a muppet and hadn't sorted out case cooling sensibly, drawing air IN next to the CPU and not OUT away from it. I turned the fan round, took out a crap front one (that wasn't turning very well anyway). I put it all back together and it ran much cooler.

My issue was the CPU was still running at 2500 speed. I'd hoped to up the multiplier a bit so I could run it at approaching 2800 speeds, but found that my multiplier was locked at 11.5 or so. The solution was in adjusting FSB speed (which could be done incrementally by enabling a "use overlocked CPU settings" dialog in the BIOS) in small steps. I started at 166 and crept upwards till I have it running now at 190 or so - the CPU is running at a relatively glorious 2Ghz and has done so for several marathon Bioshock sessions. So it's pretty damn stable now! I may push it further...
posted by 6am at 9:28 AM on August 28, 2007

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