Overheating quad-core PC

April 10th, 2009

The other day I came across an overheating quad-core PC where, at first glance, everything seemed to be OK.

The system was built around a Q6600 Intel quad-core CPU and was running on the standard air cooler. After a few minutes of being switched on the temperature warning alarm kicked in and stayed on. A trip into the PC health menu in the BIOS showed that the alarm was being triggered at 80°C/176°F and was set to shut down at 90°C/176°F. The temperature was hovering at the 80°C/176°F mark. This had just started happening the other day according to the owner.

I whipped the side off the system and came across quite a bit of dust. I've seen far more in a PC so didn't think that this was the cause. I switched the system on to confirm that the fans were working OK and they were. However, when I touched the heatsink it was very, very hot (fortunately a couple of previous finger injuries mean that I have very limited sensation in my index finder ... so while I didn't burn myself I knew that in order to be able to feel it the heatsink had to be really hot).

Note: Do I need to warn readers about the dangers of running a PC with the side off (electric shock, getting caught in fans ...) and the stupidness of touching potentially hot things? Also, take care of your eyes and lungs when working inside a dirty PC.

Hmmm ...

Then I followed a hunch. I detached the fan off the heatsink (there's two little plastic catches on the frame of the fan that fit into a slot on either side of the heatsink) and immediately found out what was wrong. Between the fan and the heatsink was a carpet of dust, dirt and pet hair. I'm talking about a mat that was a couple of millimeters thick and which I could remove and handle without it disintegrating. It had obviously built up over time and just got to the point where it was causing the system to overheat. That said, the fact that the CPU was still only just hitting the alarm trigger limit shows how good those stock coolers are.

I removed the mat, cleaned out most of the dust and within a few minutes the PC was as good as new.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 12:10 and is filed under In the News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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