A few months ago, around February, I built myself a new PC. I decided to finally move into the multi-core and 64-bit arena. I built a nice dual-core AMD 64-bit machine, with just shy of 2tb of storage, spread over 3 SATA drives. I had them raid 5’d, to get 1.2tb, but, well, we’ll just say that didnt end well. I now have three individual drives, but thats a whole other blog entry.

When I built this machine, I had planned on a rather nice (and rather expensive) video card. It was $250 at the time. Well, when it came time to put the system together, I’d found that i was lacking in the toy fund when it came to purchase the video card. Star Trek Online was released, and my old machine wasnt cutting it, so i was itching to get this thing together, so i compromised on a temporary card. I went to NewEgg’s bargain bin (refurbs and returns) and picked out a decently spec’d video card which was returned, for $50. The price was right, if i get a few months of use out of it I’m happy.

What I ended up with is a Jaton nVidia GeForce 9500 GT, and it works well, except for one major issue. After a few minutes of gameplay, i get horrible framerates. This will last for anywhere from a few seconds, to a few minutes, then it just clears up, for a bit, and then it comes back again. Its outright painful at times.

So i set out trying to troubleshoot the issue. My first thought was that it was a glitch in Star Trek Online (the only game I was playing at the time). After hitting up the forums, and doing some troubleshooting on my own, i found that this was not the case. I eventually found that the issue occurred in other games. Including World of Warcraft, and Quake 4.

So I went and downloaded nVidia’s monitor app. Which allows you to watch things like memory utilization cpu, and temperature on the video card.

What i found was definite proof of what was wrong. Heat! The card would slowly build up to about 235 degrees F, and then hit some sort of threshold (probably a limiter which is there to keep it from overheating) until it cooled off a bit. Then after it cooled sufficiently, the card would kick back in and perform properly. Then I’d inevitably hit the limit again, and the sequence repeats.

I started trying to come up with other ideas on how to keep this card cool. My first thought was “What a piece of crap, they couldnt even design a chip cooler to keep this thing cool?!”.

The case i put this machine in has a multitude of fans. One of which actually blows DIRECTLY ON the video card.

I tried turning this fan around, as it seems that out of the box, ALL of the fans were intake fans, and no exhaust. I turned this one around thinking it would help draw heat away from the video card. This didnt help at all.

So i turned to the heat-sink on the card. Have a look at this thing.

I see the idea here. The fan to the right is intended to blow (or pull?) air through the enclosure. You cant see it very well in the picture, but its open at the left, exposing an aluminum heat sink. My issue is that this obviously isn’t working well. So I took the card out and started having a look at it. On the bottom of the card, there are four screws which hold the whole fan and heat sink on.

So i pulled out my old video card, which was getting almost no use in my old pc, which is now a media server. I swapped it with an even older card i had laying around, and had a look at the fan/heat sink on this card. I noticed that it too is removable.

BTW, The Gamers, Dorkness Rising, excellent movie for ANYONE who’s ever played DnD for any extent of time.

So anyway, I considered thieving the fan from the old card, and placing it on the Jaton. This went well, until i realized that the mounting posts on the older cards fan, are about 1cm wider than the mounting posts on the Jaton card. I briefly pictured breaking out my cordless drill, but decided against it.

So I made a decision.

Basically, it seemed to me that the fan was inadequate, so it would make sense to allow more air to the aluminum fins. This could be done with the case fan i pointed out earlier, or worse case scenario, one of those fans which mounts in an open expansion slot.

So I did just that.

Put the card back in the pc, and booted it up, the card is now idle at around 130 degrees F, and it seems to stay around there when i utilize the card (tested a few minutes in WoW, followed by a few minutes in Quake 4). HOWEVER, I have noticed one case where the temp rose again, up to the limit, causing the old framerate issue. I exited my game, and let the system rest for a bit, the temp hung around 200 degrees for a long time, and then suddenly dropped to 130 again. This leads me to believe that the fan on the card is actually failing. Or, perhaps the fan is controlled by something, and it kicks on and off. Though, i’d expect it to kick ON when the system is under load, and not when it’s been idle for 15 minutes. I think the next step will be one of the previously mentioned slot fans. This should solve the problem permanently.