CPU Cooler heartache

So, Summer is finally deciding to raise the temperature here in Australia right now, which has meant that my normally quiet AMD x2 3800+ has been slowly raising it’s CPU Fan speed from a nice, quiet 3000 rpm to an annoying 5500 rpm screamer. It became unbearable, so I decided to do something about it.

Until I had time to research which heatsink, cooler combo I needed (wanted), I thought I would try a little Arctic Silver on it, to see if it would have any effect. So, I whip out the CPU at about 11pm and dab a little (a little too much) on it and put it all together again. The end result = no difference.

Bummer, I have to spend some money on a Heatsink/Fan combo.

So I search around and me being me Mr. Senor Scrooge, when it comes to spending money on gadgetry (because of it’s high depreciation), I came across the GlacialTech Igloo 7300 Light and while it didn’t offer massive cooling capabilities, it’s claim to fame was being quiet. Another restriction I had was the height because my power supply sits vertical rather than horizontal (ie: Open the case and the PSU covers the CPU) and there’s about 50mm gap there, so I had to stick with something of a similar height to the standard AMD fan. So it was between a Zalman (AUD $38) and the Glacialtech ($22) so the Glacial won.

Got it home and when I pulled out the CPU, the Arctic Silver was all over the bloody thing (late night smear campaign) and as I was cleaning it up I got a tiny bit from my finger on the base between 2 cpu pins (this was discovered later). I put the CPU in and the thing doesn’t post. Aagh.. turn it off, back on again and it boots this time.

Oh it is (was) a beautiful thing to not hear the PC again. Temps are a little higher but not too bad – 48C – So I put it all back together and the thing runs fine for a day and a half until Sunday night, black screen. Try to reboot, no post. Try again, posts and begins to boot but gets to fsck resiser partitions and some really weird stuff goes down. Try to boot to CD (pclinuxos) it begins to boot and resets itself during hardware detection. Start disconnecting everything to boot as bare as possible and it boots up on one drive (out of the raid). Try the other drive and it gets caught in a big loop. I run memtest86 on the pclinuxos disk and it freezes during it. Grab the PSU and Ram from another PC I have and try them one by one. Same thing kind of occurences.

God, this is getting awry. It seems like a motherboard or cpu by now right? But the problem is, which? I neither want to go another day without my PC nor do I want to spend big money on trying each solution. So I opt. for a 3200+ Athlon 939 and an Asus A8S-X, got home and realised that while looking at other M/B’s with AGP, I totally missed that this Mobo used PCI-E instead of AGP – Cursed myself. But the 3200+ was there anyway – part of me wanting it to be the answer (problem solved) part of me not (forgoing a 3800 dual core for a 3200+ single :( )

So, wack in the 3200+ “carefully” of course. The thing boots, runs fine. I start working away leaving the whole case open. Everything’s great – a mixed emotion comes over me – I lost my dual core but pc works.

Fit the PC together and it runs for about 3 hours and then locks up. Reboot, another fsck (and the Virtual Machine inside it) It seems to run better (longer) if I leave the case open and the PSU on the floor next to it but still, it runs for a few hours or up to 20hours and then dies. – Shit.. yeah, so whats the deal now? Motherboard right? but the Asus only takes PCI-E and I really don’t want to go out and buy another Motherboard without REALLY knowing whether that’s the issue.

Taking about 50 steps backward, which only ever seems to really occur after you have tried every other avenue, I ask the question “What changed?” – Let me just try the old AMD CPU Cooler again. Put it under the most duress conditions. Closed the box up, watched a documentary on it, had MythTV index all my MP3’s and 40 hours later now it’s still chugging along – so far, it has been flawless. Could it really be heatsink yet NOT heat related?

My theory (actually hypothesis) is that due to the GlacialTech CPU Cooler having a large taper on it from the CPU socket up to the 120mm FAN. This taper means it comes pretty close to some capacitors on the board. Could it be causing some kind of interference? The other possibility – strange as it may seem is that the 120mm fan is drawing more power than the AMD’s 80mm fan – but seriously, this current draw is so tiny that it shouldn’t really matter. For example, I have tried to run with only 1 hard drive, and a hard drive draws a lot more current than a CPU fan – albeit directly from the PSU rather than the Motherboard.

The PC with the Glacialtech was much more stable with the 3200+ Single Core than the 3800+ dual core. It would barely post with the 3800+, whereas with the Glacialtech CPU Fan the 3200+ would at least run for a few hours.

Tonight, I will be testing the 3800+ X2 with the stock AMD fan if I get a chance, something I haven’t yet tried from the beginning. Good luck to me. Once I sort out this whole saga, I will try and get some photos posted.

======UPDATE 21.01.2007=========

Ok, I have this whole saga completely worked out now and have taken the pics. The CPU cooler is fine, the CPU is fine, the Motherboard is unique but fine. The problem ended up being that the stock AMD cpu cooler pulls the cpu down quite hard and slightly bows the motherboard. The new Glacialtech didn’t put the bow in the board and for some reason my ASRock is addicted to it’s little bowing technique for whatever reason. I spliced the outer casing of an old PS2 mouse and used the rubber as a space between the heatsink and the bracket, which made the bracket sit higher and put more pressure on the motherboard “emulating” the bow that the stock AMD CPU was creating.

I have seen a similar but opposite problem to this on an Abit motherboard where tightening the CPU would causing the center of the memory modules to lose contact because of the bow in the motherboard. They are just something you would never think of.

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Published by salubrium

I am a Systems Administrator based in Sydney, Australia with some hugely varied interests: Topics covered are Virtualization, Web Hosting, Remote Desktop, Security and Backups, PHP, Python, MVC Frameworks, SEO

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