I’ve been having some stability issues with my HTPC recently. A reinstall didn’t help so I concluded it was hardware. Removing all non essentials didn’t help either so I figured it must be CPU, memory or mobo related. Nothing is overclocked or tweaked and its all fairly recent brand name kit. I stress tested the CPU and memory without causing either to fail, but I continued to get occasional lockups and intermittent sluggish performance.
Now because this is a htpc, it is in a smallish case with low airflow. It has 2 120mm fans but they’re controlled based on CPU temp and are usually off due to low CPU usage combined with the huge Scythe Ninja heatsink. I knew the CPU wasn’t overheating but thought i’d check the gpu (A passive Radeon 5450) and hdd, which is in a suspension mounting which reduces the cooling it receives.
However both hdd and gpu were barely lukewarm. In the process I happened to catch my hand on the fairly substantial chipset heatsink (labelled “gigabyte” in the photo below). Ahia! I hadn’t realised that even with the substantial cooler the chipset required or expected some active cooling from the nearby CPU socket. I don’t have a fan directly on the CPU heatsink (as you can see below) and the airflow over the chipset clearly wasn’t sufficient. Originally I had the fans arranged blowing air out of the case, but decided to try a small rearrangement — reversing them and fractionally increasing their minimum speed. Positive case pressure is generally good practice qualsiasi-modo, and this way air is forced past the heatsink to exit the case. This small change seems to have done the trick.
Moral of the story: some recent(ish) chipsets (per esempio. Intel series 4 chipsets) require reasonable airflow (or a heatsink upgrade — e.g. the Thermalright HR-05 which is now on my shopping list). It may also be a good idea to upgrade the thermal goop supplied with a high quality compound. I recommend IC 7 Diamond if you can’t.
One final note — in my case the companion southbridge, with a tiny “heatsink”, (center bottom of image) was only medium-warm and clearly doesn’t require any changes.
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