Heat is the enemy of computers. Unlike short circuits and lightning strikes, which usually do instantaneous damage to your components, heat is one of the nuisances that can damage your computer over a long period of time, as well. Without delving into water-cooling and similar alternatives, having a well-ventilated, spacious and tidy computer case can help the general airflow. However, sometimes heat has to be directly removed from the overheated component, be it the CPU, the northbridge chipset or the graphic card’s GPU. Those three are commonly considered the three critical overheating points inside a computer.
Sometimes, you might have other, reasons for improving cooling. In this sample case, a Sapphire Radeon 9600XT Atlantis developed multiple problems. One of them was the incessant overheating – the idle temperature was around 50 deg. C (122 deg. F), while the active temperature was over 75 deg. C (165 deg. F) – quite a hot coal on our hands. Any temperature exceeding 40 deg. C in idle or 60 deg. C while active is considered risky, because it shows the current heatsink and fan can not extract the heat quickly enough. For comparison, 80 deg. C (176 deg. F) is considered a borderline critical temperature because a process called electromigration starts taking place. Without going into the explanation too much, any higher than that and you’ll get slowdowns and crashing in games, and the chip will start deteriorating faster and faster to its demise.
The second issue with the default fan was that, being made of aluminium, it was relatively easy to dent – in fact, one of the screws did just that, and it was impossible to reassemble it without having the whole fan rattle and whirr. Although a drop of superglue could’ve stopped the rattling, that alone would not have fixed the heat issue, so a replacement was in order. After almost two years of service, one could say a replacement was even mandatory.
First off, the card was removed from its slot, whether it’s AGP or PCI-Express. The first thing you have to note is how the fan is connected to the card itself and how it’s powered. Since this is a standard ATi card, the heatsink has the holes in the same spot as it would on all 9×00 and Xx00 cards. Likewise, the power cable that feeds the fan was a standard, two-pin microconnector. The fan was removed from its place by pinching the two plastic nipples on the underside of the card with a pair of tweezers, then slowly rotating them until each popped out. The fan was then simply lifted off the card, along with a layer of old thermal paste.
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