Thursday, May 23, 2013

FANtastic: Cooling Upgrade

In my previous post about overclocking my PC, I explained how I'd been unwilling to add any more voltage to the CPU or CPU-NB because of how hot the chip was getting when under full load. Because of this, I made a note to investigate some better cooling options for my case (a Thermalake M9). One of my first thoughts was to purchase an all-in-one closed cooling loop, but I decided instead to try and improve the general air-flow throughout the chassis. Ensuring there's plenty of cool air inside the case means that the CPU cooler can function more efficiently and it also has a beneficial effect on other components in the system. Not only that, but the stock fans couldn't have their speed adjusted, which was something I was keen on remedying also.

I had already been on the lookout for a decent SSD to upgrade my system with (more on that in a later post), so when I finally ordered I tacked on a couple of 12cm Bitfenix Spectre Pro fans to replace the stock ThermalTake ones. Of course, they had to have blue LEDs so as to keep the current aesthetic!

I also took the time to clean the interior of the case, which ended up in me removing the HDD cage to remove dust that had built up there before I attached a Spectre Pro.

Once I had finished installing the fans, I powered the system on to see how they looked. I think the light they produce seems less diffuse than the Thermaltake stock fans, but that could have simply because I took the time to properly wash and clean the dust filters in the front panel!

The original fans were rather grubby, so I set them aside momentarily, but not for long as I'll explain in a bit.

As a final touch, I decided to replace the side panel with the clear perspex one. When I finally found the part in my garage, I was excited to find that it had 12cm fan mounting holes machined into it! So, I grabbed the two old Thermaltake fans, cleaned them up and attached them. I think the final look of the case is very impressive.

A quick test showed that CPU temperature was decreased by almost 10°C when at load, however I have since installed some dust filters on the inside of the fans and that has reduced the effectiveness of the additional cooling. Overall, I think I'm getting approximately 5-6°C lower CPU temps during Prime95 runs, which gives me a bit more headroom to try overclocking the system further.

To further improve the cooling, I have also researched liquid-cooling options, in particular the all-in-one, closed-loop coolers. Given the M9 only seems to have space for a 12cm radiator (where the rear exhaust fan resides), my options are reduced somewhat. However, Maximum PC hold the Corsair H80i in high regard and it's only around GBP 80.00, so once I'm satisfied I'd be able to fit the cooler in my case, I think I'll take the plunge and order one.