[SOLVED] i7-960 suddenly running hot

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
I have an old Dell XPS 9100, i7-960 that is due to be replaced. Over the past two days the fan activity has increased considerably and whereas my idle temps were around 70 deg C today it's in the mid to high 90s at idle.

I blew out whatever dust had collected (there wasn't much), but I'm wondering what could cause this sudden jump.

It has been shutting down sporadically.
 

Mrgr74

Prominent
Sep 2, 2019
437
87
490
51
Have u tried re seating the cpu cooler and re applying thermal paste like I said before? I have a suspicion that could be it.
Yes, this. (Your reply came thru before mine & so I didn't see you ask the same thing lol )

@dg27 - I'd strongly advise you to do this step 1st. Especially since you got it back in '16 and have not done it yourself since you received the PC. As for Dell, I'm not an expert on their processes, but I'd be surprised if they re-pasted during the refurbishing if nothing came up as amiss on their end during the refurbishing process itself, so it could have been... years... since last done..

I'm sure you prob. already know, but make sure you thoroughly clean off the old paste from both the CPU and the heat sink. Use Isopropyl alcohol and a coffee filter to clean. While you're at it, give the fan a good cleaning as well. A Q-Tip here is your friend. Last but not least, use a good quality thermal paste. (A small dot and only on the CPU) I'm a fan of good old Artic Silver 5 and Artic MX-4. None of that old leftover generic "white" paste that came with some PC Parts/electronics. :) There are a ton of guides here on Toms and Youtube as well. But again you prob. already know "How-To" so this is all a moot point. (If not, we'll gladly steer you in the right direction, so no worries.)

Let us know though how it goes after.
 
Last edited:

Mrgr74

Prominent
Sep 2, 2019
437
87
490
51
I have an old Dell XPS 9100, i7-960 that is due to be replaced. Over the past two days the fan activity has increased considerably and whereas my idle temps were around 70 deg C today it's in the mid to high 90s at idle.

I blew out whatever dust had collected (there wasn't much), but I'm wondering what could cause this sudden jump.

It has been shutting down sporadically.
If it's an older system and you've verified that its dust free, when was the last time you replaced the Thermal paste? Does the fan stay on all the time? Have you checked the CPU fans RPM's? Any background programs running?
 

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
Thanks for the detailed reply.

If it's an older system and you've verified that its dust free, when was the last time you replaced the Thermal paste?
Never. I bought this refurbished by Dell in Feb 16. My thought was that might be the best first step. Agree?

Does the fan stay on all the time?
It never did before, but now (over the last 24 hours) it seems to.

Have you checked the CPU fans RPM's?
No--have no idea where to do that. Will have to google.

Any background programs running?
I shut off everything other than antivirus; no change.
 

matt726363

Commendable
Oct 26, 2017
44
1
1,535
0
Thanks for the detailed reply.



Never. I bought this refurbished by Dell in Feb 16. My thought was that might be the best first step. Agree?



It never did before, but now (over the last 24 hours) it seems to.



No--have no idea where to do that. Will have to google.



I shut off everything other than antivirus; no change.
Have u tried re seating the cpu cooler and re applying thermal paste like I said before? I have a suspicion that could be it.
 

Mrgr74

Prominent
Sep 2, 2019
437
87
490
51
Have u tried re seating the cpu cooler and re applying thermal paste like I said before? I have a suspicion that could be it.
Yes, this. (Your reply came thru before mine & so I didn't see you ask the same thing lol )

@dg27 - I'd strongly advise you to do this step 1st. Especially since you got it back in '16 and have not done it yourself since you received the PC. As for Dell, I'm not an expert on their processes, but I'd be surprised if they re-pasted during the refurbishing if nothing came up as amiss on their end during the refurbishing process itself, so it could have been... years... since last done..

I'm sure you prob. already know, but make sure you thoroughly clean off the old paste from both the CPU and the heat sink. Use Isopropyl alcohol and a coffee filter to clean. While you're at it, give the fan a good cleaning as well. A Q-Tip here is your friend. Last but not least, use a good quality thermal paste. (A small dot and only on the CPU) I'm a fan of good old Artic Silver 5 and Artic MX-4. None of that old leftover generic "white" paste that came with some PC Parts/electronics. :) There are a ton of guides here on Toms and Youtube as well. But again you prob. already know "How-To" so this is all a moot point. (If not, we'll gladly steer you in the right direction, so no worries.)

Let us know though how it goes after.
 
Last edited:

Third-Eye

Distinguished
Jun 26, 2011
604
94
19,090
33
I have an old Dell XPS 9100, i7-960 that is due to be replaced. Over the past two days the fan activity has increased considerably and whereas my idle temps were around 70 deg C today it's in the mid to high 90s at idle.

I blew out whatever dust had collected (there wasn't much), but I'm wondering what could cause this sudden jump.

It has been shutting down sporadically.
Check to make sure the CPU fan is still working or if it's running very slow or if it's even still plugged in. If the system has the original 10 year old fan, it might have seized or was seizing but you didn't notice until now.
 

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
Thanks, all of you for your replies. The CPU fan is definitely working: It's been in overdrive constantly (that's what led me to check the temps). I just ordered Arctic 5 and will have it on Sunday. Watched a couple of videos, which recommended the "pea" method for applying the paste. I really think that's the issue. When I got the machine I replaced the crappy stock can fans with Noctuas, but I did not replace the CPU cooler (which is proprietary). I'll report back...

Thanks again.
 

Mrgr74

Prominent
Sep 2, 2019
437
87
490
51
Thanks, all of you for your replies. The CPU fan is definitely working: It's been in overdrive constantly (that's what led me to check the temps). I just ordered Arctic 5 and will have it on Sunday. Watched a couple of videos, which recommended the "pea" method for applying the paste. I really think that's the issue. When I got the machine I replaced the crappy stock can fans with Noctuas, but I did not replace the CPU cooler (which is proprietary). I'll report back...

Thanks again.
Nice!

The fresh Arctic 5, even with a stock cooler will work wonders compared to the years old clay that's prob on there now. As for the "Pea" size of Thermal Paste, use a smidgen over the size of a small kernel of corn. So about 3/4 the size of a Pea (What is this, cooking class?? lol) If you don't set the heat sink down evenly on top of the CPU, you have a chance of possibly "smearing" the paste more to one side as opposed to setting the heat sink directly down, evenly smoothing out the thermal paste between the top of the CPU & the bottom of the heat sink. You definitely don't want it oozing out the sides. If that happens, start over cuz ya used too much! :)

Now I'm curious as to just how much cooler you CPU will run. Mind installing a little program called "Core Temp"? It'll tell you the temps of each of your cores. Once you start it, it'll show up down in your task bar by your clock. To close it, just R.click on any of the temps and click "Exit." The temps will fluctuate. A little before & after results.. I'm actually going to do this tonight. I have a fresh tube of Arctic MX-4 I'm going to use on my 1 year old 2700x on Stock cooler & original thermal paste with temps at idle of 30-35c and on my EVGA 1060 6GB SC with idle temps of 26c.
 
Reactions: dg27

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
OK--"small kernel of corn" it'll be. On one of the videos the guy showed various bad ways of doing it and used a small piece of glass to simulate what happens when the heatsink makes contact with the CPU (you could see through the glass that it creeps all over the sides like too much frosting on a cupcake; this is cooking class). I already have Core Temp and Speccy.

I feel a lot better after hearing from you guys. This morning I thought this machine was hosed. All I want is to get maybe 6 more months out of it. I definitely think taking care of this should help in a big way, but I was pretty terrified. Haven't gone near messing with a processor since the days of Windows 98 when I changed the CPU on my first Dell.

Thanks again.
 

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
One thing I would look at before taking out the CPU is CPU usage. If you look at task manager with nothing running, what percentage is you CPU usage at?
Good point.

With only Firefox (one window) running CPU usage is 3-6% (varies). What should it be?

And I have no plans to take the CPU out: just the heatsink.

I use this machine for audio production (Pro Tools); that really drives usage up a lot. I haven't even opened it since this started this morning.
 

Ketchup79

Notable
Aug 7, 2019
1,449
133
1,140
75
Up to 10% when idle (brower, email, and some background apps) is good. It is a little odd to me that your thermal paste suddenly stopped doing its job. That stuff actually gets tighter (harder) over time and, considering it was installed properly, could make it a bit of a chore to get your cooler off. But that's assuming that it was installed correctly at the "refurb" location, so I do look forward to seeing what you find.
 
Reactions: dg27

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
Up to 10% when idle (brower, email, and some background apps) is good. It is a little odd to me that your thermal paste suddenly stopped doing its job. That stuff actually gets tighter (harder) over time and, considering it was installed properly, could make it a bit of a chore to get your cooler off. But that's assuming that it was installed correctly at the "refurb" location, so I do look forward to seeing what you find.
Actually, I had noticed the temps rising for a while, especially when using Pro Tools. It's also my 'dayjob' machine. This morning when it shut down abruptly I know that Acronis, Outlook, Firefox, Excel, and Acrobat were all running.

If I find that that the heatsink is stuck, is there a way of loosening it without damaging the CPU?
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
If I find that that the heatsink is stuck, is there a way of loosening it without damaging the CPU?
Turn on the PC and run a stress-test for a few minutes to warm the paste up and make it more malleable. Undo the retention pins (make sure they are pulled out of the motherboard holes) and then apply a twisting force to the heatsink until you feel it turn. Should be able to pull it off then.

Usually, old graphite/diamond/zinc/aluminum-based pastes only "quit working" after the heatsink or the whole PC got bumped or dropped hard enough to break the paste loose.
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
Pastes are not thermally conductive, in fact pastes are an insulator. It's the additives, silicates, minerals, diamond dust etc that's in the paste that are the thermal conductors, the paste itself is just a medium to hold them. With that in mind, when a paste dries out (AS5 and other pastes in that class have an @ 200 heat cycle cure time) it doesn't loose any thermal conductivity, it's still just as good as day 1. The problem arises with the breaking of the seal. When the paste dries, it's just like silicon caulking, it's sealed, but any decent bump, knock, bounce to the case or even a fan out of balance, can break the seal, and just like caulking, it's done/dead/useless and needs redoing.

With AS5, repaste every 2 years or so. With the grease type pastes like Noctua NT-H1 or Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, it's more like 8-10 years.
 

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
Turn on the PC and run a stress-test for a few minutes to warm the paste up and make it more malleable. Undo the retention pins (make sure they are pulled out of the motherboard holes) and then apply a twisting force to the heatsink until you feel it turn. Should be able to pull it off then.

Usually, old graphite/diamond/zinc/aluminum-based pastes only "quit working" after the heatsink or the whole PC got bumped or dropped hard enough to break the paste loose.
Thanks. The machine's been moved (across the room) maybe three times and never dropped or bumped.
 

dg27

Distinguished
Nov 7, 2010
338
7
18,815
7
With AS5, repaste every 2 years or so. With the grease type pastes like Noctua NT-H1 or Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, it's more like 8-10 years.
Thanks. All good to know. If Noctua NT-H1 and Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut last so much longer, I'm curious as to why everyone recommends AS5.
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
Years ago, back in dark ages of pc's as a hobby and work machine, there was extremely little thought given to cpu cooling or case cooling. As long as the pc didn't overheat, it was OK. So paste was pretty rare, only a few companies made it and what was sold was quite expensive. Easily pay $20 or more for a 2-3 application tube. And the along came Arctic with its AS5 in a 12 application bottle for @ $6. It went viral overnight. Ppl could repaste, loan to friends, screw up and repaste all over, for just $6. It got near impossible to keep it on the shelf. I was always selling out. Had a waiting list at times. Cheap, decent, and plentiful. AS5 became a household word, everyone into pc's had heard of it.

And nothings changed. It's a brand name like Corsair or Asus or Seasonic. And ppl are sheep. They stick to name brands. 100 different pastes, and they'll choose AS5 because they've heard of it. Regardless of the fact its a mediocre paste, literally right in the middle of good-bad, not the easiest to apply or clean, can turn to concrete if left hot too many times.... There are better pastes.

Of course the difference between really good and really bad is only 5-6°C, but thats just temps. Ease of application, ease of cleaning, performance all add up to making or breaking a paste.
 

Third-Eye

Distinguished
Jun 26, 2011
604
94
19,090
33
Arctic Silver 5 does not need to be reapplied every 1-2 years. It will last over 5 years without losing much of it's thermal conductivity. The only reason to reapply would be if you removed the heatsink to clean it properly.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY