How cool is your CPU?

Let me start off by saying a BIG Colorado “Thank You” to my Flight Sim Friend, Al.  I met Al via his flight sim blog.  Al also has a personalblog which I also follow.   Prior to meeting Al via his blog and correspondence through email, both Al and I built new PC’s to support our flight simulation hobby.   Al named his HAL-i7 and you can read his blog entry here.  I estimate our machines were built within a month or so of each other and they are almost identical.  You can read my blog entry regarding my new hardware here.

My machine has been running for over a month now and I’ve always had two concerns regarding the machine.  First, I didn’t like the way my old CPU heat sink and fan mounted onto the motherboard.  I feel it is very poor design.  I actually wrestled with it for much longer than I should have needed in order to get it to fit snug on the motherboard. 

The second concern has been with CPU core temperature.  This is one of the main reasons why I purchased the Antec Twelvehundred case.  This case has more fans than all the other PC’s I have running put together.  I didn’t want heat to become an issue with this machine.  But even with more than a half-dozen fans, I still had heating concerns and it all pointed to the stock CPU heat sink/fan that came with my Intel i7 930 processor. 

Stock Intel heatsink/fan for i7 CPU

If you took a moment to read Al’s blog post regarding his same concerns, I’ll admit that I am also not one to tweak the system beyond stock hardware.  I’ve never overclocked a CPU.  So when I was sitting down and planning the new PC build, it never crossed my mind to add an aftermarket CPU cooler.  Oh sure, I’ve read about the liquid cooled systems and those are impressive…but I figured the stock fan and heat sink would be fine.

So the other day I visited Al’s personal blog site and noticed he had taken a stab at addressing the heat issues he had noticed with his i7 processor and I was excited with his results.  I took perhaps 5 minutes to conduct a little research on my own then quickly decided if it is good enough for Al, it will be good enough for me. 

I was already nervously aware of just how hot my i7 CPU was running.  Again, remember I’m currently not overclocking the machine.  I had installed RealTemp some time ago and was shocked at seeing temps north of 80 C (176 F) when running FSX.  However, when reading Al’s blog post I realized my CPU temps were not as extreme as his.  But I felt it was still a direction I wanted to go and I’m glad I did.

Back of motherboard ready for mounting bracket install

I had to pull the motherboard in order to attach the mounting plate.  This was the most timeconsuming part of the entire project.  But certainly well worth the effort.  The mounting plate that comes with the Noctua NH-U12Pis a two-part system and when installed is a strong connection and one that fully assures me of a solid connection.  Remember, I felt the stock fan/heat sink really didn’t connect to the motherboard in a secure fashion.  This corrects that issue.

New Noctua NH-U12P heatsink installed. Now that’s a heatsink

As you can tell from the picture above, the Noctua NH-U12P is a massive heat sink and I’m glad I had more than enough room in the case for this bad boy.  The folks at Noctua provide everything you need including detailed instructions and all the parts needed (including thermal compound).  They even included a screw driver.  But that’s not all.  In addition to the massive heat sink, the system also includes two fans as show below.

Massive 120mm fans mounted onto heatsink in a push/pull fashion.

I setup my fans the same way Al setup his.  I used a push/pull method with the pusher fan located on the bottom and the pull fan located on top.  The Antec Twelvehundred case has a top mounted fan just above for maximum cooling. 

Ready to put the panels on the case and test.

I sealed the case back up and moved it off the work bench over to the simulator desk for the moment of truth.  She made it through the POST test and Windows 7 came up just as expected.  I did have to restrain myself from starting FSX and jumping in some big iron to test her out.  I did the next best thing and launched RealTemp and Prime95 to see what improvements this project would provide.

Results???  Well first let me go over my numbers from running Prime95with the stock Intel CPU fan and heat sink.  The max temperature from the 10 minute test maxed out at 85C (185F).  After installing the Noctua NH-U12P heat sink and fan kit, my results with the same 10 minute test was 62C (144F).  Those are numbers I can live with and very proud of.

Until next time,

J

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