Heat is no good for your CPU and graphics card, and I didn't realize how much I was living on the edge until I did some maintenance today. The first item of business was to replace my CPU cooler. Temps were often times far too hot, and I was just using the stock heat sink and fan provided with the CPU when I bought it nearly two years ago.

I decided to upgrade to the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus. When this showed up and I opened the box, I had two thoughts: "Wow, this is bigger than I thought" and "Now I see why my CPU was getting so hot before..." This is definitely a big upgrade from the stock cooler, but a much needed one. Here is a nice side-by-side of the old fan/heat sink when I built the machine two years ago and the newly installed cooler:

Motherboard closeup New cooler on motherboard

The net result of this was a drop of idle temperatures from 51°C/44°C at idle to 43°C/38°C. The reason I put two temps here is because whatever sensor shows up as "Core 0" always runs 5°C or so hotter; why I am not sure. The more impressive drop is at 100% usage. It now runs at 53°C/46°C at max load whereas before I would push 96°C/85°C (not too good at all for the poor CPU).

VisionTek 900241 Radeon HD 4850 detail

I probably wouldn't have even wrote this post, however, if I didn't discover something else when installing the cooler. I had to disassemble the whole thing in order to get to the back of the motherboard, so I pulled the graphics card out. The card is a VisionTek 900241 Radeon HD 4850, and I now think it was one of the stupidest designs ever made due to the dust I found completely blocking the airflow from the fan on the heat sink.

See that huge red hunk of plastic? Inside, with about a half-inch gap from the fan, are your normal metal heat sink vanes. Too bad the entrances to them are small enough that dust starts to pile up to the point where air no longer flows at all through the vanes. To top it off, you can't remove that plastic assembly to clean it out; you have to stick whatever small tools you have in there and pull the dust away and out through the fan. Super stupid design and probably the reason later versions of the card have a redesigned fan.

I now have a much quieter computer due to the fact that the CPU is always cool and the graphics card fan is not spinning at 100% speed trying to blow air through an impenetrable dust wall.