Turning up the heat on GPUs

Written by Mark Mackay

August 5, 2009 | 11:18

Tags: #bsod #desk-fan #gpu #graphics-cards #heat #over-heating

The first graphics card I ever bought as a stand-alone purchase was an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro with an Arctic Cooling VGA Silencer bolted to it. The game that I was oh-so-thoroughly addicted to at the time was one of my first PC games, and my first MMO, Asheron’s Call 2.

The effects and textures of AC2 were exceptionally advanced, especially for an MMO and especially for one released that many years ago. When you cranked up the detail settings and AA, it was very demanding on the hardware of the day.
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The jump in visual splendiferousness from the crappy low-end Nvidia GPU that I'd been ripped off for by my local PC store was immense. It looked like a completely different game. However after about 10 minutes of gaming, my PC would BSOD and restart itself, telling me that it had recovered from a serious error.

After some browsing forums and experimenting with different drivers I decided that the card must be broken. So when RMAing it I thought: ‘Screw it, I’m gonna spend even more money’ and managed to obtain the illusive Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition. So, I had my shiny new £260 graphics card all set up. I fired up AC2 and low and behold, the same thing happened.

Turning up the heat on GPUs

I got the notion that maybe it was overheating, as turning down the settings a little solved the problem. So I bought myself a 12in desk fan and pointed directly into my case with the side panel off. Problem solved. It never shut down and restarted when settings were maxed out again.

Over the years I’ve owned a Radeon X1900XT and a Radeon HD 4870 and both have, at times, shut down on me when I've been playing games with absolutely maximum settings.

It's happened even when the cards have had aftermarket coolers and not been overclocked, which makes it all the more difficult to work out why I've had such a bad run. Have other people had similar problems with overheating or have I just been unlucky with my graphics cards?
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