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Windows 7: Hardware 101 - Upgrading your Stock VGA Cooler (Zalman VF-900 used)

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14 Aug 2010   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 & OSX 10.6
 
 
Hardware 101 - Upgrading your Stock VGA Cooler (Zalman VF-900 used)

I'm an Audio guy mostly, other than Halo and Fallout 3 I really don't play a lot of games. I do, however, hate having GPU core temps bumping to 60-70 Celsius at Idle, for no Reason... (except later learning that my fan was barely running and was about to die anyways... so good timing I guess...)

So I upgraded the stock fan and documented out of boredom and also in case it might help someone on here.


In this Lesson-
I used a BFG-Tech Nvidia Ge-force 7900 GS OC,
And a Zalman VF-900-Cu Air Cooler.

The Steps I lay out here are more or less interchangeable, And apply to a lot of different cards and setups.


About the Card used:
BFG-Tech Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS OC 256Mb
525MHz (vs. 450MHz standard)
Dual 400MHz RAMDACs, 256Mb GDDR3 @ 1320MHz, 42.2GB/Sec Bandwidth.

Pros:
It's Fast, even for only having 256Mb, (but it is GDDR3 which helps.)
I've been running it hard for over 3 and a half years now, and It's showing no signs of slowing down now...
It's a Tank. It's never given me a single Problem in under any circumstances, despite the over heating worries i once had.

Cons:
It's Late to boot, On the DVI out into an LG Flatron 1780U, It's display is a bit sluggish coming out of sleep mode, although I think that it's more the monitor than anything else.
It Likes Power, This isn't even really a Con, it's actually decently efficient about it's Amp draw, It's still a GPU, and so therefore It still likes power.

About the Cooler installed:
Zalman VF-900-Cu VGA Cooler
Solid Copper.
Quiet.
Easy to install. (It really only took me about 10-15 minutes.)
Comes with VGA RAM heat sinks. (which I like, rather a lot.)
Comes with manual speed controller. (that I didn't use, but It later broke anyways...)
Blue LED Ball bearing long life Silent operation Brushless fan. (which is Really Blue)

Pros:
See above.

Cons:
-The Springs on the Back nuts were annoying to assemble.
-The damn LEDs, (purely personal preference on this one.)
-The Speed controller is a MUCH LOWER quality unit compared to the ones I have had for years, and actually ended up breaking at one point later on when I was using it on another fan. (I'm still using the Original fan speed controller that I received when I bought my first Zalman CPU fan, about 7 years ago, and it still works flawlessly!)
-The Solder joints are exposed on the fan motor wiring, and the solder job didn't exactly look amazing.

I'm being picky about the Cons because there really isn't a whole lot to pick on. It really is a well built little unit. More later.


Now to the Assembly.

Step 1:
On the Back of the VGA card, Remove the 4 3mm Philips screws from the stock fan and heat sink assembly.





There Really is a Pretty big difference on the size, quality and gauge of copper used here.

Old Vs. New Sink and Fan.

Step 2:
Clean the GPU surface REALLY WELL with a damp rag moist with Technicians grade Isoprophol Alcohol, and make sure the contact surface of the new cooler is also extremely clean.




Step 3:
ADDING THERMAL COMPOUND:
Use a Very SMALL AMOUNT of Thermal grease on the chips surface to Help bond the the Sink.
If you use too much, It'll act as an insulator, keeping heat in, and negating the primary purpose of having the grease in the first place.



Thermal Grease does a few different things:
1. It helps Create a much more efficient thermal transfer between the chip and the copper sink.
2. It helps bond the sink to the chip as to not let it shift, or rock loose in the event of a nut or screw loosening, *still* helping the Thermal Transfer to be more efficient.
3. It acts as a vibration damper from the fan, and other moving components around the chip and other parts on the PCB as to not cause any unnecessary wear or possible solder-joint breakage or separation due to fatigue related stress and mechanical component vibration.

Also, I ONLY use Artic Silver 5 or equivalent, because of the metallic base. I believe that It's a lot better than ceramic, because it has a much lower heat capacaty, and Ceramic as far as I've ever learned since I was a young kid, is used as an insulator... Am I missing something? I do know that metallic over ceramic thermal compounds are good for an additional couple of degrees in cooling when doing an upgrade like this one...

Remember: If it makes noise, it vibrates. and Chips don't like being jarred around.

This is Actually more than I wanted to put on, and I went back and scraped about 10 or 20% of it off, and smoothed it with a razor blade so It'd look pretty before i smashed a Copper Heat Sink on to it.



Step 4.
Check your Documentation to see which holes you need to place the new mount posts onto, and snug them in to place.
Then, Make sure you add the 4 Rubber Washers on the mount posts at this point, as they'll help with Vibration-Damping the fan once mounted, and also help prevent PCB Damage due to Accidental over-tightening.
I Like to coil all of my fan wires around a screwdriver or something similar to give it that spring look. It's pretty, it keeps the case neat, and doesn't cause additional stress to the wiring, like a zip tie or stuffing it under a mainboard can do.

At this point i noticed that the Solder joints are exposed on the fan motor wiring, and the solder job didn't exactly look amazing, but I was careful about moving the wire around a lot and later on went back and put a drop of electrical grade clear silicone-RTV over the Exposed solder joints to prevent a shorting out in the case of a dropped screw or something of the sort, and to act as a stress reliever on the wire itself.



Step 5.
Assemble the Nut assemblies by pressing the springs onto the Black Plastic coated nuts. I don't know why they didn't either manufacture the nuts with springs already included on them, or attach them in the factory, but this seemed odd, was a little difficult to do in relation to the rest of the project, and was annoying to have to locate the pieces and put them together, considering the rest of the project is pretty simple.



Step 6.
Lay the sink/fan faced down and set the card on it, aligning the holes as you set it down, Give it a *little* jitter back and forth when you do to seat the GPU in the thermal grease correctly and ensure no air is trapped in the Grease. Next snip off the plastic washers from the parts tree they come attached to using flush-cut Wire dikes, (or really just twisting them off is fine too... but My OCD made me want them to be aesthetically perfect.) and add them to the posts after setting the card on the sink/fan assembly. at this point It's a good idea to go ahead and attach the anodized aluminium heat spreaders on the RAM chips on the board.



Step 7.
Holding the card Steady with one hand, spin the nuts on one at a time, in an alternating Pattern, and DON'T snug them until you have both/all 4 nuts (depending on your card type) on their posts. Snug the nuts just a bit past finger tight, and you are done!



Step 8.
Either use the included speed speed control to rig the fan or plug the fan into an available ATX+12vDC 3 wire fan port on the mainboard, install the card, plug in your ATX 12v Power, and go for it! The Fan itself really isn't a lot thicker than the stock fan, and I didn't have to reconfigure anything when it came time to install the card in my rig.





The New Temps are MUCH lower now, dropping from between 60 to 70 Celsius down to around 44 to 46 Celsius thanks to the new upgraded *properly working* heat sink and Fan, and It's much quieter than the stock fan was, even when it was working properly.




One thing I didn't like is the damn blue LED lights. I didn't bother cutting the LEDs like i Usually do, although it did cross my mind. I don't even plug my Power and HDD Activity
LEDs in on the front of my case, To me, It's just not Necessary, or desired.

and this is just being picky, but:

I do wish that someone would come out with coolers and Fan/Sink combinations with at least the option to NOT have the LED lighted setup. Although I'm probably one in a million that even cares, much less prefers the LED-less PC, without all the Pretty lights and colours, all over the place. I do admit when i was 16 I did use a 12" cold cathode tube in my FIRST PC build, with the Plexiglas side panel, and light up fans. the lighted fans didn't last long, neither did the Cathode tube.

Anyways I did mention that I was just being picky, Because really there isn't a whole lot to complain about this cooler, or really anything I've ever used by Zalman.

Many, Many Thanks to Zalman for again Manufacturing a Quality Cooler that is Solid, Silent, Efficient, and more or less very easy to install and operate.

Anyways, I think I've pretty much gone over everything that I can think of, and I hope this help someone out there, trying to push their GPU a little harder, or who just wants a cooler, quieter *Bluer* GPU.

Thanks for Reading!

-Ross 'Tweek' Sheridan
2010 RsPC! {Ltd.}™ Custom DAW Design and Manufacturing.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

14 Aug 2010   #2

Win7 x64 Ultimate SP1
 
 

Nice job
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Aug 2010   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 & OSX 10.6
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ken9122 View Post
Nice job
Thanks!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


14 Aug 2010   #4

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit Build 7600 / Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP3
 
 

Looks quite good for those kind of cards... nVidia seems to be a lil' hot this days... I had to do something similar with my South/Northbridge controller months ago (which is a nVidia nForce chip), it was reaching 80 C O_o... there I used a Manhattan chipset cooler, but only the fan, because the heatsink was too short for the chipset, so I only mounted the fan, and changed speed with a minor tweak on the wires, is not that noisy and now I get no more than 50 C or 60C on full load... Also I did something similar to my ATI HD 4350, with the heatsinks was reaching 60C on idle, now I get 44C or less sometimes... there I used an old Pentium III Foxconn fan... I'm not really picky with noise indeed, and my temps are good even when in summer.

Good tutorial I must say, I wonder why, if nVidia knows that their chips are hotter... why don't they provide better cooling solutions? I guess the same goes for ATI... 60C in idle in a low end card is just too much (at least for me, and taking in mind is a 55nm card...) they are "expensive" anyway, a bitr more $ for a good cooling solution could be OK.

See ya!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Aug 2010   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 & OSX 10.6
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by FerchogtX View Post
Looks quite good for those kind of cards... nVidia seems to be a lil' hot this days... I had to do something similar with my South/Northbridge controller months ago (which is a nVidia nForce chip), it was reaching 80 C O_o... there I used a Manhattan chipset cooler, but only the fan, because the heatsink was too short for the chipset, so I only mounted the fan, and changed speed with a minor tweak on the wires, is not that noisy and now I get no more than 50 C or 60C on full load... Also I did something similar to my ATI HD 4350, with the heatsinks was reaching 60C on idle, now I get 44C or less sometimes... there I used an old Pentium III Foxconn fan... I'm not really picky with noise indeed, and my temps are good even when in summer.

Good tutorial I must say, I wonder why, if nVidia knows that their chips are hotter... why don't they provide better cooling solutions? I guess the same goes for ATI... 60C in idle in a low end card is just too much (at least for me, and taking in mind is a 55nm card...) they are "expensive" anyway, a bitr more $ for a good cooling solution could be OK.

See ya!!
I know! I am a big fan of Nvidia, always have, but this swap is what made me think the same thing... Zalman and Nvidia (and BFG) should Team up and Share builds...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Hardware 101 - Upgrading your Stock VGA Cooler (Zalman VF-900 used)





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