After several weeks of random blue screen crashes, I finally broke down and examined the event logs to see why my OS kept borking out. With a short google of the stop error, I found that my computer was overheating, causing it to randomly shut down in an effort to keep my CPU from melting. This was a shocker to me, as I purposefully bought one of the best cases for cooling available. After cracking open the side, I quickly realized that 2 years worth of dust had clogged my CPU’s heatsink, and covered all the components inside like the first snowfall of the season. I emptied a can of compressed air in an effort to de-dustify everything, but I was still seeing idle temps in the high 40′s. Enough was enough, and I decided to pull the trigger on the Noctura DH-14 that I’d been eyeing ever since I built this system 2 years ago.
This thing is MASSIVE. It’s easily 4 times the size of the stock heatsink and fan for my AMD Phenom II. In fact, I had to look up on Noctura’s site to see that it would even fit in my case, and with my RAM. Some RAM heatsinks are too tall to accommodate the Noctura. I was a little worried as I have Ripjaws RAM with the fancy looking headspreader, but luckily it was on the compatibility list. I still held my breath a bit at installation, but thankfully I had a few millimeters of space once everything was attached.
Installation was a breeze. The included instructions were more than sufficient. And it’s not really that hard to swap out a CPU fan. It is a bit trickier in that you have to remove the flimsy plastic stock heatsink holder. The motherboard backplate may need some manipulation, so depending on your case, you may actually have to remove your motherboard (the HAF X case has a nice accommodating window that gives you direct access to the backplate). The Noctura heatsink is attached via screws, rather than those awkward flimsy bent metal clamps that never seem to want to attach or unattach. I found that to be a really nice touch. They also include Noctura’s thermal paste, so no need to order fresh Arctic Silver.
Being bold (and some might argue foolish), I decided to overclock at first boot. My motherboard actually has an automagical overclocking utility built in to the BIOS, so I let it run and it chose to bump up from 3.2 GHz to 3.7 GHz. Once I booted into Windows and fired up SpeedFan, my jaw hit the floor. 32 degrees. Just after boot my CPU was zipping along with a 15% overclock at a temperature lower than the average human body. I had thought these kinds of results were only obtainable with difficult to manage and expensive water cooling systems.
Next up: the 4 GHz barrier. Stay tuned.