Ask the Doctor: Big Coolers, Old Motherboards, IVB vs. SB-E, and more

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Ask the Doctor: Big Coolers, Old Motherboards, IVB vs. SB-E, and more

The doctor tackles Big Coolers, Old Motherboards, IVB vs. SB-E, and more

Too Big?

In the August 2013 issue you indicate that using a third-party, aftermarket CPU cooler is a good idea. I have always had a concern about cooler and fan weight damaging the motherboard. I build in mid- or full-tower cases and it seems that having so much weight hanging from the motherboard risks damage. Is this a valid concern? I would probably use one of the Thermalright coolers designed for an AMD FX-series CPU.

- Rich T.

The Doctor Responds:

The bigger aftermarket coolers can weigh upward of two or three pounds, so it's not impossible for a heavy cooler to damage your motherboard. This is why modern CPU heatsinks now have solid backplates that you install on the other side of the motherboard, that distribute weight and help prevent damage to your board. As long as your cooler fits in your case and is installed correctly, it shouldn't damage your motherboard in the course of normal operation. That said, don't go knocking over your computer. If you're shipping your machine, or travelling with it (for example, going to a LAN party or moving across town/state/country), it's a good idea to remove your CPU cooler, graphics cards, and hard drives and package them separately. Otherwise, if they get loose or torque, they can damage themselves or your motherboard.

Downloading: SSD or HDD?

I could use some advice on torrents. Whether I am downloading them or uploading, I'm constantly reading and/or writing data from my storage. Would it be better to keep torrent files on the SSD or the HDD? I believed that an SSD would be the best option, but a friend said a hard drive would be best for such a job. My friend also mentioned that SSDs have shorter life spans than hard drives, which is all the more reason to use an HDD. Is this true as well?

- Alex Lee

There are multiple file extensions for HTML documents; if one is set to open in a different program, it can cause problems.

The Doctor Responds:

Your friend is right—kind of. If you're downloading a lot of torrents, you're writing many gigabytes of data, in many small chunks, in an application where drive speed is not relevant. Your torrent download and upload rates are limited by your network settings and those of your peers, not the speed of your drive. A hard drive has a lot more storage for the dollar. You can get a 4TB HDD for less than the price of a 256GB SSD.  

Endurance of SSDs is really a canard at this point. They do technically have a shorter life but to wear out an SSD would take so much data that it’s highly unlikely a person would ever hit that threshold. The controller would likely quit before the NAND would—but you’d never download enough torrents to find that out, because either your ISP would cut you off or a Flowers By Irene truck would roll up to your house before you could reach that point. Still, given the price of hard drives today and their mammoth capacities, it makes a lot more sense to just store those Linux distros you’re downloading on an HDD. Save your SSD’s capacity for your OS, programs, and games—where their relative speed can shine.

File Extension Blues

I have a strange problem in Windows 7. It relates to a file association. At least, I think it does. I use a program called DVDFab (great program, by the way), and when it starts and there’s an update available it asks if I want to get the update. When I click "yes" it doesn't take me to the site but instead opens my HTML editor. This happens with any program that asks to update. I can't figure out where to change the association. Can you help?

- Carla

The Doctor Responds:

It sounds like Windows is configured to open certain web extensions in your HTML editor rather than your browser. For example, Windows treats .htm and .html as separate file types and allows you to assign different default programs to each extension. Next time it happens, make a note of the file extension of the page your HTML editor opens. Then go to Control Panel and select Programs. Under the Default Programs heading, select "Make a file type always open in a specific program." Scroll down until you find the file extension you're looking for, and double-click it. Choose your web browser from the list of options that pops up, and you should be all set. 

AM3+ on My AM3 Board? 

Will my aging AM3 board (Asus M4A77D) play nice with an AM3+ FX-8350 (Vishera 4GHz, eight-core)? I’ve read that although it is an unsupported configuration it can work.

- Paul de Campo

The Doctor Responds:

Don't try it. The Doctor isn't sure where you read that it can work, but the Doc wouldn't recommend it. Some Asus AM3 boards can be updated to AM3+ via a BIOS update, but your mobo isn't one of them. The BIOS for the M4A77D hasn't been updated since 2010, and your board doesn't support 6Gb/s SATA or DDR3. The chip may work and the box may POST but the experience can be wonky when the CPU is not supported by the BIOS. The Doc recommends that you do a board upgrade, as well, if you intend to run a Vishera.

PC Making Me Go Bald

My PC display freezes randomly (like pausing a DVD player) and I have to manually shut down my machine. Drivers are up to date, nothing shows up in error reports, no luck with any Windows troubleshooting, etc. I'm hoping you might be able to point me in a direction to look. I'm about ready to pull my hair out! I have a Core 2 Duo Q6700, MSI G41M-P34 motherboard, MSI N550GTX Ti graphics card, 8GB G.Skill DDR3/1066, and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium.

- Tom Zeis

The Doctor Responds:

Try uninstalling the Nvidia drivers and reinstalling the latest drivers for your GPU from GeForce.com. You can use the “Auto-detect your GPU” option at www.geforce.com/drivers to make sure you're getting the right ones. Be absolutely sure you've uninstalled any existing drivers first.  

If the problem persists, it could still be your video card, but it might also be the RAM. Download Memtest86 from www.memtest.org, make a bootable CD or USB, and run it overnight to check your RAM for errors.

If there's nothing wrong with your memory, it could be a problem with your video card itself, or a problem with your connection. Shut down and unplug your computer, open up the case, and remove the graphics card. Make sure the fan isn't clogged with dust, and that there isn't dust in the PCIe slot or on the card's PCIe connector, then carefully reinstall the card.

If that doesn't work, you can try uninstalling the Nvidia drivers, downloading the Intel integrated drivers from MSI's website, removing your GPU, and setting your computer to use the integrated graphics instead. If the problem goes away, it was definitely your video card. If it persists, it's probably your motherboard.Oh, one last thing—this is dumb, but make sure your monitor cable is plugged into your GPU's video ports when you're using your GPU, not the ports from your motherboard.

Deleting Windows after Installing Chromium

To free up disk space, I want to remove my previous Windows Vista installation on an old PC after installing Google Chromium Vanilla. How do I do this?

- Sonny Starks

The Doctor Responds:

Have you already installed Chromium Vanilla into a separate partition, or are you planning to install it, and then remove Vista?

If you haven't yet installed it, you should know that you can choose to install Chromium Vanilla so that it dual-boots with your existing OS, or install it as the only OS, in which case it will overwrite your Vista partition during the install process.

If you have already installed Chromium alongside Vista, you have two choices: Delete the Windows partition manually with a partition manager, then expand the Chromium partition to take up the newly freed space, or just reinstall Chromium Vanilla and choose the option that makes it your only OS. Since the whole point of Chromium is to act as a mostly cloud-based OS with everything synced to your Google account, you shouldn't lose any data, and it'll be easier than messing with a partition manager.

Getting Ready for Prime95 Time

When running Prime95, do I need to make any changes in the cooling system? I'm using the Corsair H100i. My system is based on the Performance Build in the Oct 2012 issue, with a few changes such as the CPU cooler. The case is a HAF 932 Advanced, and the PSU is a Cooler Master 850W Silent Pro. Everything else is the same.

- James K Gillette

The Doctor Responds:

We mostly use Prime95 to make sure our CPUs are stable with the clock speeds, voltages, and cooling choices we've selected. The only reason you might need to change your cooling system is if your CPU frequency is throttling due to high temperatures (usually above 90 C) when you run Prime95. And you'll find that out soon enough.

Trading Ivy Bridge for Sandy Bridge-E

I have a gaming rig with a Core i5-3570K, 16GB of RAM, an EVGA GTX 660 SC, and a 750W PSU. I'm pretty happy with all my hardware, but I'm considering upgrading to Socket LGA2011. I just can't decide if it's really worth upgrading if I'm mostly using the rig for gaming. If it is, should I grab an Ivy Bridge-E when they come out or grab a Sandy Bridge-E when they go on sale?

- Jesse Pearce

The Doctor Responds:

Don't get caught on the upgrade treadmill; switching sockets is not worth it for a gaming rig. You have a fantastic unlocked quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU that's more than enough for any game you're going to play for the next four years, plenty of RAM, and a decent video card. If you really want to upgrade your rig for gaming, take the money you would spend on replacing your CPU and motherboard and put it into a second GTX 660 SC. Doubling up on your GPU will give you roughly twice the graphics performance for around $225. The Sandy Bridge-E Core i7-3820 CPU, which is only slightly better than your existing i5-3570K, is $300, and that's before you buy the motherboard. A GPU upgrade is your best bet. If you don't have an SSD for your OS and games, consider one of those, as well. Also, Sandy Bridge-E isn't likely to see much of a price drop when Ivy Bridge-E comes out, as Intel is pretty good at running down inventories to prevent overlap.

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