How Hot is Too Hot?

Nathan Edwards

It's Getting Hot In Here

I have an AMD FX-57 with 2GB of RAM on an Asus A8N-SLI Premium with two Asus 7800 GTXs running in SLI. Everything is clocked at stock speeds. I recently replaced the factory CPU cooler with a Zalman CNPS7700-CU, but I began to have problems. Windows XP ran fine, but many games, even some older ones, such as Painkiller, locked up or caused a blue screen. After trying numerous software-based fixes, I was at my wit’s end. I decided to remove the Zalman and reinstall the original cooler. Once I did that, everything ran OK.

At idle, the CPU is 47 C and the mobo is 52 C. The Nvidia control panel says my GPU temp is 64 C. While playing Painkiller, the temps will go up to 61 C, 56 C, and 85 C, respectively. My room temp is about 30 C. These temps seem high compared to some of the numbers you report in your cooler reviews, especially at idle. Do I need to be concerned with the GPU’s temp?

—Jim Schreiner


The temperatures you’re seeing on both your CPU and GPU are fairly consistent with what typically happens when you use your computer. When we crank up our Lab test machines to a 100 percent load, we frequently see CPU temperatures in the high 40s. Granted, we’re using FX-60s, whereas you have an FX-57, but they should be in the same ballpark in terms of temps. The Doctor isn’t entirely sure why you’d be seeing a BSD after you install the Zalman, unless the fan isn’t working or you have a bad seal. Reinstall the cooler; be sure to use thermal grease. Also see if you bumped something you shouldn’t have. If you want better performance, make sure the fan speed on your cooler is cranked up.

On a side note, your graphics cards seem a bit hot. You should definitely triple-check and make sure you don’t have any overclocking going on through the Nvidia control panel. Barring that, you’re sort of stuck with the GPU coolers you have, unless you want to get an aftermarket model or install water cooling, which the Doctor hesitates to recommend, as he hates being accused of using it as the de facto solution for all heat-related issues. Remember, a fan only does as much good as the ambient air surrounding it. And in a non-air-conditioned room in the summertime, you’ll certainly see higher computer temperatures. You don’t need to be concerned with the temperatures you’re seeing, but running a card that hot will certainly shorten its lifespan. If you’re seeing any graphical artifacts while sending demons back to the grave, however, you should cool those suckers down.

The Wide World of Gaming

I just purchased a 19-inch widescreen LCD with a 2ms pixel-response time. I’ve been told that to keep the picture from being stretched, the LCD must run at its native resolution. That’s all fine and dandy, as long as it doesn’t make the icons too small. Do games support widescreen resolutions, or will all the people I take down in Counter-Strike and Battlefield 2 look short and wide? I guess that would make them easier shots, but I’d rather have proportional resolutions than, well, anything else. Basically, did I make a mistake in purchasing a widescreen for games?

—Luke MacDonald


You’re not alone in opting for a widescreen LCD—as you’ve probably noticed, that formfactor is now pervading the market. Consequently, almost all modern games (including Counter-Strike) will run in a wide format. Most will offer wide resolutions from within the menu, but in games that don’t, it’s possible to enable a wide format with a command line (go to the Widescreen Gaming Forum http://tinyurl.com/yug3fy for specific game instructions). Still, a widescreen format is impossible in some games; in the case of Battlefield 2, EA says it would be an unfair advantage for only some players to have a wide vantage point. In such instances, you can either play with the stretched view or adjust the picture to a 4:3 aspect ratio in your videocard’s control panel—this will add black or gray bars to the sides of the picture.

A digital enchantress transformed the Doctor into his current problem-solving form after he accidentally team-killed her in a World of Warcraft battleground. If he doesn’t solve your computer problems (doctor@maximumpc.com) by the time the last pixel in his LCD monitor burns out, he’ll be doomed to remain the Doctor for all time!

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