Heatsink Improv: A Small Tribute to Overclockers of Old

Ever need a heatsink to cool that power hungry beast of yours? Is the stock cooling horrible and your GPU is without any good after market solutions? If so, then improvise. Jury rig that incompatible GPU cooler, find an unused CPU cooler you have tucked away, or even go all out and buy a CPU cooler for your GPU if there are no GPU specific solutions. No, I haven’t lost my mind. This is just what runs through the mind of a bencher who is trying to squeeze every last drop of performance out of his GPU, but has no budget for extreme cooling.

Improvising with what you have, and experimenting with new things that may or may not be possible. This is the fundamental basis of the hobby we have called overclocking. Without experimentation, improvisation, or imagination overclocking would not be where it is today. Although I’m rather new to the overclocking world (only ~2 years in), and didn’t get to witness the “real” overclockers “back in the day” I do realize what they have done to put overclocking on the map.

LN2? Dry Ice? H2O? When you think about it, there was a lot of imagination, experimenting, and improvising going on to come up with using those as cooling solutions for a computer. Not to mention all of the hard/soft modding that was required to overclock hardware of the past. Motherboard manufacturers nowadays make overclocking easy (relatively speaking), but imagination and ingenuity are not completely lost from the overclocking scene.

Anyways, I’m going to show you guys what I’ve done to help increase my GPU cooling with what I had laying around. Not nearly as imaginative or creative as extreme cooling or hard modding, but it works nonetheless to keep my GPUs ~20 °C cooler than stock. So, here’s my attempt at heatsink improvisation.

Prolimatech MK-13 & GTX460

I originally bought the MK-13 for its compatibility with the 8800 series GPUs from nVidia, and planned on using it when 3D benching those old boint mines. But, I really didn’t have a CPU powerful enough for the “3D” benches to really rack up the points, so I decided to hold off on my 3D benching until I went LGA1366. In the meantime, I purchased a GTX460 for my everyday system to replace the 8800GT since it was starting to show its age in some games. The stock EE (External Exhaust) cooler on the eVGA GTX460 worked well enough, but was a little loud for my tastes when running at 100%.  For me, and probably most of you, “well enough” just doesn’t cut it; I wanted the best cooling I could get with what I had.

The GTX460 has a rectangular die, unlike GPUs of previous generations for which the MK-13 is compatible. I tried using both sets of brackets and even mixed the two, but to no avail; I just couldn’t get the mounting holes in a rectangular pattern. Then, I had a minor “epiphany” that should have hit me in the face sooner. If the brackets are set up so that the extrusions with the holes are pointing in the same direction, then a rectangular pattern is made. Although this rectangular pattern didn’t give me a perfect match, it did allow me to mount the MK-13 with its included hardware.

Rectangular mouting hole pattern

Rectangular mounting hole pattern

Added the extra rubber square

Added the extra rubber square

Mounting brackets installed

Mounting brackets installed

Backplate installed

Backplate installed

MK-13 installed and GTX460 up and running

MK-13 installed; GTX460 up and running

Results were very good, giving me an improvement of ~20 °C over the eVGA External Exhaust cooler. It should be mentioned that since I have installed my MK-13 in this manner, Prolimatech has released a GTX460 adapter kit which can be found at FrozenCPU for $5.00.

Thermalright Venomous X & 8800GTX

I’m sure that I’m not first or only person to ever use a CPU heatsink on a GPU.  I came up with this idea because I needed a better heatsink than the stock cooling for benching purposes.  I had recently put together a water cooling loop for my CPU, so I had a Venomous X just laying around collecting dust.  So, I figured it would be a good candidate for my 8800GTX, if I could get it mounted.

Mounting wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been, especially when something as simple as zip ties are used. I had to use the short, thin zip ties since the mounting holes are pretty small. I also had to use a zip tie in each hole to be able to wrap around the PCB and heatsink. I just attached the ends on the back of the PCB just enough so they would lock, then really tightened down on the ones wrapping around the heatsink. Finally, just clip the extra ends off and you’re done with the mounting.

Zip tie mounting - Top view

Zip tie mounting - Top view

Zip tie mounting - Back view

Zip tie mounting - Back view

So, here is the Venomous X installed on the 8800GTX. I used left over RAM sinks from my MK-13 to help cool the VRMs and RAM chips.

Venomous X on a 8800GTX

Venomous X on a 8800GTX

Don't forget RAM and VRM heatsinks

Don't forget RAM and VRM heatsinks

There are two issues when using a CPU tower cooler on a GPU. The most important is putting stress on the PCIe connector of the GPU; you wouldn’t want to break the PCB with excessive stress.  The other issue is the possible loss of other PCIe slots; so depending on where you connect the GPU, you may or may not lose slots. To deal with stress on the PCIe connector, you may need to use some sort of support for the GPU. In my case, the Venomous X was wide enough that it could rest on the PCI slot without causing any problems. If I needed other slots and I put the GPU in one of the lower slots on the motherboard, then I would need to add extra support on my floor, underneath the heatsink.

GPU installed

GPU installed

PCI support

PCI support

The 8800GTX was the Fermi of its day when it came to heat production. With the stock cooling, my idle temp was right around 50 °C with the load temp in the 70s °C. The Venomous X has no problems taming this beast; bringing the idle temp down to 38 °C and load temp down to 49 °C. Yes, the load temp is now lower than the previous idle temp!

GPU core temp with the VX

GPU core temp with the VX

This CPU tower cooler GPU solution, which I first posted in this thread, inspired a Romanian bencher, poparamiro, to try this out on the new GTX 580. With a Thermalright Ultra Extreme 120 Black Edition strapped to the newly released GPU, he was able to achieve an overclock of 1020/1200 for a 3DMark Vantage run which resulted in 30893 marks.

Final Thoughts

Final thoughts? Hmm… I guess what I want you, the readers, to get out of this article is to keep an open mind and stay creative when it comes to overclocking. Whenever you seem to be at a road block, don’t just give up; use your imagination, experiment, and be persistent to see where it leads you. You may be surprised. The pioneers of overclocking didn’t give up, so why should you? Just keep pushing and implementing every idea you get along the way; no matter how “revolutionary” your idea may or may not be, that’s not the point. The point is that if it helps you get even 1 MHz more out of your hardware or even no gain at all, as long as you tried, then you’re making the “grandfathers” of this hobby proud and you’re setting an example for the next generation of overclockers. Happy clocking!

- Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)

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9 Comments:

Just a nickname's Avatar
Great stuff!
I have a AC incompatible with my xfx 5870, the cooler isn't compatible for Rev2 board but this article gave me some ideas to adapt it on my board!
MattNo5ss's Avatar
Awesome! Be sure to post pics
azuza001's Avatar
I have got to know, didn't the heat melt the zip ties on that setup? that's what I would be afraid of, but thats a great idea.
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
Nope, heatsinks don't get nearly hot enough to melt zipties.
normalicy's Avatar
Love the article & you really hit the nail on the head. Customizing is what made building your PC great in the first place & is what is needed if we're going to keep people in the hobby. Guess I'm an old timer in the overclocking game since I've been doing it since the Celeron 300 (I did a Pentium 166, but that wasn't nearly as rewarding). I think my first real custom job was mounting a peltier between the heatsink & my Celeron 366 and indeed I've mounted a number of CPU heatsinks to GPUs. I can't bring myself to sacrifice every slot though. But more power to you if you do.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
Sorry for the late reply, I was away for Thanksgiving and didn't realize you had posted. I.M.O.G. filled in for me though

There aren't any signs of melting on the zipties, and I doubt the heatsink will ever get hot enough to melt zipties. Your GPU would throttle or die if that much heat was on the heatpipes.

Thanks! You've been doing this a lot longer than I have. I started with an E6700 Conroe, and by the time I started, OCing was already pretty simple.

I didn't have to sac every slot, I could have installed the GPU in the bottom slot to free up the others. I don't use any other PCI/PCIe cards, so I just used the highest slot so I wouldn't have to make an extra support for the GPU/heatsink.

I'm guessing you've been a long time lurker since this is your first post, but have been registered for ~6 years. I'm glad my article coaxed that first post out of you

to the forums anyways!
normalicy's Avatar
LOL, just saw this because I didn't have notifications turned on.

In fact, I've been lurking her for much longer, but didn't sign up for quite some time.

Yes, I did find the article invigorating due to the fact that it was hands on & unorthodox. Seems like everything these days is just buy whatever is available & bolt it on. No creativity or even experimentation. Just stagnation.

I find it funny that your first attempts at OCing are what I'd consider some of my most recent.
DaveHCYJ's Avatar
The ram sinks you used reminds me of an old Socket 475 board I was having trouble with. I bought like 20 little ram sinks and stuck them to every single last chip, mostfet, etc. on the motherboard; it looked pretty crazy when I was done. That was back before motherboards really came with very much cooling aside from maybe something simple on the north and south bridges.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
I love seeing people's ideas and experiments, it's a shame there are many out there nowadays (other than case mods).

I'm definitely new to OCing, relatively speaking. I still push Conroes for our benching team, in fact I bought two Conroes in the past 2 weeks, an E6400 and E6600

Those sinks just came with the MK-13. I bet your old board looked like a heatsink forest. No pics left over?
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