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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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? 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)