Upgrading video cooling









ATTENTION: Performing ANY modifications to your video card WILL VOID the warranty!! DriverHeaven and its staff is not responsible for any damage that may occur to your video card. Attempt this mod at your OWN risk.

I see a lot of members here on DriverHeaven wanting to get the most that they can out of their video cards. Games seem to keep getting better and more complex, and requiring more and more video power. Yet our income doesnt always allow us to upgrade every time the newest card comes on the market.

One of the easiest ways of increasing performance for low cost is upgrading the cooling on your video card. It is fairly easy to do, but a lot of people are understandably weary of trying it. So I figure that since I am upgrading the cooling on my card, I will share this experience with you, and hopefully help a few of you take the plunge in modding your video card. You must keep in mind though, that performing ANY mods on your video card VOIDS the warranty. So again, only attempt this mod at your own risk!!

I looked at several cooling solutions that are out on the market today and after checking out the various places to see how each of them are performing, I decided on the Artic Cooling VGA Silencer. What I liked about it was primarily the design. I was really impressed with its cooling ability and the fact that the hot air is exhausted out the back of the case. This is a big cooler and will take up the adjoining PCI slot, as it uses a double bracket, as you will see below. For those of you wanting a closer look at the specifications and compatibility, here is a link to the site: Artic Cooling

The one that I am installing is a revision 2. Listed on the web site is a list of compatible video cards for the VGA Silencer, up to Rev. 3.

In general the cooler fits on the following graphic boards:
• ATI Radeon 9500 (Pro), 9700 (Pro), 9800 (Pro); not compatible with All in Wonder and XT Versions
• Revision 2 includes the above cards and is compatible with All in Wonder versions
• Revision 3 (available from mid of March) compatible with 9600 (Pro, AIW, XT)
• NVIDIA Geforce 3 TI

The package includes:
• VGA Silencer Rev. 2
• Mounting Bracket w/Screws
• Double Slot Bracket w/ Fan Speed Switch
• Air Flow Spacer
• Thermal Compound

Now to get started!! I will be installing the VGA Silencer on a Built by ATI Radeon 9800 Pro. The cooling solution that comes on it does fine for stock clock rates, but I like to over clock every now and then when im playing a particularly taxing game so I wanted to see how much more performance I would gain adding an after market cooling solution. And I must admit I was very happy with the results, as well as lower case temperatures!!

To get started, you have to remove the heatsink from the video card and get things cleaned up a bit. To do this, turn over the card so that the back of the card is facing up.

You will then be able to see where the retaining clips come through the back of the card. You will have to very carefully use a pair of needle nose pliers to squeeze the pins together, while gently pulling on the heatsink. Doing this can be a bit awkward, but is fairly easy to do. It doesn’t take much pressure to accomplish this.

Once the heatsink is removed, you have to clean up the old thermal compound as best you can. I normally use a cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol to do this, as the alcohol dries very quickly and does a good job.

You can see here just how dirty it gets under the heatsink…….NASTY!!

But once you have everything cleaned up….it looks pretty good.

Some people prefer to remove the spacer from the GPU, as for me, since I am using a 9800 Pro, this really isn’t necessary. As you could see from the pictures, the heatsink is making very good contact with the GPU. Also I prefer not to take a chance with the new heatsink possibly crushing the GPU. After all, ATI put the spacer there for a very good reason!!

Once you get the GPU all cleaned up you will want to apply the thermal compound. For graphics cards, I prefer to use Artic Silver Ceramique’, as it is very safe to use and cleans up easily. Everyone does this a bit different, so in this case, I am only going to show you how I do it personally. I prefer to apply the thermal paste onto the GPU itself, making sure to get full coverage on the chip by smearing it around, and make sure that I can’t see the chip through the paste. Once I have done that I take a piece of hard plastic and gently slide it across the chip to smooth out the thermal paste. I do this vertically, and then horizontally, then just looking at it to make sure that it looks fairly even. I have a pretty steady hand, so this is pretty easy for me. Here is what it looks like when it is done.

Next thing you want to do is inspect the surface of your new heat sink. As you can see from the picture below, this surface was machined quite well, but was a little rough for my taste. I am one of those people that laps just about every heatsink that I buy, but whether or not you do is strictly up to you. The VGA Silencer isn’t a very easy heatsink to lap, so consider yourself warned.

Next thing that you want to do is to remove the standard slot bracket from your ATI card and install the VGA Silencer’s dual slot bracket that is pictured with the package contents. To do this is very easy all you have to do is remove a few lugs from the back of the bracket. Once you have the bracket removed, place the air flow spacer over the card end and then the dual slot bracket and replace the lugs. In the picture below, you can see where the required ground screw is supposed to be inserted. The kit didn’t come with one, but I happened to have one left over from another install. Make sure to try the screw for fit on the bracket before you install it on the card. The dual bracket has a threaded hole, so your screw should screw in easily

Next comes the awkward part. You have to lay the heatsink down with the contact area facing up and then place the card onto the heatsink, while making sure to line up the holes, so that you can thread in the retaining screws from the back of the video card.

Once you get the screws started pretty good you can than carefully turn it side ways, so that you can make sure that you are keeping the heatsink square to the GPU while tightening each screw a bit at a time. The bracket has a metal bar that acts as a spring, so care must be taken when tightening the screws to where they are snug. Make sure to go back and forth tightening each screw a little at a time. The metal spring should just barely make contact with the rubber spacer when you are done. If care is not taken while tightening the screws, you can end up causing uneven pressure on the video card and cracking the PCB, over tightening the screws can have the same results.

Once the VGA Silencer is installed, you will see that there is a noticeable gap between the heatsink and the dual bracket. This does not affect the exhausting of hot air from the case. In fact it allows cooler air to mix with the hot air and will exhaust it faster, with a siphoning effect.

And finally here are a few pics of what the completed assembly looks like when finished and installed as well.

Taking my time doing this project, I was able to complete the install in less than an hour. As long as care is taken when tightening down the screws, it is a very easy mod to do. I was also very pleased to see that I was able to over clock my GPU and Memory more than with stock cooling, of course this will vary from card to card. Then when you include the added bonus of lower case temperatures and an almost silent fan, installing the VGA Silencer was well worth the small amount of money that it cost me when I purchased it from Newegg.

Good luck with your modding !

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