Modding a Video Card with a CPU Heatsink

Discussion in 'Links' started by Royicus, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    Modding a Video Card with a CPU Heatsink
    Written by Royicus

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    Disclaimer: Guru3D, nor anyone affiliated with Guru3D take responsibility for damage to your computer hardware. This modification requires basic craftsmanship skills including familiarity with using drills and taps. If you don’t have experience with these, I recommend you practice on a spare heatsink before you try on the heatsink you intend to use on your video card.

    Introduction

    Video cards today often have coolers that are either small, noisy, don’t cool quite as good as you’d hope, or don’t cool well enough for overclocking. To combat this, several companies have released video card cooling products, including Zalman and Arctic Cooler. These often cost in the range upwards of $25 USD + shipping. Can we do this better and cheaper? The answer…sort of.

    Mounting a CPU heatsink onto your video card is a great way to reduce temperatures. The only drawback is that it does not exhaust air out of your case, and quite often, it chews up a few (3 typically) PCI slots. People running SLI configurations can stop reading here, unless they use a 1U copper heatsink.


    Supplies/Tools

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    - 1 x 60mm CPU heatsink and fan ($6USD + shipping)
    - 2 x 4-40 machine screws ½” long or so (<$1USD) (screws can be any size as long as they fit through the holes in the PCB and aren't too long, but the closer the bolt size is to the hole in the PCB, the more accurate you need to drill the hole)
    - 1 x tap that corresponds with the machine screws ($5USD purchased with drill bit)
    - 1 x drill bit that corresponds with the tap ($5USD purchased with tap)
    - 1 x handle tap wrench ($8USD)
    - 1 x drill (Hope you have one already)
    - 1 x screwdriver for machine screw
    - 1 x small nail
    - 1 x hammer
    - 2 x small rubber washers (<$1)
    - 1 x fine tipped pencil/marker
    - 100 x patience

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    Extra Stuff
    - thermal paste
    - razor blade/credit card to spread thermal paste
    - hand mirror (to help with aligning heatsink with card)

    The total cost of this mod comes out to be about $30 or so, added with shipping for the heatsink. However, for many of us, we already have some of these supplies around, so the actual cost will often be less. I had to purchase the heatsink, screws, washers, tap, drill bit, and wrench. This worked about to be around $24. And as far as the tools go ($13 of my overall cost), you can use them for a long time, so it is a worthwhile investment ;)

    If you are having trouble finding the right parts at the hardware store, I strongly recommend you ask someone that works there. Chances are that they will be familiar with this hardware, and they can point you in the right direction.

    I got my washers from a small hardware store (from the plumbing section), and everything else from home depot (except for the heatsink).

    So now that we’ve got that out of the way, are clear to start working!


    Modding the Card

    The following steps are what you need to do to mount a CPU heatsink on your video card.

    Step 1 – Freeing Your Card

    Take the old heatsink off of your card. I’d recommend you keep it stored safely somewhere, in case you ever sell the card, or want to revert back to stock for some reason.

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    Step 2 – Marking the CPU Heatsink (most crucial step)

    There should be holes in the PCB where the original heatsink was attached to the core. There are typically two or four, depending on your card. Two screws is enough, but if you have 4, go ahead and use all of them.

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    This is the most critical part. You need to mark holes on your heatsink where you need to drill the holes. The way I did mine was I put the heatsink fan down on a mirror and placed the card on top.

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    I looked in the mirror to make sure the heatsink was straight and then used a fine tipped mechanical pencil to mark where I needed to drill holes.

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    You can use any method you'd like, but you need to make sure those holes are spot on or the mod won’t work and you’ll be a crying wreck.



    Use the principal here of measuring thrice and drilling once. Once you draw the holes, take a ruler and measure the distance of the holes on your card, then go back and measure the distance between the marks on the heatsink. These must match!!

    Verify that the heatsink will be mounted straight on the card if you care about how the mod looks. Also, make sure that the heatsink isn't too close to the AGP or PCI-E connector.

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    Once the pencil holes are on there to satisfaction, you need to make an indent on those holes so the drill bit doesn't slide all over the heatsink. Do this using a punch, or even a nail and hammer. Just place the nail over the dot, then strike it with the hammer. This will create a little pit where your drill bit will bite, thus enabling you to drill right on the mark.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2007
  2. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    Step 3 – Drilling the Holes

    Once you have the heatsink marked, it is time to drill the holes. Drill them with the right size bit for your screws/tap. If you don't, the screws won't hold the heatsink on and the mod will be a failure. Also, make sure to drill them as straight as you can. Drilling them too crooked can lead to a bad/failed mod.

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    Step 4 – Tapping the Holes

    Take your tap, insert it into the tap wrench, and then tighten it up. I cannot overemphasize the importance of going slowly while tapping your holes. It is extremely easy to break taps as they are easy to shear. Go slowly. If you feel significant resistance, back the tap out of the hole, cleaning out debris, and go again. If you are impatient, you will likely break your tap, and that will cost you money and time, as well as your mental stability.

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    When you are done tapping all the way through the heatsink base, go ahead and screw the screws in the heatsink to verify that they go in unimpeded.

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    Once you are satisfied with your work, clean the heatsink free of all metal debris. You don't want any debris shorting out your video card.

    Step 5 – Mounting the Heatsink

    Take your two screws and put the rubber washers over them (the whole point to the rubber washers are so the head of the screw does not touch the video card as the metal is conductive).

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    Then, insert them from the back side through the holes in the video card and screw them into the tapped holes in the heatsink. I used the metal piece that came with the stock cooling hardware as extra support. You don’t have to use these, but if you have them, it makes the mod more secure. Make sure you don’t forget your thermal paste!

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    Don’t over tighten the screws. Just make it tight enough so that the heatsink stays on. There may be a slight bend in your video card. That is ok, but keep this minimal as possible.

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    Now you are all done! You need to make sure to plug in the fan so you don’t damage your newly modded card!




    Results

    Here is a screenshot of the GPU temp while the computer is idle.

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    And here it is under load, running Futuremark’s 3DMark05.

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    A load temp of 43C. Not too bad.

    With cooling like this, you can either overclock further, or have a more quiet video card cooling solution. I don’t have sound measuring equipment available to me, but the modded heatsink cooling is quieter than the stock cooler.


    Variations

    You can use any kind of heatsink on your card, as long as it fits in your case and isn't too heavy. I would not recommend using copper coolers due to their weight, but using 1U copper coolers is alright. The fans on these 1U cooler are often quite noisy as they need that extra airflow to compensate for their low surface area.

    You can change the fan to whatever you prefer. Try not to get too weak of a fan as reduced airflow will increase temperatures.

    On some video cards, the shim around the GPU sometimes prevents good contact between the GPU and heatsink. If this is the case, you can either lop on more thermal paste, or you can remove the shim. To remove the shim, take a small knife or razor blade and carefully work it under the shim, slowly prying it up as you work around the perimeter. Please use patience as a slip with the knife can ruin your card in the blink of an eye!


    That's it, Folks!

    That’s about all there is to a successful CPU heatsink mod onto your video card. When you boot your computer and enter windows, verify the temperature of your GPU. This should typically be under 40C. Your load temp should be under 50C, or thereabouts. If it is higher than this, then you should think about remounting your heatsink as the contact between the GPU and heatsink could probably be better. The heatsink should feel warm to the touch.

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    Feel free to ask me any questions about this mod. I'll answer them as time and school workload allows.

    Edited due to pictures changing server.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2007
  3. Loki91

    Loki91 Maha Guru

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    nice tutorial. 1 qn however: wouldnt using a CPU cooler cause certain areas that were cooled by the stock HSF get real hot real fast? would that pose any danger to high end cards?
     
  4. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    I can't say that I've looked at high end cards such as the 7800GTX and X1900XTX, but typically the only thing that needs cooling is the gpu and memory. I didn't mention it, but I'd advise you to slap some heatsinks on your RAM. Whether or not they need it, I'm not sure. I know that on my X800XL, the front RAM had heatsinks on it and the back was just covered by this aluminum plate. That plate probably does next to nothing for cooling.

    In short, to be on the safe side, I'd recommend that you just look and see what all your stock cooling was actively cooling, and cool all of those parts. It should only be the memory and gpu though.

    At one point or another, a lot of the cards that I've modded were high end cards. I've never run into the problem that you are mentioning when modding a 5600 Ultra (sucks, I know), 9800 Pro -> XT, 5900XT -> 5950 Ultra, or my X800XL.


    And for some of you folks out there, I voltmodded my X800XL the other day and was testing up through 1.5V (stock 1.35V). Temps didn't break the 50C mark, which is pretty good. I don't think you can do better with an Arctic Cooler or Zalman, but maybe I'm mistaken.
     

  5. PhatKat

    PhatKat Banned

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    Royicus, I am impressed. As a machinist, I am critical of fit and finish, and you've done a splendid job, as well as described the procedure thoroughly. You should be commended.

    On a side note, I was a bit alarmed when I first saw the hammer..........:bugeye:
     
  6. hartofalyon

    hartofalyon Ancient Guru

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    GPU:
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    nice work. one thing though, how heavy is that heatsink compared to stock? do you think the card will start to warp after a while cuz of the weight?
     
  7. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    Yea, the hammer is just for those of us that don't have a punch. I don't have one, so I just use a hammer and a nail to make a small little indent. I have to emphasize that the precision of the location that you drill the holes is the most important step in this while thing!

    As for the weight of the heatsink, it is not too heavy for the card. It looks much heaver than it is. Since it is made out of aluminum, which is not a dense metal, it is alright. I wouldn't use a copper heatsink due to the weight of that.

    The heatsink that is on there is an old socket A one that you can purchase for about $5 online. I thought about putting a spare A64 stock heatsink on there, which is even larger than that, but I can't convince myself that I'll see a large enough temperature drop.

    Thanks for the compliments guys. I appreciate it :)
     
  8. Spezzy

    Spezzy Master Guru

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    GPU:
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    What are you using for ram sinks? By the way, thanks for this, I just got my FX-60 cooler, and its actually really light, so I'm gonna tyr this mod on a spare 3200+ cooler first then the FX cooler. Nice work man.
     
  9. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    Thank you for the compliments. For the RAM coolers, I actually used the golden looking ones off of a 5600 Ultra that broke, and the black ones are from and old Slot A heatsink that I cut into appropriate sizes with a jigsaw. You can use just about any heatsink as long as you cut it to saw. Access to a machine shop would make this easy, or if you know anybody that does. Beyond that, you'll either have to use a jigsaw, dremel, or a hacksaw.

    As I tried to emphasize in the guide, the most important part of everything is making sure those holes are in the right spot. Be sure to take your time on that part.
     
  10. Spezzy

    Spezzy Master Guru

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    GPU:
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    wrong thread
     

  11. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    And one more thing, I would recommend that you stay away from those cheap little heatsinks that are sold for video cards, and use something a little bit more robust. Also, you'll have to worry about attaching it, which can be either thermal tape or thermal epoxy, with the first having the worst thermal transfer and the latter being permanent.
     
  12. aircool

    aircool Don Aircooleone Staff Member

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    GPU:
    Zotac GTX 560 Ti 448 Core
    look @ my monster HS posting pics in a sec
     
  13. aircool

    aircool Don Aircooleone Staff Member

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    GPU:
    Zotac GTX 560 Ti 448 Core
    look at this huge beast with a moded 60mm fan its all i have @ the mo
    how heavy in grams does that cpu cooler weigh? in grams?
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2006
  14. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    According to the specs by coolermaster, the heatsink weighs 300 grams. Here, the full info:

    Heat Sink Dimension : 75x60x41 mm
    Heat Sink Material : Aluminum extrusion with copper plate screwed
    Fan Dimension : 60x60x15 mm
    Fan Speed : 3800 ±8% rpm
    Fan Airflow : 20.87 CFM
    Fan Life Expectance : 40,000 hrs
    Voltage Rating : 12 V
    Noise Level : < 30 dBA
    Connector : 3 Pin (Speed Detection)
    Weight : 300 g
     
  15. Cpaulv

    Cpaulv New Member

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    GPU:
    XFX Geforce 6600GT 128mb DDR3 (579/
    i must say i'm very impressed and i plan on doing that to mine, yeah my idle temp is ok but i prefer being on the safe side plus it gives me a little more allowance in what i can do with it but i'd like to thank you very much for this.
     

  16. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    Sure, no problem. If you've got any questions, feel free to post them in this thread, or shoot me a PM :p
     
  17. aircool

    aircool Don Aircooleone Staff Member

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    GPU:
    Zotac GTX 560 Ti 448 Core
    im still worried of the dell heat sink on my card its huge
     
  18. Royicus

    Royicus Ancient Guru

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    What dell heatsink? Could you post a link to whatever you are talking about? If it is made of aluminum and doesn't interfere with any components on the board, then it is probably fine. Generally, that's heatsinks with 70mm or 60mm fans.
     
  19. aircool

    aircool Don Aircooleone Staff Member

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    GPU:
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    this pic here
     
  20. aircool

    aircool Don Aircooleone Staff Member

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    GPU:
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    the one i allready post pic of
     

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