Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 Overheating/vBIOS Modding Weirdness

Discussion in 'Videocards - AMD Radeon' started by moriel5, Oct 7, 2021.

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  1. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    Radeon HD 6950 2GB
    Hello everyone, last year I bought a 2nd hand Sapphire HD 6950 (previous owner only gamed on it, without overclocking) for OpenCL use (I know, big mistake, which is why I want an Intel Xe dGPU that is not locked to specific motherboards).

    Unfortunately, it was really overheating (~85°C at idle, >100°C under light load) with my initial testing before repasting, and after repasting (initially with Arctic Silver 5, a few months ago I had replaced it with the Noctua NT-H1, which dropped the temps a further ~2°) idle temps were at ~72°C, while under light load it dropped to ~98°C.

    I primarily use Linux, and there I make use of TLP to set my 6950 to the 'power savings' PowerPlay profile and 'low' mode (performance is still respectable, and way better than the iGPUs in my i3-540 and i3-3220 (I'm using an 2nd hand Intel stock cooler with a copper base, due to budget constraints), and even my i5-4570's iGPU), which further dropped temps to ~68°C idle and ~89°C under load.

    Since I had recently bought a large batch of 6W/mK (when I have the budget, I intend to upgrade to something like 12-17W/mK) thermal pad interface (I cut out the pads) for adding thermal pads for my laptop's new motherboard's (IdeaPad 300-15ISK) dGPU's VRAM (I accidentally bought ~x109 the amount I needed), I checked the thickness of the existing pads, and surprisingly they were only 0.5mm think (Sapphire put pads that were too large horizontally and vertically, so I could see the uncompressed thickness), so I replaced those as well, and I finally have reasonable temps (~65°C idle, ~95°C under load), and with power savings even better (~60°C idle, ~85°C under load).

    Since I am aware of vBIOS modding, and after reading of the shader unlock mod, I decided to test it out, and tried both the script (at this point I forget, was it a Python script?), as well as RBE on Windows, to mod the firmware. And while flashing went perfectly alright, nothing changed (shaders remained the same, temps and performance did not change).

    I have also tried to modify the voltages (software tools, on both Linux and Windows, don't allow me to do this), temperature range and fan curve with RBE, however the changes simply don't stick, despite the firmware actually flashing fine.

    For a long time, I believed that Sapphire may have locked vBIOS flashing on my card, however as the firmwares flash perfectly fine (verified by later pulling the vBIOS image with both FlashROM on Linux, with RBE and CPU-Z on Windows, as well as with AMD's flashing utilities, both the old ATI and new AMDVB tools, on both Linux and Windows), that cannot be it.

    So there it is, I'd like any tips to get lower temps (and gain some more performance), as well as understand why my changes to the vBIOS are ignored by the GPU, despite the the fact that the vBIOS is indeed, modified and flashed correctly.

    Regarding the fact why I don't just buy a new GPU, I simply don't have the budget, and almost my entire setup was either purchased 2nd hand or obtained via dumpster diving (like my i5-4570, which came from a Dell Inpiron miniATX PC someone threw out due to dead motherboard and/or PSU), and due to my timekeeping skills, my current paycheck is pretty low (higher than minimum wage, but only a few hours per week, without pay on days I don't come in, like on holidays, as this is a part-time job)
     
  2. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    Radeon 9800 PRO 128MB - Mmmm, SmoothVision :drool:
    I have a XFX HD 6950 (1GB) 2 fan XXX version (830MHz core instead of 800) and it never gets much above 42°C (~103°F) at idle. Do check if the cooler is full of dust and especially with blower coolers (if it's that version) a carpet of dust collects/forms right after the fan - at the GPU cooler start so little air can actually cool the card.
    Might also be that the cooler isn't touching the GPU completely, I had this happen with my Gigabyte GTX470 superoverclock...

    As for BIOS editing - with HD6950 you can't. I couldn't even change the fan curve, much less the voltages or frequencies - as per your experience - the changes wouldn't stick.
    And when I tried unlocking shaders - no display on boot, so had to revert to the original BIOS. I just lowered the "power limit" in Catalyst driver to "-20%" which helped with load temps quite a bit but also slowed the card down.
     
  3. Mannerheim

    Mannerheim Ancient Guru

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    GPU:
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    my 6970 runs about 40+ idle...
     
  4. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    Radeon HD 6950 2GB
    Yikes, something is certainly wrong on my end, possibly hardware, as the part of the die that is overheating like this is in charge of the shaders.

    I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, so each time I cleaned my HD6950 I made sure that there is no dust left anywhere, especially in the fan and between the fins (as well as on the board itself), so that isn't it.

    That is something that may be the issue, however if so, it probably means that the cooler is damaged, as I had made certain that it is properly making contact, to the best of my abilities.

    This is certainly quite the shame, although it may be a specific revision pf the HD6950, as there are quite a few reports of people successfully modding their HD6950's vBIOS. At least I had no regressions caused by my fiddling, since my GPU ignores any and all changes (including shader unlock) and simply behaves as though the vBIOS has never been changed in the first place.


    By the way, I had just found a tool that actually recognizes the GPU's stock voltage, Asus's (ironically) GPU TweakII, however changing the values is just placebo, since nothing really happens, despite there being no errors, and the software thinks the value had actually been changed.
     

  5. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    I'm glad the dust is not the issue, might be that the GPU itself deteriorated to such a degree that its resistance is higher now....what is its ASIC quality (%) by the way?

    You'll easily see if the cooler didn't touch the GPU on any spot because the thermal paste will be smooth there (not splattered).
     
  6. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    Certainly possible, the ASIC quality is at 77.8%, according to AIDA64.

    The cooler certainly did make full and proper contact, from what I could see, and I generally spread the paste with a plastic ice cream spoon (which is relatively flat) to cover the entire die, due to my perfectionism.
     
  7. Astyanax

    Astyanax Ancient Guru

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    the asic quality is hard written to the chip, it doesn't change with time.
     
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  8. chispy

    chispy Ancient Guru

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    Hi there @moriel5 , do you still have problems with your hd 6950 overheating ? What are you using the video card for , gaming , work ... ?
    Let me know as i might be able to help you :)

    Regards: Chispy
     
  9. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    As mentioned, I still do, though it is much better now (the opening post explains why).

    To say the truth, since I cannot make use of OpenCL with it, mainly testing, though I do intend to use it in a multiGPU scenario (iGPU+dGPU) for VMs (which I had already intended to do eventually), since I do not have any SR-IOV capable cards, and the SR-IOV hardware selection is in such a horrible situation due to it recieving so little attention, even in the server space (hopefully that will change with XeHPC).

    No gaming here whatsoever, and Windows is just on the side for obscure hardware, software and firmware that has no functioning equivalent on Linux (I use Solus).

    I am open to recieving any help I can get, so I really do thank you.
     
  10. chispy

    chispy Ancient Guru

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    Good to hear the cooling solution improved , i guess you live in a hot wheater country like i do hence i do understand the temperatures been so high on your hd 6950. Regarding unlocking the card some 6950 cards were lazer cut and could not be unlocked even with new bios. Also there are some cards 6950 that do unlock after a bios update but you have to do some small soldering job to bridge 2 capacitors as they are locked that way by some manufacturers , i had an xfx and sapphire that i did the bridge hardware mod and both unlocked after that.

    Let me see if i can dig and find my old post here about this modification guide and my old pictures with it done as you need to know exactly where to bridge them. If i find it i will post it here as it is a nice free bump in performance.
     

  11. chispy

    chispy Ancient Guru

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    This is the full , be all thread for unlocking the hd 6950 video cards ( https://forums.guru3d.com/threads/6950-bios-unlocking-at-users-risk.335318/ ) . Page 55 i refer to a video i made on how exactly do the hardware mod and where to solder / bridge the 2 capacitors to be able to unlock the xfx card , i'm so sorry but i deleted the video guide on youtube a long time ago :/ , also all the pictures are gone too since image shack went paying only as well as tiny pic :( , beacuse this thread was started 11 years ago.

    Here bro you can read about it on page 55 on my post at the begining of the page.

    https://forums.guru3d.com/threads/6950-bios-unlocking-at-users-risk.335318/page-55

    https://forums.extremeoverclocking.com/showpost.php?p=3901976&postcount=13
     
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  12. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    Interesting; so it isn't low, shouldn't heat up so much.
    Curious; with good HSF contact and being clean of dust the card really shouldn't run this hot at idle - in what state are the Linux drivers I mean is the idle usage really around 0% or not - that could explain high idle temperature.
     
  13. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    Wow! That's great news; the thing is I never had a HD 6950 back then and now that I have it just to see how it is, this mod is nowhere to be found. Pictures have all expired and the video is gone too - could you possible give me detail information on what to solder together so I can unlock extra shaders, please?
     
  14. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    Yeah, ambient temps in summer here generally are in the low-to-mid 30s, though they do sometimes reach the high 30s.

    Actually, I had already read it (and I needed to refer to the guide you based it upon, as well as the Internet Archive to see some of the pictures) prior to posting this thread. As I had already mentioned, the vBIOS flashed just fine, however the changes were being ignored (no black screens, however).
    Wouldn't that indicate a settings whitelist instead?

    The idle usage is really at about 0-0.83%, as verified with RadeonTOP, and the temperatures are about the same on both Windows and Linux.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
  15. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    Here is a video guide from someone else (not as good), just with the pins soldered:
     
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  16. chispy

    chispy Ancient Guru

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    Yep , that's it :) , i did the same mod but conected the wire to some capacitors close to that little chip following the pcb traces. Thank you for finding this video. Also there is a Sapphire non reference pcb that needs this mod too to unlock shaders , xfx and Sapphire is a luck of the draw with the pcb revision in order to unlock the shaders.
     
  17. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    GPU:
    Radeon HD 6950 2GB
    I'm trying to find out whether my Sapphire HD6950 uses a reference design PCB or not (the cooler is Sapphire style, not reference).

    Update: I still cannot find any reviews with pictures of the PCB of my specific card online, and since I am typing this from my desktop, I cannot just open it up.
    Interestingly however, the reference PCB looks strikingly similar to what I can remember from my PCB.

    Update 2: Still no results (there are plenty of pictures of mine, but none of the PCB specifically), so I guess I'll take a picture next time I open up the case (My method of anti-sag includes tying strings to the rear corners of the PCB and the top of my case (Antec P9)), so I'll do on Sunday (possible the night before), before I turn it on again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
  18. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    GPU:
    Radeon 9800 PRO 128MB - Mmmm, SmoothVision :drool:
    I made a gif file from that video just so it's saved here too.
    HD6950_1GB_solder_mod.gif
    Is your card/PCB perhaps like this one?
     
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  19. moriel5

    moriel5 Member

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    GPU:
    Radeon HD 6950 2GB
    I just got online, and completely forgot to look at my GPU.

    Regarding the softmod/hardmod, is it only necessary during the firmware flash, or also afterwards?

    Regarding the PCB, that's precisely my card, bar the VRAM (I have 2GB, and while I forget the brand, I believe it to be SK Hynix, though I could be mistaken, since I do not really remember).

    Update: Looking at the review (after translation), I am intrigued as to whether I could hardmod it to add a vBIOS switch, that would be awesome.

    Update 2: Yup, that is absolutely not reference, though there are some similarities.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
  20. SirkoZ

    SirkoZ Master Guru

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    GPU:
    Radeon 9800 PRO 128MB - Mmmm, SmoothVision :drool:
    Interesting. I'm glad we found your card. :)
    This one has voltage regulation on the front end (near the monitor connectors) instead of near power connectors.
    I believe (I don't know) that that bridge/connection is only necessary during flash procedure, would have to test it...
    You don't need to look for another BIOS, you can use Radeon BIOS Editor (RBE v128) to unlock all shaders (last tab).
     

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