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I recently built a system with an Intel I5 2500K processor. I made the goofy mistake of not perfectly securing the stock heat sink onto the processor. One of the clips wasn't quite all the way in, so the heat sink wasn't mounted flush onto the surface of the CPU. I've built plenty of systems, and I just got a little careless with this one.

I installed Win7 Ultimate, downloaded Sandra and 3DMark, and went to work testing things out. I noticed in Sandra that my benchmark scores were drastically underperforming the reference system with the same specs. When I ran 3DMark using the focused CPU tests, I noticed that the performance was clearly slowing midway through the test. This immediately led me to suspect heat issues. Sure enough, the CPU heat sink was scorching hot. I reseated the heat sink, and monitored the CPU temp during benchmarks. Happily, it was staying well within a comfortable range.

However, my benchmarks are still coming in a little lower than the reference. Both 3D Mark and Sandra put my CPU performance at 85% of the identical reference system. It's not too alarming at this point, but I'm curious if it's possible that the toasty conditions my CPU experienced as a result of my negligence damaged it so that it's not performing up to its specification.

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Just need clarification. "identical reference system." You mean your system is exactly the same... same motherboard, same brand and speed of Ram, same video card... same exact everything? –  Bon Gart Jun 17 '12 at 17:26
    
I can't remember if the RAM brand was the same or even specified in the reference system, but the rated speed and other specifications were identical. Mobo and video card brand and model were identical. –  DeeDee Jun 17 '12 at 17:28

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Absolutely. Overheating any IC can cause irreversible damage, which will result in impaired performance.

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Good to know! Thanks! –  DeeDee Jun 17 '12 at 17:29
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Intel processors have a few thermal protection mechanisms that will either slow down the clock frequency or cut the power before the temperature reaches the levels that will permanently damage your CPU. –  billc.cn Jun 17 '12 at 17:47
    
But if the temperature rises too fast then the protection may not take effect in time. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jun 17 '12 at 17:52
    
I'm not sure what "impaired performance" means here. Digital circuits either work or they don't. It's possible for overheating to damage a part of the chip such that it will thereafter only give right answers at lower clock speeds than before - but nothing else in the system is going to know that, so it will not be run at a lower speed. It will continue to be clocked at the same speed as before, and it will either just not work or produce erroneous results. If you call that "impaired performance", ok, but I would just call it "broken". –  Jamie Hanrahan Aug 27 at 8:29

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