I have an nVidia GTS250 that, in the last couple of months, has decided that it has a problem with newer games. Older games are fine, but anything made in the last couple of years will eventually make the system crash and apparently bluescreen (although I never actually see it). Googling the bluescreen code suggests it's an overheating issue; running a heat monitor reveals my CPU runs at a crisp 60ºC when idle but my GPU sits at 85ºC when idle. Turning on logging and opening up a recent game reveals the GPU temperature climbs to 115ºC while the CPU gets up to around 90ºC by the time it crashes.

I suspect I have two, intertwined issues - the GPU is just way too hot, and I've got airflow problems. (Sticking a housefan in there and taking off both sides of the case stops crashes, although the card still sits at 67ºC and goes up to around 100ºC.) Uninstalling and reinstalling drivers doesn't resolve the issue. Dusting with a can of compressed air didn't do the trick either (the temperatures I'm posting are post-dusting). The heatsink is right near an empty slot on the back of the computer. I'm at a loss as to what's causing the card's heat problems and whether it's fixable.

Some advice for resolving the airflow problems would be helpful as well. My case has four vents that could take fans, one in the front, two in the side (one positioned directly next to the CPU with a funnel attached, one underneath) and one in the back, but only the one in the back appears to have anywhere to screw a fan on.

  • What BSOD? What does the event log entry say for it? Does this also happen with your computer frame open? – Tamara Wijsman Jan 30 '12 at 12:05
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    90C is way too hot for a CPU, and 115C is way too hot for a GPU. Your idle temperatures are what I would consider full-load temperatures, especially in the case of your GPU. Clean some dust, and add some fans (front = intake, side = intake, top = exhaust, back = exhaust). – Breakthrough Jan 30 '12 at 12:16
  • also there are GPU tweakers that could create a new "fan graph" for the gpu card. The manufactures and thier screaming fans allow the gpu to get too hot and the rams to get hotter. They do not seem to recognise that as time goes by , this situation gets worse not better (or they sell a lot more new cards that way :-) If the card allows for thermal fan control via software, software exists that can increase the thermal responce without having the fan screaming on manuel. – Psycogeek Jan 30 '12 at 13:52


"use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust form inside"

ARE YOU CRAZY? waaay too much static, might as well run a lightning rod into your motherboard... go down to wallmart's electronic section and ask about a "can of air" follow the instructions on the can to dust your computer. also a tip for your fans, use zip ties, they hold better than screws and you can put them anywhere. but to your overheating problem i am having the same issue which is how i found this thread, i'm to the point where i think overheating just once has caused chronic problems, i'm going to rearrange the fans i have and add a third case fan and if that doesnt work i have an older gpu laying around that i'm going to install but for all my research this seems to be my only option.

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  • Yeah, that was my conclusion: overheating caused my graphics card cooling to fail, which meant everything started heating up way too much. Fix your cooling problem first, but be aware you may need to replace components that are heat-damaged. – Merus Mar 12 '13 at 4:54

So, if you think its a cooling problem, the best way to fix it is:

Turn off your PC, remove the power cable, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust form inside. Post after you did this with the new temps.

Take out the CPU cooler and reapply the thermal paste after you removed the old one. Use quality thermal paste.

You can reapply the thermal paste on the GPU die also. That voids your warranty. So that's up to you.

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  • I would apply new thermal paste. If the computer still crashes at that point I would look into "graphics" card cooling options. It might be easier to simply replace the card. – Ramhound Jan 30 '12 at 12:26
  • There is no need to re apply thermal paste.. if the heatsink is fused and was working before, if it came loose for whatever reason then you need to clean and re apply the paste.. Otherwise The fans need cleaning, and the heat sink fins needs cleaning too if they are dusted up. DO NOT USE A BRUSH on the vacuum, just suck the dust out.. those brushed can cause electrostatic damage! – Piotr Kula Jan 30 '12 at 13:57
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    Definitely have cleaned the fan and the fins of the heat sink with canned air. Will investigate thermal paste but it looks like I'm going to have to pop off the plastic shield to get at the heat sink. I imagine getting decent airflow in the case will take care of the CPU, currently with a household fan pointing into an open case it it's running at 47ºC idle. – Merus Jan 30 '12 at 14:04
  • Is a vacuum cleaner OK? I've heard there is a risk of static unless you use static-free compressed air. – Ziggy Mar 2 '13 at 4:26

It did indeed appear to be two intertwined issues: the lack of airflow caused the cooling on the graphics card I had to fail. I had to replace the card, and while I was at it I replaced the sole back fan with three smaller fans: two at the back blowing out, one at the front blowing in. (The principle here is that you're trying to create a vacuum that pulls air in your case out, with an assist from the front fan to pull cooler air in to replace it.) This happened to work for my case, which had superior attach points for the smaller fans.

Anyway, moral of the story is: if you don't have adequate cooling and airflow in your case, it's going to cause your components' inbuilt cooling to fail until eventually you just start getting crashes. Don't ignore airflow.

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  • A common cause of this problem is if you have negative pressure in your case due to too many fans blowing air out and not enough blowing air in. This forces the GPU cooling system (which tries to blow air out of the case) to work against this pressure, drastically reducing its effectiveness. – David Schwartz Mar 17 '13 at 3:59

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