I have a Sony Vaio laptop (VPC - F22L1E, sometimes listed as F22L1E/B), with a 1 GB GeForce GT 540M graphics card.

The GPU heats from room temp. to about 55°C with just booting and surfing on the web. I was playing a game that I played lots of times before, without problems. After a minute or so, there are sudden decreases in the fps, lasting for only a second or two, which I think is throttling. GPU-z logs revealed that this causes the temperature to drop to ~70°C from 89°C. And the GPU core clock goes from 670.8 MHz to 202.5 MHz.

I can't remember the exact timeline, but I made a few changes to my computer: added an extra 4 GB RAM, upgraded to Windows 8 (from 7), then recently made a clean install of Windows 8 due to problems caused by upgrade, and made sequential updates to the nVidia driver. I remember to be able to play the game smoothly after the Windows 8 upgrade. And the RAM upgrade was even before that.

I could not open up the laptop to see whether the fan is clogged with dust, but when I opened up the RAM module compartment, I saw no dust on that part of the main board. (I know that dust is more likely to accumulate around the fan, though.)

A friend thinks that it is because of the summer weather (around 25°C now), but what am I supposed to do, only use my computer in winter, in which case the temperature would be 17-20°C indoors.)

What could be the problem, and what can I do?

Edit: I should add that after the clean Windows 8 install, some features, such as fn hotkeys, did not work even when I installed all drivers available on Sony's site. It seemed as though all of drivers available for Windows 7 were not available for Windows 8. I contacted Sony support, and they told me that the device did not support Windows 8. (Why they have most of the drivers for Windows 8 is a mystery to me.) This had not been an issue for the Windows 8 upgrade, though. Maybe some of the Windows 7 drivers were retained and kept working.

  • how often does this happen? where you get such a dramatic drop in frame rates? does this happen in any other game or just the one you were playing? also you seem to focus a lot about drivers, the only driver that matters with your gfx card, is the gfx card drivers, as long as they are up-to-date and compatible with win8, all the other comments related to other drivers isn't really needed i think. – Sickest Sep 14 '13 at 21:31
  • You'll probably have to open the laptop at some point to check the condition of the card. You can use a can of compressed air to remove any accumulation of dust. – Yass Sep 14 '13 at 22:17
  • @Sickest It happens with all the games. If the GPU is at its coolest state (55°C minimum), and I launch a game, it starts heating. Then, depending on the game, after some minutes, it begins to throttle. – sodiumnitrate Sep 15 '13 at 16:51

The laptop is roughly 2 years old, and I determined that from the reviews dating to 8/25/2011. I would download a utility like GPU-Caps Viewer, and more specifically Furmark to get the most accurate picture of what temps your GPU is running at under specific stress tests. However, the temps you list sound a bit high.

That said, it is quite possible the heatsink has an accumulation of dust that should be cleaned. Here's an image I used in a previous answer...

enter image description here

It's not a heatsink from your model, but it is a great example of how dust can and will build up on the leading edges of the sink. You can see enough dust to impede airflow after just a year of regular use. Think of it like a lint trap in a clothes dryer. A little dust will catch on the edges of the sink facing the fan, and that dust will in turn catch more dust, until you can end up looking like that... or looking like a piece of felt.

In short, it can't hurt to carefully disassemble the laptop and clean the fan and the heatsink... or pay someone to do it for you.

From this image of the fan assembly for your laptop (from an ebay.com listing)... enter image description here ... it is designed to use a single fan to cool both the CPU and GPU. Which means you've only got one heat sink to clean. At the very least, checking the condition of the thermal pad between the assembly and the GPU would be in order. This will also give you the opportunity to ensure the assembly is sitting properly on the GPU.

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  • Okay, I'm prepared to disassemble my laptop. I've tried it actually, but couldn't get past removing the harddrive and RAMs. I unscrewed everything, but I couldn't understand whether it opens by removing the keyboard, or from the bottom. I could not find any service manual on the net as well. If I find out how I can reach the heat sink, I think I can clean out the dust with the necessary precautions. – sodiumnitrate Sep 15 '13 at 7:45
  • From that image I provided, it looks like the heat sink is part of the cooling assembly (note the copper fins at the very top of the picture). That would mean that after removing the assembly, providing you can get to it, you will most likely have to remove the fan itself from the assembly in order to clean out from between the fan and the sink. – Bon Gart Sep 15 '13 at 8:02
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    @sodiumnitrate Before ripping your machine apart take a look at the ventilation grids. Can you actually see dust? If not then this is not necessarily the problem. It could also be bad thermal paste. Manufacturers save where they can. My netbook ran hotter and hotter with each passing week. It turned out the thermal paste used had aged rapidly within a year and replacing it fixed the problem. The cooler on the other hand was so thin that no dust could really settle. As for opening up the laptop, try to find a video or manual for that online before you damage it. – Zerobinary99 Sep 15 '13 at 9:36
  • @Zerobinary99 you'd still end up having to rip the machine apart to be able to investigate the condition of the thermal pads between the cooling assembly and the GPU and CPU. And no cooling assembly that utilizes heatsinks is immune from dust getting caught and layered between the fan and the heat sink. Thin or fat, it still draws ambient air from the room, and that air will contain particulate matter. It's only a matter of time until the material builds up. Of course, the cleaner the air going in, the longer it will take. – Bon Gart Sep 15 '13 at 12:37
  • @Zerobinary99 The ventilation grids seem to have tilted metal sheets behind which prevents me from seeing anything. I searched for a video or manual for hours, but found nothing useful. – sodiumnitrate Sep 15 '13 at 16:45

So here's how I solved it:

I opened up the RAM bay and removed the RAMs. Then, using a nitrogen tank (using anything other than compressed air or an inert gas without dust particles can cause the hardware to be damaged with static electricity) with very low pressure, I blew the dust from the RAM bay to the fan. A lot of dust, along with some hair, flew out of the fan. I did this like 10 months ago, and the GPU has worked perfectly ever since.

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I've got the same laptop. It's probably around 4 years old. I've cleaned it twice during its life span(even once with a vacuum). But it kept overheating. Then I got an idea to buy a cooling pad for it along with a thermal grease.

When I unscrewed all the screws and taped it to my scheme on a paper sheet (tips from that guy: Laptop Hardware Repair by Eli the Computer Guy then took out the single heat sink, I discovered that the thermal grease was solid as stone and dry as a dinosaur bone!

I carefully removed it with some stiff plastic knife and put in new grease it runs smooth uptil now. Now I'm running Windows 8.1 (Sony drivers included) and waiting for Windows 10 (lighter OS = faster machine :] ).

The components never got hotter than 60 °C on a cooling pad even with PC Mark. The pad is Silentium Glacier NC400. Very quiet and fancy.

One remark: Always check your laptop vendor site before upgrading. If it says the software is not supported with your model, then you're going to have problems if you upgrade. I was a geek-noob back then but somehow managed to keep my laptop and my head above water.

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If the device doesn't support Windows 8, it doesn't support Windows 8. Be lucky you got this far... and be careful you don't cook your GPU without the proper software controls being able to throttle both the GPU and its fan. Dangerous territory. I tried a small overclock on my old Vaio and permanently fubared my GPU, constantly crashing whenever I tried any game. Tread lightly, downgrade to Win7, or get a new laptop. Best wishes!

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  • Well, things have worked perfectly in the Windows 8 upgrade. I am convinced that making a couple of more drivers available for windows 8, everything could be working perfectly fine. I think Sony is being lazy. (And I've also found out the model that I have is not sold in many places, so they may have chosen not to spend much time on its drivers.) I also recently checked that the GPU heats to ~55°C while browsing the net on Ubuntu 12.04 as well. – sodiumnitrate Sep 15 '13 at 7:49

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