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My chipset fan died awhile ago, is my mobo beyond saving?


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#1
jryan1776

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Hello. I recently pulled apart my HTPC to install it into a different case and in the process found that the chipset fan on my Asus A8N-SLI motherboard was locked up. The chipset physically looks like it has been running hot for a while. I suspect that the fan died months ago since I had noticed degraded performance but attributed it to other issues. The HTPC has been running 24x7 for a long time in a separate room that doesn't get much attention. The pc is used remotely on a daily basis.

I'm trying to decide if it is possible that just installing a new chipset cooler will restore the motherboard to good-as-new status or has the heat issue caused permanent damage and will continue to have degraded performance. I really don't want to drop $20 on a cooler if I'll end up chasing it with $400 worth of new components. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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#2
Digerati

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Running a computer in a HTPC setup is not really a demanding task so unless you are experiencing problems that simply cleaning out the heat trapping dust does not resolve, I suspect you are fine. I have had many of those fans (typically little 40mm fans) go and have simply removed the fan to allow greater access to the heat sync and had no problems. This assumes you have good front to back air flow through the case. The "System" temp is often that of the chipset so you can check your temps there with a hardware monitor such as CoreTemp, Speedfan, or Motherboard monitor - or the monitor provided with your motherboard.

Also note that motherboard designers place the chipset to take advantage of air flow from the CPU cooler. So if you are using the OEM cooler with your CPU, you may be getting sufficient flow already.

If you are concerned, measure the fan and buy a replacement fan. Try to avoid removing the heatsink, breaking the bond of the thermal interface material. Make sure you unplug the computer from the wall before digging in to remove the +5V standby voltages present when all ATX PSUs are plugged in and master switch on back (if present) is set to on.

Also, those fans are typically secured by screws that cut their own threads when screwed in. This can and often does result in small metal filings falling on the the board whenever you screw in, or remove the screws so care must be taken to remove any before applying power.

Another option is to replace the heatsink and fan with a new heatsink only, such as this Zalman. The concern then is removing the old heatsink. Many heatsinks used on chipsets are secured with adhesive thermal interface materials and simply pulling on the heatsink can damage the heatsink, and/or motherboard. To remove the old, you need to run the computer for a few minutes to heat up the chipset adhesive, then quickly power down and unplug the computer, touch bare metal to discharge any static, then twist the heatsink back and forth without pulling on it to break it loose. You have to be quick because the heatsink is working hard to get rid of that heat needed to loosen up the adhesive.
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#3
jryan1776

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Thanks for the quick response!

Yes, the case did have excellent cooling. While I had the motherboard out and noticed that the fan was dead, I pulled the screws off and the fan/heat sink came right off. It was like the thermal paste had dried up. I've got some more paste, so I'll reapply the past and reattach the heat sink and see what happens.

Is there a way for me to tell if the chipset has been damaged and lost performance? I run several HTPC programs, one in particular xLobby, runs all of the time. For a long time the one process has had my X2 3200 processor running at 50% cpu usage all of the time. I don't recall this being the issue when I initially installed it. Could this be related to the chipset issue?
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#4
Digerati

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Is there a way for me to tell if the chipset has been damaged and lost performance?

The chipset tells everything on the motherboard how to work and play together. Therefore, if the computer boots and runs after that, the chipset is working. If you have a performance problem, other than crashes and reboots, the chipset is not the problem. If your system is crashing, or suddenly rebooting, it could be the chipset overheating, but I would still suspect something else first.
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#5
jryan1776

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Good to know, and thanks for the info. I was getting a sporadic reboot or BSOD, but the PC would always recover. It's good to know that this may have been the culprit. I ordered the recommended heat sink the other day. I'll post back with results once the system is back in play.
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#6
jryan1776

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I finally got the Zalman heat sink. Finished rebuilding the system and installing windows 7. Everything is running great now! Even my on-board audio that had prviously quit working is now working again. Thank you for your assistance in the matter.
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#7
Digerati

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Thanks for the followup.
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