computers

Time to cool the engines – Liquid Cooling for my CPU

Not too long ago I put together a new machine complete with 8-Core AMD processor and quite a few terabytes worth of hard drive space. It’s quite the beast of machine, but there is one small problem. Throwing all those cores at the problem sort of makes things hot. Most of the time it’s no big deal as it chews through work without breaking a sweat. But, break out a large file to convert and things get a little toasty.

That brings me to the Corsair H80i Liquid CPU Cooler. To be honest, liquid cooling makes me a tiny bit nervous. All that liquid. All those electronics. Sounds like a recipe for electrocution. But, the technology has come a long way and it’s even broken down into parts. You don’t have to run tubing through the entire machine. For this project, I just wanted to cool down the processor. The Corsair has a large radiator and two 120mm fans that push air into the case and pull air across the radiator. A friend of mine with the same chip and the same cooler says he sees a pretty significant temperature drop. The price is pretty reasonable and if increases the longevity of the machine I’m all for it.

While the cooler isn’t technically that hard to install, it is a bit of a pain in the ass and is wrought with danger. If I’d done this when building the machine it would have been a lot easier. The first problem came in getting the CPU out. Yeah, we bent a couple of pins. Second, the processor didn’t break away from the heat sink like we wanted or expected so we had to use solvent to break the two apart. Luckily I planned ahead and bought some from Arctic Silver. It wasn’t a big deal, just time consuming.

Next, getting the fans in place and wrangling the tubing inside the case is a bit tricky. They don’t have a whole lot of give and they can’t be pinched. Plus, there is some finagling to be done to get the cooler in place and anchored down.

Finally, the wires are kind of short, so cable management can be sort of tricky. I’m not a fanatic about that sort of things, but I try to make sure things are out of the way and won’t get sucked into the fans. Again, if this had been done when the machine was first put together it might have been better. But I had no interest in pulling out the motherboard just to tuck some wires away. All in all, they got routed out of the way pretty well.

When all is said and done it worked out nicely. Although, when you first turn the machine on, the fans scream like banshee for 10 seconds or so. Then they settle back down.

So how does it cool? Well, I took multiple files and converted them to MP4 for the iPad. For the sake of argument I encoded a season of Burn Notice. Make no mistake, the fans do kick in and kick in hard. The RPMs are 2400+ when it gets going, but the CPU sits at 34C. This means you’ll damn good and well when the computer is running at full capacity. It’s about the same amount of noise as the regular fans going full bore, but the CPU stays a lot cooler. Corsair provides custom software that’s free to download so you can monitor all the temps inside your machine. It pulls back CPU, video card and hard drive temps.

It hasn’t been in there all that long, but overall I’m pretty happy. In fact, I have a second unit ready for another machine I put together. It’s only an AMD Phenom X4, but after running games for awhile it gets a little warm too. Considering the price I don’t see a reason not to put one in the other machine.

Now, both machines are in custom cases. I don’t think I could get a cooler onto either of my Dell machines. The larger cases have extra fan ports which the Dells don’t. Corsair says the cooler fits most cases, but I say you better double and even triple check before you try this on an OEM machine. I bet these will be standard fare in another year or two.

But for now, if you’ve built your own rig or plan to, I’d highly recommend putting a CPU cooler on the list. It’s a bit of a slow process, but worth it.

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Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i

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And then I brought home a mini gaming rig

When you work in the IT field it’s inevitable to come across that "one guy" who lives on the bleeding edge of technology and buy all manner of gizmos just to toy with them for a short time before tossing them aside for the next "shiny" object. I work with such a guy. He likes the thrill of the hunt. The excitement of building or using something. Long term relationships do not apply. This explains how I have a new gaming rig. While it may not be the most powerful thing in the gaming realm, it’s actually pretty decent and is working like a charm.

The heart is an AMD Phenom X4 965 Black Edition. It rides on a lower end, but decent Gigabyte GA-78LMT motherboard that sports plenty of USB ports and SATA ports. It also allows for 32GB of Ram and can run two video cards in SLI. It also has a Cooler Master 500 watt power supply. For the video card he went with the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 with 2GB of GDDR5 ram. Some corners were cut with the hard drives, only a 1TB main drive and he got it with 4GB of ram. Not sure what the hell he was thinking there.

Since I have the 8-core machine I didn’t need to step down back to another 4-core. But he’s been trying to get rid of it for the past couple of months and the story of it wasting away in the corner collecting dust was more than I could bear.

I got the rig for around the cost of the video card and proceeded to beef it up with a full 32GB of ram. I won’t mess with the drives since it will only handle games. I added some simple Logitech speakers and added a 27 inch Samsung display. The video card pushes 1920×1280 in Call of Juarez without a problem. The display is the same one I got for my main machine. In fact, it was the last one on the shelf. And the price went up right after I got that last one.

While the motherboard may not raise eyebrows it has everything it needs and will support the same 8-core FX-8350 processor that my main machine has. And since news has come out of the new AMD chipset and the possible end of the line for the FX series and they jump to the nextgen, I might be able to double the processing power of this machine for well under $200. It’s right at the threshold now, so when it tips I’m snatching one up. This machine should have several years of longevity in it. Hell, I might even get another GTX 660 just to have the SLI.

So, who’s the guy in your office always buying machines and then turning around to sell them for dirt cheap prices? Get any good deals?

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Salvation from Viruses, Rootkits, Malware and Spyware. How to protect yourself.

A friend of mine at work has found himself battling some serious computer demons. "A friend of his wife’s", (the story always starts that way) has a laptop that is running slow and causing problems. It took only a couple of minutes to determine it was the victim of some malware, probably had a virus and some spyware seeping through.

Oh course the machine has an OEM copy of Windows, no recovery disks and as for anti-virus, I’m not sure it even had any. If it did, it sure as hell wasn’t working. Anyway, the battle began on Monday night. I met back up with him on Thursday and he looked to be a defeated man. He told stories of at least 10 viruses on the system, quite possibly a rootkit, definitely Malware and Spyware and since he didn’t have any disks, getting to scan the machine before Windows loaded was proving to be problematic.

I’ve been there. I’ve been given this laptop before. I’ve had that "friend". After much discussion and gnashing of teeth I offered my suggestions on how to get around this mess. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but who knows if he can resurrect this machine. We all agreed the best thing to do is reformat the beast, but they don’t have the Windows disks.

So here are my suggestions:

Go to Amazon and buy a copy of Norton Internet Security 2012. You can buy a single PC license for $18 or a 3 PC license for $27. Let me just say this and cut through the haze, free anti-virus is bullshit! There are times when you get what you pay for and if you’re going to hang your ass out on the Internet all day, every day, you better protect it. Do you trust free condoms from strangers? Really? Pay the $30 and get some real protection in there.

Next, go to Norton and download the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool. This is the Boot CD or Boot Disk so you can get right at the machine before it starts. You may also need to download Norton Power Eraser which is specially designed to aggressively target scamware. That sounds wickedly powerful, so yes, give it a go. But seriously, download the Boot Disk and scan your machine with that if it’s infected.

Next, download SuperAntiSpyware. It does indeed have a silly name, but it’s damn powerful software. It’s stops Malware, Spyware and Viruses from getting onto your system. It does a lot more than just clean up some tracking cookies. If you try and click on something evil, it will pull you out of the fire. For system that have more bugs than a Thai Bath House, there is portable version so you can boot it off a USB key. You can get a LIFETIME license to the full version for $20.

There is also MalwareBytes. Like SuperAntiSpyware it will get onto your machine looking for all sorts of ill. They have a free version so you can run it against your infected machine and yourself out of the soup.

But seriously, before you start calling up your local tech guy, who obviously has nothing better to do than mess with your laptop, spend the $50 to protect yourself. Get a copy of NIS 2012 so that when you click on the things you shouldn’t it will stop programs from sucking the life out of your machine. Spend the $20 for a good Malware, Spyware app so that when sites try to attack you, there’s a barrier. You don’t go swimming naked in shark infested waters covered in bacon grease do you? Why do you jeopardize your machine so?

Just remember, don’t be cheap. So far, my friend has invested 4 hours in this problem and has made no advances yet. There’s at least another 4-6 hours of work ahead. Considering the technical depth of his knowledge, you wouldn’t even get him to look a machine for less than $50 an hour. This project will waste over $500 by the time it’s done and more than likely will get this person shunned from his house and not invited over to the next party. And I tell you what, if I were doing this work, you for damn sure would be buying me a bottle of top shelf Vodka or Whiskey and we know $50 isn’t gonna cut it there. AND you’ll be buying the AV and Malware apps anyway, because I’m not going through this crap again.

As the saying goes, pay a little now, save a lot later.

Think about it, what the right choice here?

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