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Cool your VRMs

Cool your VRMs

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Published by: Alan D Cobourne-Smith on Sep 05, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Cool your VRM’s

James Prosser and Daniel Meyer show you how to prevent your motherboard from melting when you over volt your system.
There was a time when over volting your components was a nefarious practice only carried out by the over clocking elite, but now even amateur over clocker’s know that you need more power if you want a higher over clock. This voltage is regulated by your motherboard's VRMs (voltage regulator modules, also called MOSFETs), which ensure that the power supplied isn't too high or too low. However, while your VRMs will be quite happy with a CPU at stock speed, they'll become toasty when you start cranking up the volts for a big over clock, particularly if they're bare. This can make your machine unstable and limit your over clock, and could even result in a fried board. If your motherboard doesn't have a heat sink on your VRMs then you can easily make your own. All you need is a spare heat sink, a Dremel and some thermal tape or adhesive. With our custom heat sink in place, the temperature of our VRMs dropped from 31.2 & deg; C to 4 & deg; C. All testing was carried out by over clocking a 2.66GHz Core 2 E6700 to 3.6GHz, using high vcore and PLL voltages, and then running Orthos for 20 minutes until the temperature stabilised. An XSPC temperature reader was used to record the temperatures. Thanks to l3v1ck for coming up with the idea for this guide.

Find the VRMs on your motherboard; these square chips are usually found by the processor socket. On some motherboards, such as this Asus P5K-E, the heat sink area will already be handily marked, making it easy to measure your heat sink for mounting. If not, measure the area needed to cover the VRMs.

Find a heat sink that you can dismantle. We used an old Cooler Master Slot 1 cooler, which we picked up from eBay for just £4, including delivery.

To hard-mount your heat sink with screws, use a Dremel and reinforced cut-off wheels to remove any obstructions, such as the fins on our heat sink, as shown above. Wear eye protection while using the Dremel, and then remove any sharp edges using a needle file.

You can then cut the heat sink to size using the Dremel and reinforced cut-off wheels, which may wear out a couple of your discs. Alternatively, you can use a hacksaw for this job, although this method will take a while. Again, remove any sharp edges with a needle file.

Install the heat sink on the VRMs using Sekisui double-sided thermal adhesive tape (99p a strip from www.chilledpc.co.uk). Aluminium isn't heavy, so the tape will hold it securely. Thermal adhesive could also be used for this, but you won't be able to remove the heat sink afterwards. With this heat sink installed, the temperature of the VRMs dropped dramatically from 31.2°C to 4°C.

Mounting the heat sink with screws will provide more tension (and therefore lower temperatures), as well as being much more secure. To do this, drill a mounting hole into the heat sink at either end, and secure it to the board with screws and nuts. You should also use plastic washers between the nuts and the motherboard to prevent any short circuits.

Instead of making a custom heat sink, you can use heat sinks designed for cooling the memory on a graphics card. We used the Zalman heat sinks that come with the VF900 and VF1000 GPU coolers, which dropped the temperature of the VRMs from 31.2°C to 11°C. This method isn't as effective as a custom heat sink, but these heat sinks are much easier to install.

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