Cleaning out your graphics card
Your precious graphics card performs best with good cooling. But what happens to the temperature and performance when this cooling is clogged up? Hardware.info cleans for science, equipped with a mouth cap!
The desert sands of the Sahara, mummy remains from Egypt and the kitchen floor of the Flodder family; our graphics card has experienced and collected it all. The poor PNY GTX 960 has been running for years now, but was never cleaned during that time. Dust has collected in the cooler which has become stuck over time. It's said more often; keep your graphics card clean to keep performance to a maximum and noise production to a minimum. To put that to the test again we set to work with our dusty card.
In theory, a cooling block full of dust causes some problems because it insulates the space between the cooling fins. First of all, cool air does not reach the cooling block as easily, and secondly, warm air is less likely to escape. The heat transfer from the cooling block to the air should normally take place between the cooling fins. The airflow over the card to get rid of warm air is also blocked when there is a large amount of dust.
The result is a warmer graphics card, something most readers will recognise by an increasingly noisy fan. However, this is not the only consequence, because significantly warmer components can also mean a shorter life span. As a result, the fan needs to rotate faster and therefore wears out faster. In addition, the power supply is less efficient as the temperature increases, which again results in extra heat and makes cooling even more difficult.
In this article we are going to clean and test a GTX 960. After benchmarking the card with all the dust left on and in it, we clean it by removing the plastic cover and using a can of compressed air between the cooling fins and the fan blades to blow the dust out. Then we put the graphics card back on the test bench to see how much effect the cleaning has had. Finally, we open the card again, and we also dismantle the cooling block to replace the cooling paste. This will restore the cooling system to its optimum condition with maximum heat transfer between the GPU and the cooling block.