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Fixing an Overheating PC

Author: Steve Burke, GamersNexus

Thermal shutdowns are triggered by a metric called “TjMax,” or Thermal Junction – Max Temperature. When a CPU or GPU begins hitting its maximum allowable temperature as measured by internal diodes, the component will dispatch a “distress” call and trigger a hard shutdown, immediately disabling the system and preventing further heat build-up. This is a good thing; it stops the temperatures from permanently damaging components and gives the system builder a bit of a chance for resolution.

There are a few main reasons for thermal shutdowns. Fan connectivity is the most common, but it’s also possible that heatsinks are improperly mounted, overclocks are too ambitious, or the case isn’t well ventilated for the components used.

What are the Symptoms of an Overheating PC?

Symptoms of thermal issues can be summed up as:

  • Decreased performance, even down to the Windows and input level. High temperatures will slowly degrade system performance until a point at which the system either shuts down or throttles its clocks.
  • Complete shutdown without warning, often after running some sort of semi-intensive program or software.
  • Clock-rates lower than they should be.

Troubleshooting an Overheating PC

We’d strongly recommend using CAM or something that can monitor temperatures like AIDA64 (free edition) for quick checking of your temperatures. The free version does not offer logging, but you won’t need it. You could also try HW Monitor+ or SpeedFan. Some CPUs will not correctly report their temperatures to the software – it just depends on the CPU and the software version used. You may have to try a few tools to get accurate readings. In general, almost all Intel CPUs read accurately into AIDA64, and all GPUs that we’ve tested (at GamersNexus, that is) report accurately to GPU-Z or AIDA64.

Use these tools to monitor thermals while running your applications responsible for triggering shutdowns. Keep an eye on the temperature as things progress. If you see the CPU and/or GPU begin hitting ~80*C and continue climbing, it’s possible that there’s cause for concern.

Once you’ve seen enough data to feel confident that thermals are a problem (particularly if either component begins hitting 90*C – just shut it down), it’s time to troubleshoot connectivity issues.

Check the CPU power header on the motherboard. If that’s good, also check that the CPU pump (if using a liquid cooler) is connected appropriately. You can press lightly on the top of the CPU pump (while it’s on) to feel if the pump is working. If you feel a light vibration, then it’s good. If you feel significant heat in the tubes themselves, it’s probably not turning on.

The next item is BIOS. Hit ‘del’ to get into UEFI/BIOS and take a look at the reported CPU temperatures, then look at the fan speed settings. You can configure custom fan curves or settings here. If “silent” is presently selected, try opting for auto or max – just temporarily, for troubleshooting purposes – and see if temps get more reasonable. If they do, it’s possible that your case is choking air intake. This can be resolved with better case positioning in the room (is the fan butted against something?) or with more intake/exhaust fans.

Finally, we’d recommend checking that the coldplate is actually making contact with the CPU. If improperly installed, it is possible for the CPU cooler’s coldplate to hover above the CPU – doing nothing, effectively, as it is not a convection unit. Remount as necessary.

What if the GPU is Overheating?

GPU fan speeds can be controlled with CAM or another similar tool. Use one of these utilities to measure GPU temperatures and match them against your fan speed. It may be the case that you need to manually increase fan speeds to reduce overall system temperatures. – GamersNexus


Removing Virus & Malware Infections

Author: Steve Burke, GamersNexus

Malware happens to almost everyone. It doesn’t matter how clean the browsing habits, how safe the user – the prevalence of cross-site scripting and general ill-will towards computer users does mean that viruses are prevalent.

Using an active monitoring utility (like Avast or Microsoft Security Essentials) will help substantially with preventing an infection. Still, it happens.

What causes malware and virus infections?

Here are a few common symptoms of a PC virus infection:

  • General slowness of input
  • Pop-ups
  • Redirects when running a web search
  • Tool bars or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) installed
  • Slow boot times

Note that some of these could be indicative of other problems, too – like thermal throttling (see guide on system checkups) or bloat in the OS.

The Basics: Logs and Scanners

It’s exceedingly difficult to find every single component of a real infection – they tend to spread. If you’re unattached to your OS and have partitioned documents, games, and media onto a separate drive, bear in mind that it is sometimes faster to format & reinstall than resolve malware issues. You’d still have to clean that secondary partition or drive, but won’t have to deal with the nightmare of scrubbing Windows files.

But it’s always worth trying to save the OS first.

We’d first recommend installing Avast and running a boot-time scan. This will execute before the OS loads, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood of catching malware before it has a chance to ‘hide.’ Make sure virus definitions are updated prior to running this scan.

This scan will produce a log file. Locate that, save it, and prepare it for upload to support forums. Because viruses have very specific behaviors, it’s a good idea to recruit experts to give pointers on where else to look.

Begin web searches for any viruses or malware found during this scan. Learn more about the malware and what it does (and how to remove it).

Another good tool is MBAM, or Malwarebytes. MBAM is best used as a scanner, not an active shield. MBAM can be executed from safe mode for maximum efficacy. As above, save logs and begin searches for what’s found.

For potential rootkits, we’d recommend TDSS Killer to scan and clean the registry. This is where you’ve got to exercise caution, as registry changes – even if with good intentions – can break the system beyond easy repair. TDSS Killer will efficiently remove rootkits that could be hijacking keyboard input or other personal information.

Don’t Run Something Blind – Get Help!

Tools like ComboFix can be extremely powerful and can cause harm to the system if used without caution. Communicate with experts on forums for advice on when to use specific tools.

Tech Support Forum has experts who can help point efforts in the right direction, and likely know where to find hidden parts of malware. That would be the next step, short of a last-resort format and re-install of Windows. We generally try to avoid that, though. – GamersNexus

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