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Did Dell Screw Up?

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May 15, 2007 12:44:21 AM

I bought my Dell Dimension XPS Gen 3 in August of 2004. This past January, I had some troubles with my PC. At the conclusion of my 12-page thread my PC was dead, as well as my logitech wireless keyboard and mouse.

A couple of weeks ago I put a WD Caviar hard drive in my PC, and miraculously it came back to life. In the months in between, I took my PC apart. The CPU was out of the box for maybe 3 of those months.



In examining my HSF setup I noticed something strange. Before I tell about that, I have to write up what CPU cooling system I have. The Heatsink sits on top of the CPU with a plastic shroud on top of that. In the orientation of the case standing upright, it has two 120mm fans to the left of the Heatsink:






The top fan blows air from the HSF out of the PC. The bottom fan sucks air onto the heatsink. Now, I don't know if that makes thermal sense at all? Wouldn't the two fans just fight each other?

The strange thing that I found was a black piece of plastic in the duct by the top fan. It completely blocked off the fan from the rest of the HSF. Obviously, this seems very wrong. I took out the piece of plastic, it was stuck in there by its sticky edges.

Does this setup make any sense? Should I change the orientation of the fans?

More about : dell screw

May 15, 2007 1:15:23 AM

Is that one of the BTX based XPS's or does it use ATX? I can't really tell by the picture, but I'm guessing ATX. If the two fans in the rear are set to exhaust heat, then there really shouldn't be any thermal issues. I guess. :?
May 15, 2007 1:19:56 AM

Quote:
Is that one of the BTX based XPS's or does it use ATX? I can't really tell by the picture, but I'm guessing ATX. If the two fans in the rear are set to exhaust heat, then there really shouldn't be any thermal issues. I guess. :?


Its not BTX, but not ATX either. Its quite proprietary. It has 6 expansion slots as opposed to ATX's 7 and mATX's 4. The PSU is in a separate section, taking up the whole bottom of the case.

Does it make sense, or should I reverse one of the fans?
Related resources
May 15, 2007 1:21:01 AM

Umm, what are the temps and what is the processor?
May 15, 2007 1:21:42 AM

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Maybe not the best configuration but i'm sure Dell had a good reason for the configuration.


yea, but did Dell mean for that piece of plastic to be there? It was there for 2.5yrs. It completely isolated the top fan.

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Umm, what are the temps and what is the processor?


the CPU is a Pentium 4 540 Prescott w/ Heatburst.

Ill check temps now. What should I use, Speedfan?
May 15, 2007 1:27:35 AM

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That and Intel's TAT (you can download it here) as well as CoreTemp so we can get the best readings.


I can only get load temps now. Im streaming a movie in Firefox, and for some reason its taking up ~30-50% of my CPU cycles. Ill encode video and get it up to 100%.

Give me a couple min

*EDIT* Coretemp wont run since its not a Core CPU

Speedfan only gives me the temps for my Hard Drive

TAT says I have an invalid processor


What now?
May 15, 2007 1:48:03 AM

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I'm at a loss...


But what about that piece of plastic covering the top fan?
May 15, 2007 1:57:11 AM

I say leave it all alone. Its probably there to direct airflow.
May 15, 2007 2:06:48 AM

Quote:
I say leave it all alone. Its probably there to direct airflow.


Dude, it was completely blocking the airflow of the top fan. I took it out weeks ago.

It was just a piece of plastic with sticky edges stuck in the green duct
May 15, 2007 2:21:18 AM

I read somewhere that that piece of plastic is to cool the Capacitors below the processor, however i removed that piece of plastic long ago. Even later I modded a zalman 9500 onto the xps because the stock cooling was crap. Ill post pics
May 15, 2007 2:47:08 AM

*Shrugs*

Its a Dell. What can I say.
May 15, 2007 3:11:47 AM

Quote:
*Shrugs*

Its a Dell. What can I say.


The overall quality isnt that bad. Look at that wiring!

I ripped it all out and put it back, so you cant really tell, but all of the psu cables were tied up and clipped to the mobo plate. Great stuff
May 15, 2007 3:14:54 AM

Take mpilch's advice and just leave it alone; it's probably a vacuum or something like that.

Whatever it is, there's a reason for it. Your PC ran fine for nearly 2 1/2 years and it wasn't your CPU that caused it to die, it was your hard drive.

If it worked before and you haven't done anything drastic, it will work now. Dell's engineers are paid to make sure that people don't send their computers back with CPU's that melted at stock speeds.
May 15, 2007 3:18:43 AM

it's a dell, i would probably would have left it alone. That piece is there for a reason.
May 15, 2007 3:22:33 AM

Quote:
Take mpilch's advice and just leave it alone; it's probably a vacuum or something like that.

Whatever it is, there's a reason for it. Your PC ran fine for nearly 2 1/2 years and it wasn't your CPU that caused it to die, it was your hard drive.

If it worked before and you haven't done anything drastic, it will work now. Dell's engineers are paid to make sure that people don't send their computers back with CPU's that melted at stock speeds.


but it rendered the purpose of the top fan moot. It made it as if the fan wasnt even there. Theres no mystery or Dell magic here, someone at the factory just f*cked up and left it in. Why put a fan in there if all it does is suck at a piece of plastic, and if the peice was meant to be there, why not have it be part of the general green mold?
May 15, 2007 3:34:48 AM

smoke a cigarette with the plastic on and off and see where the smoke goes, for fun drop the cig on the mobo and see if it will light, best thing for those dells :twisted:
May 15, 2007 3:35:33 AM

It's really hard to tell what you are saying without being able to see this "sticky black plastic" you are talking about. From the pictures, it's obvious that it was designed to pass air through the CPU heatsink, and it would in that configuration, as long as you leave the square piece on the end, but without knowing exactly how the extra piece was oriented, it's impossible to tell.
May 15, 2007 3:36:56 AM

Quote:
Take mpilch's advice and just leave it alone; it's probably a vacuum or something like that.

Whatever it is, there's a reason for it. Your PC ran fine for nearly 2 1/2 years and it wasn't your CPU that caused it to die, it was your hard drive.

If it worked before and you haven't done anything drastic, it will work now. Dell's engineers are paid to make sure that people don't send their computers back with CPU's that melted at stock speeds.


but it rendered the purpose of the top fan moot. It made it as if the fan wasnt even there. Theres no mystery or Dell magic here, someone at the factory just f*cked up and left it in. Why put a fan in there if all it does is suck at a piece of plastic, and if the peice was meant to be there, why not have it be part of the general green mold?

Ask Dell that. Your CPU ran fine for 2 1/2 years (and is still running) so ther's a reason for it. I don't believe anyone screwed up because as you wrote about the cooling setup,

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Its quite proprietary


I'm also failing to see the logic in it but it didn't seem detrimental.

On another note the Xbox 360 uses a similar cooling arrangement as well.
May 15, 2007 3:44:55 AM

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It's really hard to tell what you are saying without being able to see this "sticky black plastic" you are talking about. From the pictures, it's obvious that it was designed to pass air through the CPU heatsink, and it would in that configuration, as long as you leave the square piece on the end, but without knowing exactly how the extra piece was oriented, it's impossible to tell.


It wasnt on the other side of the HSF, it was less then an inch from the top fan, blocking off all airflow from that fan.

Here is where the piece was.

Sorry for the sloppy editing.... the red outline is where the plastic piece was.

*EDIT* after some searching, I foudn the piece of plastic. Ill go stel my little brothers canon now and take a pic.
May 15, 2007 3:49:53 AM

So, the white part was open? It looks to me like air direction/turbulance control. They probably found that adding the plastic caused the air to flow across the heatsink rather than directly at it in that configuration. The smoke idea is a good one to use to see what I'm talking about. It is possible, though, that the configuration used was intended more specifically for a CPU without a heat-sink fan.
May 15, 2007 3:53:51 AM

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So, the white part was open? It looks to me like air direction/turbulance control. They probably found that adding the plastic caused the air to flow across the heatsink rather than directly at it in that configuration. The smoke idea is a good one to use to see what I'm talking about. It is possible, though, that the configuration used was intended more specifically for a CPU without a heat-sink fan.


the white part was NOT open. That whole area was closed. The top fan was COMPLETELY isolated from the rest of the PC. It was just sucking at a piece of plastic for 2.5yrs. No air went thru there, until now.

Here is the infamous peice of black plastic (flash makes it look grey)



tow of the three edges are sticky, but not the one on the right (in both pics.) Then again, the piece was held securely in by the other flaps. There was SOO much dust between the plastic piece and the fan. I dont mean dust bunnies, I mean dust ELEPHANTS.
May 15, 2007 3:56:28 AM

There doesn't seem to be any small inlets for the intake fan to disperse the air, so I'd assume that now that you've gotten rid of that black plastic it would be safe to flip the intake fan around so it becomes an exhaust fan so you can double your cooling.
May 15, 2007 4:06:08 AM

If that's the case, then:
A. Someone forgot to take it off when installing it, or
B. In the midst of a redesign, someone decided it was cheaper to stick plastic in front of the fan, rather then take it off.

If you reverse the fan to make it dual exhaust, leave the gray square piece off, else you'll end up with a vacuum (or is that a piece of mesh screen?). Personally, I find that using external air to cool a cpu works better than two exhaust fans working off of warm case air, but it would solve problems with other devices overheating (like, perhaps, harddrives).
May 15, 2007 4:30:29 AM

So you two think I should reverse the top fan so it PULLS air from the heatsink.

Ill have to hear more ppl before I try it, but ok.
May 15, 2007 9:12:47 PM

Yea, I think Ill do the mod and leave the fans where they are.

ill just put the black plastic in between the fan ducts so it channels the air from outside, thru the heatsink, and out the top fan.

good?
May 15, 2007 9:37:29 PM

After working on Dell's I think a lot of people on this forum give Dell engineers way too much credit. It was probably some goofy stopgap measure they used when they were switching between parts in the middle of a model run. I say mod that sucker!
May 15, 2007 9:45:13 PM

Quote:
After working on Dell's I think a lot of people on this forum give Dell engineers way too much credit. It was probably some goofy stopgap measure they used when they were switching between parts in the middle of a model run. I say mod that sucker!


like i said b4, someone at dell just f*cked up
a c 205 K Overclocking
May 21, 2007 4:47:46 PM

Put the piece of plastic back where it was before you removed it from the fan housing and take a picture of the housing setup from different angles and post that.
May 21, 2007 5:07:37 PM

Quote:
Put the piece of plastic back where it was before you removed it from the fan housing and take a picture of the housing setup from different angles and post that.




drawing is easier
May 21, 2007 6:08:45 PM

Quote:
Put the piece of plastic back where it was before you removed it from the fan housing and take a picture of the housing setup from different angles and post that.




drawing is easier

Have you googled to see if you could find anyone else that had the same black plastic piece in their exhaust system?
May 21, 2007 7:24:37 PM

ill try..... but I dont really know what to search for.

ill also try xps tech support online
May 21, 2007 7:39:53 PM

The green hood thing on the heatsink is something dell has been doing for years now, but the black plastic, I've never seen, Unless it was meant to block one fans flow from the others, it has no real reason to be there.
May 21, 2007 7:54:00 PM

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The green hood thing on the heatsink is something dell has been doing for years now, but the black plastic, I've never seen, Unless it was meant to block one fans flow from the others, it has no real reason to be there.


after the mod it should give quite good cooling, no?
May 21, 2007 8:02:08 PM

It's dell, they use the cheapest sanest solution, but yea, any moding to help air flow will greatly reduces your temps.
a b K Overclocking
May 21, 2007 10:58:03 PM

it looks like a simple mistake

just flip the fan and be done.

Other then that it will pull hot air back in(an air loop) and over heat



Review(not your system but looks like the same cooling)

Alright now. why did it happen?

well maybe dell used dual fans for dual core systems and a single fan for single core systems. If that was the case. dell would need a way to stop the fan from looping and missing the heat sink. So they slap in that plastic thing, now they can use one fan shroud for all XPS's

Now over on the floor someone places 2 fans(and one backwards) by mistake and out it goes.

It would not surprise me if all systems like your just come with one fan.

Now for temps. Dell uses there own motherboards so there are few programs to read the temps. You can try to turn on dell support in speedfan(but its made for laptops, never hurts to try). Tat and Coretemp have never read P4's as they did not have the thermal diode setup for it. You can be sure that the system is monitoring its own temps and adjusting any way.

Hope this helps some
May 21, 2007 11:19:01 PM

Thanks for the Pic.

i dont think Ill reverse the fan though. then it will just be using hot case air to cool the Heatsink.

I do not have an real intake fan, just a big vent in the front.

I think the mod is the best solution.


btw, I just installed a GF7600GT w/VF700CU in my PC :) 

it works!
a b K Overclocking
May 22, 2007 12:07:23 AM

Yes, but if you do that you will only have air flow in the back there. so little to no air will come in the front. if you suck enough air out the back air will have no choice but to come in the front.

If you do want to do the mod. make sure you suck in the bottom and blow out the top. Since hot air rises this will cause less re-heating. Or better yet make your own air guide or shroud to make the hot air rise faster.

May 22, 2007 1:36:45 AM

Quote:
Yes, but if you do that you will only have air flow in the back there. so little to no air will come in the front. if you suck enough air out the back air will have no choice but to come in the front.

If you do want to do the mod. make sure you suck in the bottom and blow out the top. Since hot air rises this will cause less re-heating. Or better yet make your own air guide or shroud to make the hot air rise faster.



I just played FEAR with my new GF7600GT and in the middle I bent down to feel the air coming out of the back of the pc, the exhaust of the HSF.

It was very hot, something I havent seen before, so I quickly opened the case and felt the HSF. It was hotter than I have ever felt it. After a while with the case open it cooled down to merely warm.

I think that I will make both of the fans exhaust.

BTW, my new GPU idles at 50C and loads in the low 60s. This is compared to my old ATI card which idled at 60 and got up to 78C at load 8O .

in response to a suggestion that single core systems were meant to have 1 fan and dualies 2, when i bought my PC in August of 2004, the Pentium D had not come out yet. my prescott was pretty good (but not as good as an Athlon 64)
a b K Overclocking
May 22, 2007 3:38:46 AM

well you know what i mean. dell may have run the hotter cpus with 2(or just messed up and left that plastic there). After all you could get a XPS from like 3.0 to 3.8(as i recall) so maybe the 3's ran one and the 3.8(super hot) ran 2.

your hot cpu was due to the heat looping. so head leaves/then goes back in and gets hotter its a loop....

Bahhhh either way, just run to as exhaust and it will suck air in the front over the hard drives and video card and out the back.
May 22, 2007 4:24:43 AM

Quote:
well you know what i mean. dell may have run the hotter cpus with 2(or just messed up and left that plastic there). After all you could get a XPS from like 3.0 to 3.8(as i recall) so maybe the 3's ran one and the 3.8(super hot) ran 2.

your hot cpu was due to the heat looping. so head leaves/then goes back in and gets hotter its a loop....

Bahhhh either way, just run to as exhaust and it will suck air in the front over the hard drives and video card and out the back.


will do, but arent those gpu temp differences impressive?
May 22, 2007 5:31:54 AM

Quote:
well you know what i mean. dell may have run the hotter cpus with 2(or just messed up and left that plastic there). After all you could get a XPS from like 3.0 to 3.8(as i recall) so maybe the 3's ran one and the 3.8(super hot) ran 2.

your hot cpu was due to the heat looping. so head leaves/then goes back in and gets hotter its a loop....

Bahhhh either way, just run to as exhaust and it will suck air in the front over the hard drives and video card and out the back.


will do, but arent those gpu temp differences impressive?

now ive got dual exhaust baby!
a b K Overclocking
May 22, 2007 12:04:39 PM

Quote:
well you know what i mean. dell may have run the hotter cpus with 2(or just messed up and left that plastic there). After all you could get a XPS from like 3.0 to 3.8(as i recall) so maybe the 3's ran one and the 3.8(super hot) ran 2.

your hot cpu was due to the heat looping. so head leaves/then goes back in and gets hotter its a loop....

Bahhhh either way, just run to as exhaust and it will suck air in the front over the hard drives and video card and out the back.


will do, but arent those gpu temp differences impressive?

Nvidia card tend to run cooler. and a 7600GT is newer and cooler then what ati had in 2004. what was your old card? i've got an over clocked(and pipeline unlocked) 850pro over 100c. now THATS hot. I later zalman's that one too.
a c 205 K Overclocking
May 22, 2007 1:57:57 PM

The best overall solution is to hard mount the 2 case fans to the case with fan mounting screws set both fans exhausting the case air and add a good after market CPU cooler.

If theres no predrilled mounting screw holes think outside the box thats what drills and magnets are for, the drill to drill the holes, and magnets to catch the metal shavings.

Dells cheap cooling solution is just that cheap!!!

Loose that shroud crap and cool the thing, now thats what I would do, and thats my advice, whether you heed it is completely up to you.

The original design was to intake air with the bottom fan and exhaust it out the top fan creating a circulating airflow effect, Dell used that setup because its cheap, not because its super efficient! because its cheap for them to mass produce period.

The piece of plastic was probably a shipping stiffner that a Dell employee forgot to remove, probably around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon if they get off at 5:00, it makes no sense even for Dell to block their own cooling airflow, but it may be a testimony that your CPU doesn't need much cooling at all in the first place, but better cooling is always a better option, for any CPU.

Keep in mind this is just simple cooling!!!!

Not rocket science, don't make it a forum event, just do it!
May 22, 2007 5:58:54 PM

Quote:
well you know what i mean. dell may have run the hotter cpus with 2(or just messed up and left that plastic there). After all you could get a XPS from like 3.0 to 3.8(as i recall) so maybe the 3's ran one and the 3.8(super hot) ran 2.

your hot cpu was due to the heat looping. so head leaves/then goes back in and gets hotter its a loop....

Bahhhh either way, just run to as exhaust and it will suck air in the front over the hard drives and video card and out the back.


will do, but arent those gpu temp differences impressive?

Nvidia card tend to run cooler. and a 7600GT is newer and cooler then what ati had in 2004. what was your old card? i've got an over clocked(and pipeline unlocked) 850pro over 100c. now THATS hot. I later zalman's that one too.

My ATI card was a Radeon X800. When I bought it from Dell, it was called teh X800SE, and that is what it is referred to on the driver cd. But in Catalyst and all of those programs that give you your PC's specs, it was called the X800GT. Not really sure what it is. The only ID on the card itself is where it says O430D. I do know that the card is specced at 350mem and 400 core or the other way around. Its also got 8pixel pipes. i think; ill have to look it up sometime...

Quote:
The best overall solution is to hard mount the 2 case fans to the case with fan mounting screws set both fans exhausting the case air and add a good after market CPU cooler.

If theres no predrilled mounting screw holes think outside the box thats what drills and magnets are for, the drill to drill the holes, and magnets to catch the metal shavings.

Dells cheap cooling solution is just that cheap!!!

Loose that shroud crap and cool the thing, now thats what I would do, and thats my advice, whether you heed it is completely up to you.

The original design was to intake air with the bottom fan and exhaust it out the top fan creating a circulating airflow effect, Dell used that setup because its cheap, not because its super efficient! because its cheap for them to mass produce period.

The piece of plastic was probably a shipping stiffner that a Dell employee forgot to remove, probably around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon if they get off at 5:00, it makes no sense even for Dell to block their own cooling airflow, but it may be a testimony that your CPU doesn't need much cooling at all in the first place, but better cooling is always a better option, for any CPU.

Keep in mind this is just simple cooling!!!!

Not rocket science, don't make it a forum event, just do it!


im not going to OC my CPU, so what do I need more cooling for? If the way it is doesnt get it warm, even on full loads, then what do I need more for? Its not like its life is going to get shortened significantly by having it hit 50C 8O sometimes.....

I dont want to kill my PC by drilling holes in the mobo/case. Its fine the way it is...
a c 205 K Overclocking
May 22, 2007 6:53:05 PM

Quote:
im not going to OC my CPU, so what do I need more cooling for? If the way it is doesnt get it warm, even on full loads, then what do I need more for? Its not like its life is going to get shortened significantly by having it hit 50C sometimes.....

I dont want to kill my PC by drilling holes in the mobo/case. Its fine the way it is...



Great lets move on to the next real problem! :roll:
June 1, 2007 6:13:59 AM

After I play BF2, or FEAR, or any game at that matter my HSF gets so hot that it can burn my hand. The air blowing out of the dual-exhaust fans is only slightly warm.

From what I know about feeling for temps, the threshold of burning is 90C or so. Thats pretty damn hot!
a b K Overclocking
June 2, 2007 1:42:35 AM

if the heatsink is warm(hot) it means its working :) 

It's been that hot for years and its still kicking. and now you have 2 fans that are working. i would not worry about it. I bet the fans are quiet. Dell tends to trade some heat to keep the sound down. lower air speed = hotter heatsink

I never could touch the stock heatsinks on the old athlon xp's and that was only @ 60c(max even 50c is hot to touch)
June 2, 2007 7:45:04 AM

I have the same plastic strip covering one of the air ducts - except for a tiny gap < 1mm (it's not totally snug).

I have the internal components of a Dell Dimension XPS Gen 3 with me but the housing box is in another country (airplane weight restrictions :-/ ).

So I don't have the complete PC h/w configuration in front of me.

I recently got a non-Dell box with a Silvershield 400W ATX PSU. That's 60W less than the Dell PSU.

I am wondering if I can safely rehouse the Gen 3 components inside the non-Dell box with this non-DELL PSU or will there be non-compatibility and power issues? Well I am sure that's for another thread.

I can post pictures of the green fan and plastic strip if anyone wants?
!