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Flucuating Framerates in WoW - Possible overheating of GPU?

Last response: in Components
August 13, 2008 1:58:35 PM

Hey guys I've been struggling with this issue for a while now and no solution has presented itself, so I honestly have no idea what to do.

Basically my system is a Core Duo 1.66gHz dell e1505 laptop with an ATI Mobility Radeon x1400 inside it. I'm also using Windows Vista, but I've completely stripped it down. I looked at numerous guides on disabling unneccesary things in Vista and the only process that I have running in the background is the config for my Razer mouse. Now normally this card has no problems running world of warcraft.

For smooth gameplay I even have all the settings (save for draw distances and spell detail) on the lowest they can be. And the majority of the time this provides buttery smooth gameplay.

Recently however (I am unable to say when, I don't remember) my GPU has started acting oddly - the game will run smooth anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the type of place I'm in (crowded, desolate, etc) and will then within 30 seconds reduce itself to framerates so low that it appears as if I'm looking at a slideshow. This will continue for 2-5 minutes, and then go away. This will repeat indefinetely.

The reason for this issue is unknown to me but my theory was either the HDD messing up or the GPU overheating. I know the first case is not true because I upgraded from 1gb of ram to now 4gb of RAM. This is far more than enough yet the issue persists. My other theory was that the GPU is getting too hot, throttles itself back for a bit till it cools, then goes back to smooth play. I do not know if this is the case or not but I have no idea how to fix it if it is. My laptop lies on a flat open desk all day, I even hang it off a good 4 inches or so.

Is there any solution to this problem? Its started becoming a very very important issue for me because I raid and I NEED to have good, consistent performance for this game.

Thanks in advance, I really appreciate any advice.

- Vexir
August 13, 2008 2:11:12 PM

It's possible that it's more of the CPU overheating rather then the GPU.

Might just need a can of air to clear out the dust on the CPU HS. But can't say how hard it is just to get to it.
August 13, 2008 5:51:25 PM

Yeah I have those cleaning cans. I'm not sure how to open up my laptop though, theres probably a guide on Dell or something.

Any other possible reasons? Is there a way to see if my CPU is overheating?
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August 13, 2008 6:09:36 PM

Well.. if you can run the game in a window to monitor your CPU temp, and if you know the CPU's thermal spec, that is prolly all you need to know if the CPU is throttling at times.

It's very hard to advise on how to clean it. I've open Toshiba laptops in the past, which were easy. All I did was pull the top panel above the keyboard off, then unscrewed what was holding the keyboard down, and disconnect the ribbon to get more room. From there I could see the CPU fan, and just gave it a blast of air to watch the dust come out from the side.

So not all laptops are built the same way, especially when I did that was around 4-5 years ago.
August 13, 2008 6:20:27 PM

Get a cooling plate for the laptop. If its a heat issue, gpu or otherwise, that should solve it or at least make it not as bad.

August 13, 2008 6:36:25 PM

To monitor CPU temps you can use: CoreTemp, Real Temp, Speedfan

for gpu temps you could use: GPU-Z, ATITOOL <-- also used for overclocking.

you could also do a scan for spywares which could cause poor performance. Another thing you could do is run CCLeaner which is a freeware utility used to optimize a user's computer and clean one's registry.

Hope this helps.
August 13, 2008 6:44:17 PM

+1 for Dusting as a Place to Start.

Many other Good Ideas here as well.
August 13, 2008 6:45:31 PM

I had the EXACT same laptop... except I ran Windows XP on it and it ran WoW fine. I don't recall any throttling problems with it, but you should have a good idea if heat is a problem if you're hearing the fan going on high all the time. Mine would go warm in my lap, but it would never get to the point that it'd burn me.
August 13, 2008 6:56:35 PM

Yeah I've been using it for a long time though so its possible that the dust over the last 2 years is just clogging it to the point of no air.
August 13, 2008 7:02:24 PM

Very likely - they can accumulate dust to an amazing degree when not cleaned for that period of time. If you want to take it apart, you can use the service guide here to see how to get to the heatsinks:

Note: It looks like you have to remove the CPU heatpipe to get to the heatsink for the CPU. Make sure you use thermal compound when you reinstall it - if you do not, it will overheat almost immediately. It looks like the video card can just be removed as an entire component though - no thermal compound needed there (because you don't have to take the heatpipe off the card to access the heatsink).

Edit: Actually, it looks like the easiest way to get to it would be to leave the heatsinks and heatpipes in place, but to remove the fan (once you have removed the hinge cover, keyboard, display assembly, and palm rest) and then blow out the heatsinks from the back of the laptop using a can of compressed air. This method also has the benefit of not needing thermal compound, as you would not be removing the heatpipe assemblies from the CPU or graphics.
August 13, 2008 7:13:43 PM

I agree with cjl. That should remedy your situation if it is indeed heat related.

Something else I would check is the RAM and HD, although by your description I highly doubt that the RAM and HD is bad. MemTest86 (for RAM) and DFT (for your HD) are nice programs used to analyize your hardware and let you know of any problems. Both are free downloads, never hurts to check once in a while! :) 
a b Ý World of Warcraft
August 13, 2008 7:16:43 PM

I've got an e1505 too (although only has the x1300), so I'll have to check its dust too. Thanks for the link.
August 16, 2008 12:42:30 AM

You say you raid, do you have a lot of addons for WoW? Have you tried playing with all of them disabled? Some addons make very poor use of memory, especially those with leaks due to poor coding. Mods that use alpha fading can also bog your frame rate.