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Dell Studio desktop 540 & Q9650

Last response: in Systems
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November 4, 2012 3:28:22 AM

This PC is out of warranty and the support center doesn't seem too concerned with questions especially about upgrades. When I bought the Dell Studio 540 for my wife, she never bothered to check the NVIDIA 9600 GTX or know what she was missing. One day when my laptop went back to the Lenovo mother ship, I set up the drivers for the display and it looked nice for our purposes. Then, we noticed on seemingly heavy activity, the fans began to sound like a vacuum cleaner ... I have heard it described in more colorful language.

I have looked at the build list and there was supposed to be a Prescott CPU installed but the build list has a deviation note. In fact, the Dell tech rep said that my 540 was definitely a Prescott CPU. The deviation and Window 7 says it is a Q9650, 3.0, 12MB Yorkfield, E0 CPU. Again, according to the build sheet, the heat sink is a K078D Assembly, Heatsink, Fan, 95W MNTW/SLTW. I believe Windows 7 is reporting the hardware correctly but there are deviations all over the build list … assembled June of 2009.

This makes it very difficult for me to determine if the GPU/CPU combination is causing the PSU to take off like a rocket and what I should do. I have searched many forums and heard other, similar complaints. I just have never seen a definitive answer or this particular configuration.

Dell Studio 540 (not the slim one) hardware config:
Q9650, 3.0, 12 Mb Yorkfield, E0 CPU
8 Gb RAM (Is it correct the Q9650 can support up to 12 Gb but no way to get it in the case?)
NVIDIA 9600 GTX GPU
2) 1.5 Tb disk drives
DVD+ R/W 16X
10/100 Ethernet and 802.11 a/g/n wireless.

I thought this little machine could make a half decent HTPC now that I replaced the 540 with a nice, new laptop for my wife. She turned the Studio 540 off and wouldn’t use it when the fan noise became intolerable. I am not saying it got worse, it just had to be shut down at night from the beginning. It has the latest and greatest BIOS from Dell (such that it is). There haven’t been updates to BIOS since 2010. All other software is up to date.

This is frustrating. I would appreciate advice. Do I dump the Dell and buy something else for an HTPC? That would seem such a shame only because of outrageous fan noise and I can't imagine shoving it in a closet either. It is more convenient to have it relatively near the rest of the media gear. Otherwise, the 540 performs well. Thanks in advance for suggestions.
November 4, 2012 11:41:53 AM

Hi,

Some basic problem determination is need.

First download a free program like HWMONIOR from CPUID (google it). It changes *nothing* on your PC, just reports temps. If fans are loud then something is overheating. Cause the PC fans to run loudly however you do that (play games, play movies, etc.) Now see the temps. CPU should be 70C or less. GPU should be 70C or less everything else should be 50C or less for MAX temp. Do you have anything hot?

Second physically verify that the fan noise is from the hot part(s)
1. Open the case. There are two thumb screws on the back to pull off the side panel. IF the screws are tight you can use a screwdriver.
2. Start the PC and try to hear WHICH fan is running hard. There are 4 fans it could be
a- Graphics card fan. Pretty likely. You plug your monitor into the 9600GT video card which has it's own fan.
b-CPU fan. less likely but possible. It will be a small fan stuck to the motherboard
c-Power Supply fan. It's in the silver rectangular box called a power supply that yuo plug the wall cord into. Much less likely to be the source of the noise, but if it is don't touch it. Your PSU is failing and there is dangerous voltage here even after power off.
d-Chasis Fan. This is the fan mounted stand-alone on the back wall of the PC. It would only be noisy if something got stuck in the blades of the fan.

Now that you know the noisy part, Fixing it is usually really simple. Staples, Office Depot, etc sell cans of compressed air for $5-$7. They are used to blow dust off electronics. Most likely your heat sink is blocked with dust that has been sucked into the PC then got stuck on the heatsink.

With the PC turned off, and cool use the can of compress air to blow air backwards through the heat sink and all around the fan. You want to see a big clump of dust fly through the air. Blow all over the place, but concentrate on the area around the noisy fan. If you video card has a duct/shroud then blow air backwards through the duct.

Now start PC up and verify that the temps are lower and the noise is again good. If this doesn't fix and temps are high then a heatsink has lost contact and needs to re reattached with new thermal paste. Post here if temps are still high.

If temps are all low and fan noise is high then post here. There is software that can control fan speed, and there is software to underclock the nice nvidia 9600 GT video card you have so that it uses less power and generates less heat.
November 28, 2012 7:23:42 PM

Thank you so much for the info. I had tried another temperature monitoring software that was a little too complicated for my far less technical hardware background. I can handle software but hardware, as I freely admit, is a foreign subject.
!