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QUESTION: Good morning.

First, let me give you my current specs: Asus P8Z77V-LX (Skt 1155), 8Gb Corsair Vengeance 1600Mhz, i5 2500k, Hyper Evo 212,  Zalman Z11 Plus case with 5 fans - 3 front (in) 1 top and 1 back (out) - and lately, Zalman 750 Watt Heatpipe cooled 80 Plus PSU (semi-modular), 1Gb Evga classified GeForce GTX560Ti 448 cores (requiring 1 six pin and 1 eight pin connector).

I run 4 drives, 1: a 64Gb SSD with Win 7 32bit as none of my older stuff including my scanner will run on 64bit. 2: a 500Gb HDD with Win 7 Ult 64 bit for everyday use. 3: a 1Tb HDD with Win 7 Ult 64bit which I intended to use solely for installing and playing games and 4: a 2Tb HDD which is used solely for storage, movies, music, documents, pictures and the like.

I am contacting you because, whether real or imagined, I think I'm having cpu/gpu problems. The last thing I want to do is burn something out as cash restraints prohibit any further purchases for the foreseeable future.  

I have recently decided to try my hand at proper gaming and the board and processor were originally purchased with the capability to overclock - if neccessary - in mind. This again is a subject I'd have to study up on as I know nothing about it and it is quite probable the games I have obtained would play ok without the need to overclock but at least the option is available.

For approx the last 3 years until about a month ago my specs were as above except I had a Corsair 880 Watt power supply (non-modular) and a 1 Gb Radeon EAH 6770 graphics card (requiring 1 six pin connector only). This power supply had 2 six pin connectors for graphics cards only - no 8 pin. Age of Empires was about the biggest game I played on that system so I'd no problems. Everything always ran around 30 degrees max and very silent.

Recently a friend brought over some older dvd's he was finished with (Battlefield, Sniper and a couple of others) and said I could have them. As I was completely unfamiliar with gaming, I asked him to run them on my machine and show me what to do. He said they worked perfectly and even with the 'poorer graphics' played ok. Watching him play these games was amazing and I decided I've gotta try that.

Normally, as per Speccy, my i5 idled at about 23-25 degrees and the Radeon 6770 pretty much the same. When my friend was playing his games on my machine, there was no noticeable noise increase in the fans and it looks as though the cpu and gpu never exceeded about 33 - 35 degrees.  

As my friend suggested getting a better graphics card, I found the Evga online at a reasonable price (and my friend said it would be a good bit better than my Radeon 6770) but when I rec'd it, I discovered it also required an 8 pin connector. Thankfully, my friend, who had upgraded, had the 750 Watt Zalman spare and sold it to me also at a very reasonable price - hence my current specs. By the way, the first thing I did when I got the card was take it apart clean out all the dust, re thermal paste it and re-assemble it.

The problem now, and I've noticed this over the last 2 weeks since installing the new psu and graphics card, is that even on idle the cpu is always at 30 degrees or slightly above and the gpu around 33-35 degrees. I only have to think about playing a game and the fans all ramp up and, in Speccy and (other monitors), the cpu is at a constant 40 or above and the graphics card at 70 plus. That's before I even start to play! I can't imagine that these temps are 'within parameters' for this card.
Worse again and more perplexing is that if I decide that those temps look iffy and exit the game and return to the desktop nothing winds down. The fans are still flying and the temps remain above 40 and 70 respectively despite the fact that I'm back on desktop and the bare minimum is active - basically on idle. I actually have to do a computer restart to get the fans and temps back down. This does not bode well for future gaming and I find it disconcerting to say the least.

Have I gone and bought a dodgy or worn out graphics card or is there something else I'm overlooking?

I'm very familiar with building, disassembling, reassembling pc's and most of the relevant software and hardware but the two things I know nothing about are overclocking and the tweaking or workings of graphics cards.

Any suggestions or insights would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
Zebidee.

P.S. As I finish this e-mail, my computer has been on now for 3 hours, currently nothing running except Speccy,  and the temps are: CPU 32, Mobo 24, Graphics 34, SSD 29, Hdd's 21,24 and 25. I would still regard the cpu and gpu temps as being high for idle.

ANSWER: As someone who has been working on PCs, including gaming PCs, for over a decade I can certainly understand the reaction to how warm modern components run relative to what we expected from our computers years ago, especially under load. However, the temperatures you're reporting are perfectly safe, and very typical (in some cases better than typical), for the hardware you have. 70* C is very normal for a modern GPU, and 40* C is very good for a modern CPU - most GPUs will have no trouble at 90-100* C (some can take much more than that), and the same is true of modern Intel CPUs. Both of them will also have thermal over-load protections, to throttle themselves back, or shut the machine off, if they overheat (this will usually occur at >90* C for the CPU, and >100* C for the GPU).

Idling in the low-30s is very good for high performance hardware, and loading into the low 40s for the CPU and low 70s for the GPU (especially an older card, like GTX 560, which has less power/thermal management functionality) is not a problem at all. If you have multiple monitors hooked up to the GTX 560, that will also increase the idle temperatures.

As far as the load remaining if you alt+tab or otherwise change focus from a game, that's also normal/correct behavior - just because the application doesn't have focus, doesn't mean it isn't still running. The heat generated from demanding computations will also remain for a while after the application is exited, and the fan control mechanisms are designed with this in mind - the fans should run for a while after exiting a demanding application (of course if they're still cranked up at the 10-20 minute mark, that's problematic, but 4-5 minutes of additional cooling is not atypical behavior). Remember that these components are adjusting their clock-speeds up and down in response to load, so when running a demanding application you're seeing much higher thermal output than with older components that generally ran at a fixed speed and had more consistent temperatures as a result. It's not at all uncommon to see modern graphics increase power draw (and thus heat dissipation) by a factor of ten or more switching between "idle" and "load" states. The increased overall temperatures are probably a combination of the higher load of gaming, as well as the overall increase in power draw and heat output from the GTX 560 (the TDP of that card is around double that of the 6770).

It doesn't sound to me like anything is damaged here, and I'd also add that generally hardware does not become "worn out" - what I mean is, it will usually either work or not work. If you aren't experiencing lock-ups, artefacts, etc nothing about what you've said here indicates that there's a problem.

Now as far as the noise concern - this is also a frequent complaint for modern hardware, especially high performance graphics cards. Apart from either replacing the cooler, or the card entirely, there's not much to be done about it. Depending on specifically what games you'd like to play, the Radeon 6770 could be entirely acceptable though - it's not the newest card in the world, but it's still supported by AMD's current drivers, and should offer more than acceptable performance for most modern games, especially if you're willing to turn some of the settings down.

If you have further questions, or need clarification, feel free to ask.

-bob


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Furmark
Furmark  

Unigine
Unigine  
QUESTION: Hello again,

Many thanks for your reply. I was away for the last week so didn't get a chance to read it thoroughly until this evening.  Couple of things with regard to your reply, 1: I only use the one hdtv/monitor (1920x1080) and 2: what exactly are 'artefacts' in relation to a pc.

I have some (a few) related follow up questions which may take some time for you to reply to so take as long as needs be - I just want to get everything right. I'll try and put them under some form of headings if I can.  

GRAPHICS:

While I was away last week, I managed to lay my hands on another (hardly used, I'm reliably advised) second hand 2Gb Gigabyte HD7870 OC Edition graphics card. On my arrival home yesterday the first thing I did was disassemble it, clean out any dust (barely any I might add), re thermal paste it and install it in place of the 560Ti 448core. I was also given a list of programs I could try that would 'benchmark' or measure my computers performance.

This evening I have tried about 4 of them, Unigine Heaven, Furmark and 2 different versions of a 3d Mark program. Unfortunately for me, I don't understand what the majority of the results mean or indicate. They don't actually tell you whether you have a good, medium or poor set up or exactly what you need to do to improve your set up.
With that in mind I attempted a few screenshots (using a program called Duck Capture) and included a couple of links in the hope that I could attach them for your perusal and you could advise me on them.
A couple of things that I did notice with this new card is that when running Unigine and Furmark, the fan increase noisewise was minimal and the max temp was 51-52C for both programs. When each had finished running the cpu and gpu temps (in Speccy) reduced back to around 30C within a couple of minutes so I'm more than happy with this new card.

I'd be obliged if you could give me any insights into the actual meanings of all the info presented to me particularly in those 3D Mark results and advise as to whether my gear is poor, adequate or more than sufficient for these big games. My friend has given me Battlefield, Sniper, Far Cry 1,2 and 3 and Bioshock Infinite on disks. To date Age of Empires is about all I ever tried and it's a small game. As a person who is new to all of the games mentioned I would like to say that I am only interested in games where it's just me against the machine. I would have no interest in playing online or against other people as I only use a keyboard and mouse and it'll probably take a long time for me to become even adequate at any of these games.

GENERAL:

I have for some time now been doing basic repairs and hardware and software (mainly freeware) upgrades on my own and some friends computers from complete system restore to factory settings to complete reinstalls of the os.
Given that I was doing this fairly regularly, I have compiled a collection of programs over the years, most of which I believed were a must have for any computer and of which I keep the latest up to date versions.
I have recently been led to believe that some of these programs are no longer neccessary/relevant at all and would like to hear your views on this.

When re-installing an os I would automatically include the following as basic requirements:
Adobe Flash Player - both ActiveX and NPAPI
Adobe Shockwave Player
JAVA 32 and/or 64bit
up to date Microsoft .NET Framework
Microsofts DirectX Update checker
Microsoft Silverlight, and
Microsoft Visual C++ 2005-2013 32 and/or 64bit Redistributable.

I ask because someone told me that Flash Player and Java are no longer even neccessary. Please can you also advise if when running a 64 bit version of Windows you should also install the 32 bit versions of Flash, Java and Visual C++.

Please note that I also would normally install the following as standard - and have found them all to be good programs:
Adblock Plus
Avira Antivirus
CCleaner
Easy BCD (great if your multi-booting)
Eusing Free Registry Cleaner
FileHippo App Manager
latest K-Lite Mega Codec Pack
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
Privazer
Secunia
Smart Defrag (iobit)
Speccy
SuperAntiSpyware and
WinPatrol (great wee program - especially for managing start ups).

Finally- OVERVIEW:

In the last paragraph of your earlier reply you said 'should offer more than acceptable performance for most modern games, especially if you're willing to turn some of the settings down'.
1. Can you please advise on any or all 'settings' that I should alter (turn down or for that matter up) in order to get the best out of my graphics card. When I go into that Catalyst Control Centre, it's all Dutch to me  - I'd be afraid to tick or untick anything as I don't understand what any of it pertains to although it's obviously there for a reason!
2. What in your opinion is the best Os version to play games on. I believe Win 8 is somewhat faster than 7 but I've tried it and didn't like it. Win 10 trial looked good but the requirement to log in using a Microsoft e-mail and password (or you can't even install the Os) means it will never be used by me, and lastly,
3. Can you please advise on any or all tweaks I can make to my actual Os to make it optimzed for playing games. I don't necessarily want to disable features completely but there must be things that can be done without or at least disabled when gaming. For example, I've completely disabled Windows Media Player because the player with K-Lite is more than adequate. There must be other stuff that can be turned off altogether or at least temporarily shut down. Perhaps there's even a program that can do it for me. Now wouldn't that be something.

Again, many thanks for wading through the above. Any assistance or pointers you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
I look forward to your reply,
Zebidee.

P.S. Please find the 3D Mark links below and I'm hoping the attachments get to you ok. The Speccy attachments are for the pc when it was switched on from cold, so the temps showing are for a pc that's just been switched on after being off for at least 12 hours.
http://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/9875887
http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/7152623

Answer
From the top:

- Artefacts are basically graphic anamolies that shouldn't be occuring, and are the result of the hardware overheating or otherwise being defective (e.g. bad memory chips, damaged solder joints, etc), or sometimes due to driver/software problems. Usually they can take the form of "snow" (white dots appearing on the screen, like on old television sets with bad reception), to "rainbow vomit" (all sorts of colors all sorts of places). Here's a site that more or less walks you through a variety of types of artefacts: http://www.playtool.com/pages/artifacts/artifacts.html

Basically, if there's not some sort of visual artefact or the system isn't locking up/turning itself off/crashing/etc, it is safe to assume it is likely functioning properly. Your original post didn't mention any of this kind of thing, just that the GPU was running in the 70* C range, which is not abnormal.

- On the benchmarks you've run, unfortunately there is not direct correlation to how games will run. Synthetic benchmarks are useful as a fixed point for comparing two systems, or comparing before/after upgrades/tweaks to your system. There are lots of comparison points available for 3DMark and Uniengine benchmarks in reviews and such, but you always have to remember that professionally written articles usually optimize the system to the nth degree (they usually disable/turn off absolutely everything except whatever is required to run the benchmark application) in order to get consistency, and your real-world numbers may not be exactly aligned. Furmark is more of a stress test application - it's designed to heat the GPU up as much as possible and see if it survives. Uniengine can be used in a similar manner depending on how you run the test (if you set it to loop continuously it can be very stressful on a machine). This doesn't mean you should fear damaging a well put together desktop, but these aren't applications I would suggest running on a laptop or something else with very confined cooling.

- The 7850 should be idling cooler and running cooler than the Fermi-based 500 series GeForce; it has much more advanced idle power saving features. Newer nVidia cards would have similar features as well.

- Of the games you've mentioned, all should run (I'm assuming by Battlefield you mean one of the newer releases, like Battlefield 3; the older titles, like 1942, will have significantly lower system requirements (some of the Battlefield games are approaching ten years old by now)) - FarCry 3 and (depending on which version) Battlefield may not run with all settings at maximum, even with the 7850, but they will certainly be playable. FarCry 1 and BioShock will likely handle maximum settings (or near to it) with the 7850 and your Core i5.

- On game settings, generally higher resolutions will decrease performance, as will things like higher-resolution textures/models, more complex shadowing features, anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, motion blur, SSAO, etc. All of those features, however, are designed to make the game look nicer. Basically it becomes a trade-off between image quality and performance. Modern games will try to auto-detect your system's hardware and make suggestions or adjustments to their configurations based on that. AMD and nVidia also offer applications that will do this for their respective graphics cards - for AMD (Radeon) you can use Raptr, and for nVidia (GeForce) you can use GeForce Experience. These programs use user-collected data in concert with auto-detection features to try and optimize game settings for the best balance of performance and image quality.

AMD Raptr:
http://raptr.com/amd

nVidia GeForce Experience:
http://www.geforce.com/geforce-experience

- On which version of Windows performs best: Windows 7 and Windows 8 are both good choices. Windows Vista usually trails behind them somewhat in terms of gaming performance, but should still work. Windows XP may offer better performance or support for older games, but I would not suggest Windows XP for a modern machine connected to the Internet, as it is no longer supported with security updates. It also may not have drivers for a lot of brand-new hardware (this is starting to become a reality, as we move further and further from its official EOL; we're just at the one year mark now and nVidia has officially discontinued support for XP, as has Intel for all new hardware). I have not tried any of the Windows 10 preview builds, so I can't comment on that from firsthand knowledge. Based on Microsoft's documentation for Windows 10, however, I would expect similar functionality to Windows 8, at least today (it may change over its lifecycle, just as Windows XP and Windows 7 have).

- On the applications you're installing on new-builds, I don't see anything wrong there. Some of them are certainly personal preference, like using Avira instead of another anti-virus application, but none of them seem out of place. Adobe did conflate Shockwave and Flash into a single package (so downloading/updating Flash will bring Shockwave along with it), but it is still generally required for a lot of rich web media. The same is true of Java, .NET, and Silverlight. Some Windows applications (including some games) will require .NET and the Visual C++ runtime (the AMD Radeon drivers will actually require both of these too).

- On 32/64-bit plug-ins. You can install the 64-bit plug-ins if you have a 64-bit version of Windows, and a 64-bit browser to plug them into, but some pages or web content may break or not behave as desired/expected with a full 64-bit environment. This situation is improving rapidly, but for the most part 32-bit is still the standard. We're probably a few years off from full-fledged 64-bit implementations actually delivering on the promise of better performance - Windows is there, and a handful of other applications are there, but there's still a lot of 32-bit software floating around.

- On optimizing Windows, basically the goal is to remove background applications that can hog resources. Due to how Windows works, internally, it will not intuitively prioritize your game over, say, an anti-virus scan. The sudden instancing of something demanding like an AV scan or Windows Update installing a bunch of things or what-have-you can lead to slowdowns in gameplay, and in some cases crashes (especially if Windows Update decides to restart the machine while you're gaming). Overall you shouldn't have to do anything excessive beyond normal system tuning (like what you've already described) to get good performance, but it is worth keeping an eye on scheduled tasks and other background applications that may impact the gaming experience. I do not, however, agree with the notion that users should completely disable their firewalls/anti-virus protection/etc just to start up a game - that puts the machine at more risk than is necessary in my view, and it's usually just as easy to re-schedule those kinds of tasks to run when you aren't gaming. It's also worth pointing out that with newer multi-core CPUs (like your i5), a lot of background tasks will probably run without you ever noticing them while in-game, as Windows does a good job of balancing the workload across all of the cores.

- On the AMD driver settings pages. My first advice would be to switch the drivers into Advanced View, as it will expose all of the options at once. Secondly, click on the little "?" to open the documentation for the drivers - this will at least provide a general overview of most of the features. Most of the settings in the driver control panel aren't directly related to gaming performance - they're more advanced options for things like screen resolution, display timing, color correction, video conversion, multi-display configuration, and so forth. Going into the 3D Settings section will allow you to adjust things like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering - many of these settings can be dictated in the game's configuration as well, and changing things in the drivers is usually only needed if you want to over-ride something. If you have questions about specific features or adjustments I'd be happy to field those.

- On the attachments, it appears I only got the Uniengine and Furmark results.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

-bob

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner. I have a personal interest in PC gaming, and can apply my experience to such an end. Questions related to 3D games on OS X or other platforms are less likely to get answered.

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