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  1. #1
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    Overheating - but is it correct?

    Hi,
    My Dell Dimension 2400 is now 8 years old, and being conscious of the fact it could die at any time, was interested to read in Lounge Life that there is software for checking the condition of the hard drive, so I clicked the link provided and installed Active SMART.

    The initial check was quite satisfactory – disk, performance and temperature good, and 70% free space. However, that evening a warning popped up, temperature 245⁰ C., so I closed down and had an early night.

    The next morning another warning, less than an hour after boot up - 225⁰ C. This time I put my hand on the ventilation grill and it was stone cold. I closed down, left the PC for a while to cool, then installed the new DVD Writer after giving a good vacuum clean, espec. the ventilation outlet. By this time I was having doubts about the software, not only was the casing cold, but why did it allow the PC to get so hot before the warning?

    The following day, Friday, I downloaded another item of software, Hardware Monitor, which only seems to take the temperature, and unlike AS only when opened. The next warning came that evening, while watching a concert from Berlin, which I did not want to interrupt. A minute or two had elapsed before I realised that AS had to be closed before the other would function, but it read 37⁰ C. not the 241 of AS.

    The conclusive evidence of Active SMART’s fallibility occurred yesterday. Malwarebytes was 40 minutes into a scan when another warning popped up, this time 251⁰, which I ignored. Within a minute or two this had dropped to 35⁰ on its own reading. Opening up AS shows 17 cases of temperatures exceeding 70⁰ over these 5 days.

    But this leaves me in something of a dilemma. Clearly the readings are inaccurate, and the constant pop ups when the temp. changes by a degree or so annoying, but are the inaccuracies caused by some major problem with the disk which the software is unable to identify? Or is it just an attempt to persuade one to pay for the full version?

    In other words, has the time come to buy a new PC?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by georgelee View Post


    In other words, has the time come to buy a new PC?
    george,
    Hello... There is a Free program that has provided me with accurate "Temps" as well as lots of other useful information...CPUID HW Monitor Give it a try. Regards Fred
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

  3. #3
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    Dell machines often do not support hardware monitoring tools correctly.

    I have seen the Dimension 2400 up close and personal and can say for sure that it does not play well with the likes of Speedfan or CPUID, so it may be the same with Active Smart or others (sorry JPF!)

    The other (unrelated) thing to note is that the capacitors on the motherboard used in that machine fail after a while. If your machine is 8 years old, look for bulging capacitors around the CPU and regulators. Top bulging can often be seen by noting a brown dot in the centre on the top or by the grid pattern embossed in the top no longer being symmetrical. Bottom bulging can cause the capacitors to vent brown electrolyte over the circuit board, or perhaps just be leaning away from vertical as the bottom seal bulges out. If they are failing, expect occasional Blue screen failures increasing in regularity and ending in a dead motherboard.

    In summary, the reported temperatures are invalid, but probably not because of the monitoring tools. However, it would pay to be circumspect with that particular Dell model after 8 years.

    Hope that helps!

  4. #4
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    Most Likely a Failing Sensor
    I agree with Tinto Tech, Dell machine tend to be somewhat lacking when it come to internal sensors and other internal monitoring.
    It could also be what little sensors you do have are a little long on the tooth for an eight year old machine, and are begining to fail.

    Others to try:
    HWMonitor PRO (ALL)
    Real Temp (CPU)
    harddrivemonitor 1.4 (HDD+SMART)


    Periodic internal dusting should also be part of any regular maintenance regimen.
    Last edited by CLiNT; 2011-08-28 at 17:40.

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  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Plain Fred View Post
    george,
    Hello... There is a Free program that has provided me with accurate "Temps" as well as lots of other useful information...CPUID HW Monitor Give it a try. Regards Fred
    Thanks Fred.
    That is the Hardware Monitor I installed after Active SMART. It's reassuring to have confirmation that those temperatures over 200 were false. You mention that HW Monitor gives lots of info, but mine is the free version and only gives the Assembly temp, which I assume is the same as the disk temp. Active SMART has now been removed.

    In the morning I must open the PC again and find the capacitators.

    George

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    Like the other say, it is far more likely that the free utilities are mis-reporting. I ran one utility to test the speed of my SDD (which I think was HD Tune) and it reported it was running at 280 degC. Codswallop, of course because it was stone cold to touch!

    Your PC may be nearing its end of life, but as long as it does what you need and that you do keep good backups of all your user files, then there's no pressing need to buy one just yet.

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  9. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Tech View Post
    Dell machines often do not support hardware monitoring tools correctly.

    I have seen the Dimension 2400 up close and personal and can say for sure that it does not play well with the likes of Speedfan or CPUID, so it may be the same with Active Smart or others (sorry JPF!)

    The other (unrelated) thing to note is that the capacitors on the motherboard used in that machine fail after a while. If your machine is 8 years old, look for bulging capacitors around the CPU and regulators. Top bulging can often be seen by noting a brown dot in the centre on the top or by the grid pattern embossed in the top no longer being symmetrical. Bottom bulging can cause the capacitors to vent brown electrolyte over the circuit board, or perhaps just be leaning away from vertical as the bottom seal bulges out. If they are failing, expect occasional Blue screen failures increasing in regularity and ending in a dead motherboard.

    Hope that helps!
    Hi Tinto,
    I’m not sure what capacitors are, but from your description, and what is to be seen inside the machine, I assume they are the small battery like objects, 11 in number, in two sizes. However, there is no sign of a grid on the top – the small ones had an X and the larger size K. Three had a black smudge-like marking, but no sign of distortion. One of the larger ones was not completely vertical, but I was able to ease it back to an upright position. There was no sign of distortion on the visible side, but it was one of a group that was covered on one side and half of the top by a metal plate, like an inverted L.

    There has been no BSOD recently, in fact very few with this machine in its 8 years, so, having ruled out serious temperature problems, I will carry on as usual for the present.

    For future reference, based on your experience of poor quality with Dell capacitors, are they replaceable when they fail, and if so, are they all the same – apart from size - because if not I would not trust myself to get each in the correct place.

    One final question! What brand would you recommend as a more reliable replacement, excluding top of the range models

  10. #8
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    Thanks Clint.

    I will keep your list and use one or more to monitor the PC from time to time.

    It is not likely to last more than another year - I hadn't expected it to survive this long - but I would like to keep it going until I regain some of my losses in the market during the last four weeks.

    George

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    Sounds like you identified the capacitors correctly. Some capacitors have embossed markings that look like a X or a K. The one that was off vertical should be ok if there was no sign of failure at the bottom.

    For avoidance of doubt (so that I don't get sued by Dell!), it's not Dell capacitors that are bad. All I can say is that model has been know to have issues with bad caps (just as much as have others from other brands).

    If it is running well and there are no signs of component failure then TerFar notes there would be no pressing need to replace just now. However, it is a single core old Celeron processor running XP so it will be dreadfully slow at times. It also has limited upgrade capability.

    The capacitors can in theory be changed if they fail, but to do so would need confidence and decent skill with a good quality soldering station and even then one risks damaging the PCB. Better to swap the motherboard, but that is surprisingly expensive - partly due to the age of the unit and limited spares. If you chose to move on up to a modern machine any of the big name brands, including Dell will be fine for home use just now.

  12. #10
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    Tinto Tech,

    Thanks for the info.

    Based on what you say, if the capacitors, or anything else fail, I will get a new machine rather than attempt to replace them - there is hardly enough space inside the case to connect a new DVD Writer, yet alone try soldering. And it is irritating that the front cover no longer stays fully closed. Also Win 7 seems to be much better that Vista by all accounts.

    Just one further question if I may. You mention that I have a single core processor; my wife's desktop - and probably the laptop also - is dual core, and I have often wondered exactly what that means, as I am unable to see any difference in how they operate, other than the fact that everything is so difficult to find in Vista.
    George

    PS. I notice you have made 176 postings since April - how on earth do you find the time to help so many people? It is very much appreciated.
    Last edited by georgelee; 2011-08-31 at 16:46. Reason: PS added

  13. #11
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    Just one further question if I may. You mention that I have a single core processor; my wife's desktop - and probably the laptop also - is dual core, and I have often wondered exactly what that means, as I am unable to see any difference in how they operate, other than the fact that everything is so difficult to find in Vista.
    A dual core processor has two execution cores within the CPU. This literally means it can execute two streams of code simultaneously. Of course it will appear to being doing many things simultaneously, but in reality a single core CPU is switching between several different streams in order to try to prioritise what needs to be done.

    A simple but very effective way to visualise this is to open task manager on your Dell and on you wife's desktop (right click on the bottom task bar and select task manager in both cases). Now select the performance tab. On the dual core machine, you will see two traces a the top showing the utilisation per cpu core. On the single core, you will see only one trace. The dual core is doing two jobs at once.

    In reality, other system bottlenecks slow a dual-core cpu down a bit, so it never quite gets to twice the throughput of a similar single core, but it is still a significant improvement. Likewise, other improvements such as bus speed, memory addressing and system i/o speed go hand in hand with multi-core technology. They are not enabled by it, but the more modern a CPU is, the more likely it is to be sitting in a motherboard that supports lots of other improvements too.

    Vista, is not reliant on dual core or any other multi-core technology per-se, but it is a much more complex OS than XP and certainly benefits from the throughput improvements that multi-core technology brings. Windows 7 does an even better job.

    I think you have the right approach on the Dell machine. It is definitely worth trying to monitor system resources and reliability, especially on an older machine: just a shame the Dell machines tend not to play ball.

    One final thing to consider is the use of backups. Since the machine is a bit long in the tooth and could start showing signs of age, it might be worthwhile taking regular system backups - as an insurance policy against sudden system failure........As I type this, I'm working away in the background on an old laptop that has a hard drive fail. The owner does not have any backups and I have to give them the bad news in the morning.

    176 posts since April? Actually, I've been lurking for much longer: I just decided that I could contribute here and there. At the same time I hold no monopoly on knowledge, and have learnt many new things from new and old contributors.

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  15. #12
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Tinto, Very good and understandable explanation of dual core. I like it. Easy to visualize. Thanks.
    Ted

    I have a seldom used Dell XPS desktop that the temp monitoring apps do not really work well on. The Dell's do not seem to having this monitoring built in as has been mentioned previously. Too bad, otherwise a well built machine. Unfortunately it's upstairs in the study and my wife and I like to use our laptops downstairs while watching TV. Oh well.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  16. #13
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    Two things:
    I don't and won't trust any of those temperature monitoring programs. Temperature sensors that they read are not all that accurate.
    I just use my own Digital sensor. (the first finger on my left hand) If a part doesn't make me say "ouch!" then it's fine.
    I had a WD hard drive fail one day and when I reached in to remove it, it really Burned my fingers. Heat Kills !

    I'm a board level tech and I've removed more parts from Multi-Layer PC Boards than I care to remember.
    I even recapped a Dell mobo, putting in ten new 5v caps. It is NOT a job for the untrained. All mobo's are multi-layer and the plating that goes through the holes that the caps solder into is very thin. It's easily damaged during the cap removal process.

    But all is not lost, there is one man that can do the job and he guarantees his work. Check out www.badcaps.com
    That's where I buy all my replacement caps. I have a bag of caps to go into my own mobo, one of these days.

    The capacitor problem relates back to the Chinese company that made the caps and then sold them to almost every PC Motherboard maker.

    That Dell, like many PC's of that age has probably gotten pretty dirty. A very good and thorough cleaning would go a long ways toward getting some more life out of it. It's pretty hard to really CLEAN a PC without compressed air.

    If the CPU cooling fan is screwed down to the top of the heat sink, unscrew it and remove it, then use a small brush to clean the dirt out from between the heat sink fins. Carefully hand clean the blades of the fan and make sure it's turning nice and free. Fans are cheap and very easy to replace if they fail.
    Here's a fan and heatsink, from a PC where the fan was running at full speed constantly.

    Dirty fan and heatsink:


    Same fan and heatsink after thorough cleaning:


    Dirty motherboard and RAM. Ram will fail if it gets too hot.


    A PC that totally died due to overheating. PC was left sitting on the floor. NOT GOOD!


    Have fun, and good luck,
    the Doctor
    Experience is truly the best teacher.

    Backup! Backup! Backup! GHOST Rocks!

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  18. #14
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Dr. Who, just be happy you didn't have to work on this PC:



    Jerry

  19. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWho View Post

    If the CPU cooling fan is screwed down to the top of the heat sink, unscrew it and remove it, then use a small brush to clean the dirt out from between the heat sink fins. Carefully hand clean the blades of the fan and make sure it's turning nice and free.
    I gave the inside a good clean with compressed air. It was fairly clean having vacuumed it previously, but I had not realised that the fan should be removed and the heat sinks cleaned. I'll do that today. Thanks.
    George
    Last edited by georgelee; 2011-09-03 at 11:12. Reason: spelling

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