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XPS 15 9560 Hot CPU and loud fans while idle


miguens
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Ok, here we go. This has been a very long journey, so I'll start from the beginning. I've had my laptop for 3 and a half years now, and up to a couple of weeks ago, it's been fantastic. It was during this time that I started noticing that the fans would go really loud with the computer idle or with really light load (before this started happening it was always dead silent unless I ran a game). So I was worried that the CPU was getting too hot, installed Core Temp and lo and behold, 55 - 60ºC when idle. Since I had never opened up and cleaned my laptop since I got it, I thought maybe there was too much dust build-up in the fans and the thermal paste needed to be replaced. Did that, no change. Then I went to the dell forum in search of guidance, which resulted in some mods suggesting the ePSA diagnostics run and some other tests, all of which resulted normal (every hardware component was fine except for the battery which is just old). I was also told to watch out for any spikes in the CPU activity in the Task Manager, which led me to finding that for the first seconds of opening the manager, CPU usage was around 90%, with a process called System interrupts being the only culprit. I investigated this and found that it may be a mining virus, which led me to this site where I was guided through all sorts of scans and fixes by the great AdvancedSetup. There were a few minor infected files, but nothing that would be causing this, especially no mining virus. AdvancedSetup also told me that the Task Manager behaviour was pretty normal, but I'm still concerned about the CPU temp and the fans. Something that a fellow reader in the Dell forum told me was that disabling the Nvidia driver may help, which it did. Fan speeds were null or minimal, while CPU temps lowered to 40ºC. I periodically check for drivers and system updates. My specs are: Intel i7 7700HQ, Nvidia GTX 1050, 8Gb RAM, 256Gb NVMe SSD. This is my last hope. Thanks in advance for any replies or suggestions you might have.

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55~60C isn't terrible, but what matters is you temp under load.  What does it look like when you game or do anything more resource intensive with your system?  As long as it stays below 90C, it's fine.  It isn't great if it gets closer to 100C, but it still isn't dangerous for the CPU.  If you're hitting 100C or higher (at which point the CPU will throttle, dropping its voltages and clock speeds to reduce heat, and if that doesn't work, it will force the system to shut down) then that's a problem.

It is difficult to keep a powerful CPU cool in a laptop chassis because the amount of airflow and space are so limited.  The fans are small, with small channels to move air through, and the heatsink is far more compact and less capable of dissipating heat than even the most basic desktop CPU cooler.  Intel's 7th gen chips are great for gaming, overclocking and multitasking, but unfortunately, they aren't the coolest running CPUs in the world (unless you're real lucky and get a silicon lottery winner, meaning it's a chip that came off the wafer somewhat more efficient, capable of running at higher clockspeeds with less voltage than would normally be required by other CPUs with that model number which means it can sustain higher clockspeeds while retaining relatively low temps).

I have a 7700K that runs cool as a cucumber, and I'm actually able to undervolt it and still bump the clockspeed on all 4 cores to a locked 4.6GHz (100 megahertz higher than the official/rated single core turbo boost clockspeed for that CPU) inside a 15.6" laptop.  I've also got an 8700K in an almost identical laptop (same case/chassis and a similar cooler/heatsink) that constantly hits 80s/90s when sitting idle, to the point that I had to force the fans to constantly run at a higher speed just to keep the thing from overheating while doing nothing more than browsing the web (I don't use that machine anymore, for obvious reasons).

The point is, sometimes it's just luck of the draw, and it's entirely possible that you have either an insufficient cooling solution in your laptop to handle that model of CPU (i.e. a bad design on the part of the manufacturer), or you might have a silicon lottery loser that runs hotter and less efficient than other 7700HQ's.

With that said, you might try a bit of undervolting as that could certainly help reduce temps.  I suggest taking a look at the Undervolting section of the guide found on this page.  It could simply be that the normal/stock voltages for your system (as configured by Dell) might be higher (and therefore causing the CPU to generate more heat) than is necessary for your CPU to maintain its stock clockspeeds (meaning you could have a silicon lottery winner and not know it because Dell has the voltages cranked up high to compensate for any silicon lottery losers they end up installing in that model/system).  If so, you can sacrifice voltage without sacrificing any performance (as I did with my 7700K), so if it works, it's the best of both worlds.  Better performance and cooler temps.

If that still doesn't help, you can actually undervolt and underclock your CPU a bit to reduce temps, though obviously you'll have to sacrifice a bit of performance along with it (still worth it if it's the difference between the system getting to hot/loud vs being (possibly imperceptibly) slower, depending on how much you end up having to throttle down the clockspeeds).

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I also recommend a good cooling pad, and never set up your laptop on your actual lap, a blanket, towel, carpet, clothing, skin, or any other soft/rough surface that will block the fan intakes and insulate the bottom of the chassis.  Ideally, if you can keep the laptop on a desk, on a good cooling pad, you can get the coolest temps possible, assuming your intakes and heatsinks/fans aren't clogged with dust, debris and hair etc. and you're using good thermal paste (I use Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut personally, and I've had great results with with my systems, usually getting at least a 5+ degree difference in overall temps vs the stock pastes and other pastes I've tried).  I use a USB powered cooling pad with 3 big fans and it works great to help keep my laptop cool.

Given that you have a 7700HQ, which isn't too far off from my 7700K with regards to voltages/clockspeeds/thermals, I definitely wouldn't expect it to run as cool as a more mainstream/midrange CPU (something like an i5 or lower-end i7).  More heat/voltage/power is part of the tradeoff for performance, though modern chips like the 7700HQ are way better than a lot of what's been available in the past for gaming notebooks.  I'm amazed at the performance I get out of a 7700K and a mobile MXM GTX 1070 (non-Max-Q version, so full power/clockspeeds/voltages etc.) and how cool both components are able to run.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you to get your system running similarly.

Edited by exile360
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First of all, thank you very much for your thorough reply. I'm very well aware of the position of my fan intakes, and use a laptop stand like this one. I'll try running a game, and later undervolting and I'll come back to you with the results. The only thing that concerns me is that for three and a half years, my system's been running multiple programs and windows (none of them resource intensive by itself) while dead silent, but now just sitting idle has the fans ramping up. Maybe it's just that the PC has gotten older and more inefficient, which is just sad, but I understand it's what's to be expected of any piece of technology. And what do you think about the Nvidia driver that I mentioned? That just has nothing to do with it?

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9 minutes ago, David H. Lipman said:

I have seen on multiple occasions on different vendor platforms, including Dell Latitude notebooks, that a BIOS Update may fix;  when, what speed and how long CPU fans may run on a notebook.

 

If there's a BIOS update available, should it appear as a notification from some program like Dell's SupportAssist or should I do that manually?

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10 minutes ago, David H. Lipman said:

I have seen on multiple occasions on different vendor platforms, including Dell Latitude notebooks, that a BIOS Update may fix;  when, what speed and how long CPU fans may run on a notebook.

 

True; it could be a simple matter of adjusting the fan profile (that 8700K laptop I mentioned, one of the biggest problems it had is that the fans refused to ramp up on their own until it hit over 90C, which means no matter how hot it got/how intensive the task, unless it broke 90, it was remaining silent and I'd rather have a PC that sounds like a jet engine and runs cool than a system that runs whisper silent but tries to fry my CPU).

Just now, miguens said:

If there's a BIOS update available, should it appear as a notification from some program like Dell's SupportAssist or should I do that manually?

I'd check the support page for your system; it might show up in the built in updater, but I wouldn't always count on it (the same goes for driver updates).

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One more thing I just thought of; laptop heatsinks can be really tricky and quirky due to the amount of pressure required to get good, solid contact with the CPU's IHS to dissipate the heat properly, and it's very easy for it to end up a bit lopsided on the CPU or just not making good contact.  You might open it up again and check the thermal paste and see how it spread out and make sure it had pretty consistent/even contact between the top of the CPU's IHS and the underside of the laptop's copper heatsink.  I know I had to reapply mine multiple times until I got it just right.  Also remember that there really is no such thing as too much thermal paste (though you probably don't want to make a mess of your components with it; it isn't electrically conductive (unless using liquid metal, which I do NOT advise for any laptop) and any excess should be squeezed out by the pressure of screwing down the heatsink as long as it is tightened down sufficiently (and be extra generous with the GPU since it is a full, exposed die, not a heat spreader on top of a die as it is with your CPU).

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I wasn't able to open up the laptop due to 2 Phillips screws that were too hard to unscrew, so due to not wanting to end up breaking those screws (which I had read were pretty soft) I gave the laptop to a professional workshop that opened it up, cleaned it and applied new thermal paste. So I doubt they did it wrong and I don't want to open it up again unless it's completely necessary.

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Yeah, I don't blame you there.  Those small screws can easily be stripped, leaving them forever trapped (unless you drill or break them out, of course, which is far from ideal).  Hopefully the undervolting does the trick.  It's done wonders for me in all but the most thermally challenged scenarios.

On my 7700K I was able to hit -120mv for the core voltage and around -115 for my uncore/ring/cache voltage (the memory controller and other non-core/non-iGPU components of the CPU).  Just remember to try and keep your uncore/ring speed to within around 300MHz of your CPU's core clock if possible, that way you avoid bottlenecks from slow RAM->cache->CPU communication/read speeds.

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No, it just needs to launch once at startup, then you can exit it if you wish (there should be a setting to have it apply the settings to keep them even when it isn't running).  Either way, it's light on resources (I'm picky too about such things) and it does provide lots of useful info (clocks, temps, voltages etc.) if you do want to keep it running.

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Here is the laptop cooler I use, by the way.  I recommend using one that has fans to blow additional air into the intakes and help keep the chassis cool (it's also great for keeping other components cool inside the system which lack active cooling, such as the drives (especially important for NVMe drives since their controllers are notorious for being thermally senstive/throttling).

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Yes, I read that about the XTU in the guide you sent me, thank you. By the way, if I haven't installed it myself, it shouldn't be on my system right? Thanks for the suggestion on the laptop cooler, I'll look into that. Today I played 30 minutes of CS:GO to test what you suggested and the gameplay was smooth all throughout, with the CPU temps constantly around 70°C. The fans were obviously at max speed, but that's to be expected and has always been that way since I first got my XPS. After closing the game, fans died down a bit, still pretty loud, and CPU temps lowered to 45 - 50°C; which I guess isn't pretty bad. Tomorrow I'll try out undervolting by following the guide coupled with your suggestions. I've already read a bit, but undervolting doesn't imply any risk to my system, right? Anyway, thanks again for your continued help and I'll update you when I've tried it out.

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70C is GREAT, though CS:GO isn't exactly the most CPU/GPU intensive title (though the benchmark can be, so you might run that; all that smoke really ramps up the GPU and CPU usage).  Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a really great benchmark if you want something to really push your rig, and it has a free trial I believe so even if you don't own it, you can download the trial on Steam to run the benchmark (and of course play the trial if you like the game).  3DMark Firestrike is another good one, especially the physics test at the end (which is focused on the CPU).

The worst that can happen with undervolting is a BSOD if you push the voltage too low, but that's easily recovered from.  You can even save a separate gaming profile with your most aggressive (but still safe/stable) undervolt and just enable that profile when you're going to game or do anything else you want max performance for, and save a default profile with less aggressive settings (and lower OC on your core clocks to save power/thermals if desired for everyday tasks/usage) as each profile can be enabled with a single click or by configuring a keyboard shortcut for it in ThrottleStop.

I personally set my fans to max every time I play any resource intensive game in order to keep the temps as low as possible while simultaneously keeping my clocks as high as possible (NVIDIA GPUs will ramp their clock speeds as high as possible (within their power limits, of course) as long as they have some thermal headroom, so if you can keep it around 70C or lower for your GPU temps, you should get close to 2GHz for your GPU's core clock speed, and if it's a decent GPU you can likely OC it a bit too using something like MSI Afterburner (I suggest bumping the RAM clockspeed up by a minimum of 200~300MHz, and you might be able to go much higher depending on your GPU and its VRAM (Samsung's DDR5/DDR5X tend to OC real good, but Micron isn't terrible by any stretch either).  You can try bumping the core clock up as well, and if it doesn't exceed the power limit, and as long as it stays cool as I mentioned, you should be able to get a decent bump in clockspeed/performance out of that as well (my 1070 would hit around 1.8~1.9/almost 2GHz, depending on load/thermals/power, which was faster than the stock desktop version of the card, and my benchmark numbers were better than most desktop 1070s (though the added CUDA cores in the mobile 1070 certainly didn't hurt on that front either; something NVIDIA did to keep their laptop version on par with their desktop version).

Edited by exile360
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Yeah, I figured 70 was really good, but I'll try some more demanding tests. Regarding the undervolting, that's great to hear. But it confused me a bit, doesn't undervolting limit or decrease the performance of the CPU? Anyway, I agree that separate profiles for regular tasks and more demanding tasks like gaming is a very good idea and I'll be sure to try it when I do all this stuff. Yeah, I'll probably set my fans to max when gaming (the fans profile can be set through a program called Dell Power Manager) but I don't think I'll mess with overclocking the GPU and/or CPU as I don't feel confident enough at the moment. Maybe in the near future.

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2 minutes ago, miguens said:

Regarding the undervolting, that's great to hear. But it confused me a bit, doesn't undervolting limit or decrease the performance of the CPU?

It depends on how you do it.  What I do (and what the ThrottleStop tutorial describes) is attempt to drop the voltage by as much as possible while still maintaining stability and the maximum clockspeeds (in my case, my overclock to 4.6GHz on all 4 cores, and 4.3GHz on the cache).  In your case, you'll want to make sure that you are getting the expected/same clock speeds that you are now (which I assume are the defaults, i.e. 3.8GHz turbo for a single core under load).  The full specs for the chip can be found here:

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/97185/intel-core-i7-7700hq-processor-6m-cache-up-to-3-80-ghz.html

You might also find this thread interesting regarding ThrottleStop and the 7700HQ:

https://www.techpowerup.com/forums/threads/undervolting-trottlestop-i7-7700hq-insane-core-undervolt-1-000mv.264440/

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Oh, and I forgot to answer regarding XTU.  It depends on the system, and some manufacturers (and even Windows Update) will install XTU as a driver for certain Intel CPUs/chipsets (it did for my 7700K and 8700K).  If you aren't using XTU for overclocking, then you don't need to have it installed as that's all it's for (and it conflicts with ThrottleStop, the app you want to use in this case obviously).

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Hi. I downloaded ThrottleStop and made a profile with a -80mV offset to the CPU core and CPU cache. After applying, should I press "Turn on"? Then can I exit the program? I've done this and haven't noticed much difference in the casual use of the computer. The CPU temps and fan speeds have remained the same.

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I'm not sure what that exclamation point is, but it may be due to the fact that the core's max temp hit 97C, which is pretty warm (you want to stay below 100, otherwise your CPU will throttle because it's too hot).

I believe you just need to click the Apply button to confirm your settings for ThrottleStop to take effect, as according to the article I linked to:

Turn On/Off – The developer has recently admitted that while this button used to do something years ago, it basically doesn’t do much anymore. Assume that TS will be governing your CPU as long as the program is running.

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