Fixing horrible Asus Strix GTX 970 DirectCU II OC fan noise by changing fans and thermal paste

Fallout 4 came out on year 2015. Before this, a realization came out, being that my old rig could not handle the new game in its current state. What a bummer. But there was a silver lining. Or bronze. Or at least iron, I swear.

A Finnish computer shop had a bundle campaign: Asus Strix GTX 970 DirectCU II OC graphics card + Samsung 850 EVO 250GB for 399 EUR. I considered this a deal and bought the bundle. I think they might have had free game voucher also in the mix, but Google evades me on this.

The GPU arrived and it had many problems, it seemed. First there were instability problems with strange block garbage. These cleared after I ditched my “high-quality” Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard for Asrock Z77 Extreme4.

One issue was still present, being absolutely horrible fan noise. This had been present from the start. Seriously. You buy the thing, take it out of the box, run some stress on it, and the whole thing rattles like it is going to give out functional smoke any minute.

The thing is, that I was able to fix it. There is video about the results here, check it out first. Then we show you how we did it.

Doomed contact to the seller

A lot was always happening in my life and even though the noise bothered me somewhat, I never got the time to RMA it to seller. I should have. I contacted them anycase and asked if something could be done. Nothing could be done, as I presumed. But I thought that maybe, maybe there was some kind of half-divine action possible about the case, as I had video evidence that the GPU was always bad. But there was none. Still I think I don’t blame them, the lengthy warranty period was over and I should have acted. And as this post is not maniac revenge post against a corporation (just a normal maniac post), I have and will withhold their name.

Getting the right replacement parts

My first hunch was that the fans needed to be replaced. I had no idea at all where to get ones, so I madly googled and found this item on Ebay (link to item):

I gave it a shot, paid money, and started the wait, which was also complicated by the strike of Finnish Post office workers.

The mini tool fiasco

When waiting for the fans I started to model in my head about the replace procedure. Then it hit me. Take a look at the fully assembled GPU package:

The full assembly has 3 parts, from top:

  1. Shroud with 2 fans
  2. Heatsink
  3. PCB (printed circuit board)

The thing is that the shroud is attached to the heatsink with quite annoyingly positioned screws. All other screws are manageable, but one corner has a cube-like corner with some 1.5 cm space for unscrewing. Never gonna happen with normal tools.

I tried to cut corners and buy from the Internet various tools that would fit this small opening. There was absolutely nothing available fitting. I bought like 2 or 3 tools, all for nothing. Things were running especially slow now. Eventually I decided to remove the heatsink from PCB and then remove shroud and operate the fans. The operation had now to include applying new thermal paste to the GPU chip in addition to other things.

Disassembly and cleanup

Disassembly began from the backside of the card. Unscrewing these 4 screws I have marked lets the heatsink(+shroud) detach from PCB:

Disassembled parts, but still connected by fan power cable:

Close-ups of the elements. Observe the old, completely dried-up thermal paste. I hope it wasn’t like this in the beginning when I got it. But.. If it was, it might explain some of the instability problems. But it was probably just OK when I got it, but 5 years of usage and storage did the thing. Anyways, here are the pictures:

Next we took off the power cable. It has couple of locking teeth, so the socket needs to be helped a bit when taking the cable off.

Next job was cleanup. The old thermal paste was extremely hard to get rid off the GPU “processor”. CRC Precision Cleaner Pro helped somewhat with a plastic chipping tool and a nylon brush.

Cleaning the heatsink was much easier, end result here:

The shroud was now easy to take apart from heatsink as there were no more tight corners to cram non-existing miniature tools in. Comparison of old fans up and new fans down:

The actual fan units were connected to the shroud via aluminium shaped beam. Beams were detached from shroud by unfastening side screws:

Final detachment of the fan happened by unfastening 4 screws from backside, so the fan is able to drop down from the beam. Observe the missing screws:

Reassembly

Reassembly is mostly disassembly in reverse order. We mounted the fans to the beams, aligning the wire canals as original, the we mounted the beams back and made sure that the wiring was sitting properly near shroud edge:

Next thing was of course attaching together the shroud/fan assembly and heatsink. Observe that we used cable tie to attach firmly the power cable to the shroud edge. Finished package:

We applied new thermal paste to the cleaned GPU processor surface with a thin plastic edge tool. It is debatable if the amount was ideal, but I have a feeling that there is smaller amount than what was the case with stock paste.

The final thing was to hold the PCB with new paste upside down and attach it to the shroud/heatsink package. The same 4 screws were used to secure it. Final assembly:

There could have been a topside picture of the whole card, but I was too dumb to take one. But it would have been just a regular GTX 970 picture, so no harm done, I guess.

Performance and other gains, conclusion

The full backstory to this whole operation was that I was about to sell this GTX 970 card as a part of computer system with a i5-3570 processor. I made multiple tests to present in my sales posting. Just as I was closing the deal, I noticed/re-remembered that the fan noise was there. I cancelled the deal because I did not want to sell garbage and chose the way of repairs.

My earlier measurements for the sales posting provided to be an interesting baseline for comparison. So the most interesting bits of the accidental test setup were:

  1. Asrock Z77 Extreme4 LGA1155 motherboard
  2. Intel i5-3570 CPU
  3. Asus Strix GTX 970 DirectCU II OC graphics card (It was installed accidentally to non-X16 lane PCIE port, but of course stayed the same during the test as I noticed the original position. I’m telling this so you don’t wonder possibly low performance points.)
  4. PassMark PerformanceTest 9.0

First we have a picture I used for the sales posting:

As you can see, I ran the full performance test, not only 3D test. The 3D sub-test points were 9107, higher being better.

After the whole repair operation I ran PerformanceTest again, but this time only the 3D sub-test. Look:

So, this time the 3D test pointss were 9738. In other words, there was (9738-9107) / 9107 * 100% = 6.92…% ~ 7% increase in 3D performance! And on top of this, the annoying fan rattle is now totally gone 🙂 Mission accomplished, hoo-ah!

3 Replies to “Fixing horrible Asus Strix GTX 970 DirectCU II OC fan noise by changing fans and thermal paste”

  1. Terve ja kiitos hyvästä oppaasta,
    Sama homma olisi edessä. Ostin juuri hyvään hintaan kyseisen kortin ja toinen tuulettimista pitää pientä ääntä. Gtx 970 on vielä hinta-laatusuhteeltaan kelpo kortti vielä 2020.

    1. Joo kyllähän tuolla vielä jotain pyörittelee. Ja eihän niitä ole pakko niitä detaileja ultralle säätää 🙂 Ole tarkkana vanhan tahnan poistamisessa. Siinä voi tulla kiusaus käyttää terävää metallista aputyökalua, mutta sen kanssa tulee äkkiä ongelmia. Suosittelen jotain pehmeähköä muovityökalua ja kemikaaleja sekä talouspaperia.

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