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Problems With Motherboard Northbridge Chipset Fans
Last updated: 7/31/02

These are excerpts from our forums on the problems that various motherboards are having with the fans used to cool Northbridge chips.  The primary conclusions are:

1) Manufacturer's are using cheap fans with sleeve bearings instead of ball bearings.

2) They probably are not required in the first place and a solution may be to simply unscrew the fan from the heatsink, leaving the heatsink in place, and then monitoring the temperature for some time by touching the chip.  Be careful!  some chips can get hot enough to burn skin.  If it stays rather warm to the touch, it is probably OK to run it without replacing the fan.  Larry

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts Jan-22-02, 07:14 AM (EDT)

"EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem"

The following quality observation appears in page four of our review of the EpoX 8KHA+ DDR Socket A motherboard (http://duxcw.com/digest/Reviews/MBs/Epox/8kha/4.htm): “Just about when I was going to start calling this board the "A+" board I saw one glaring indication of poor quality. The word "sleeve" on the small cooling fan on the VIA Northbridge. On top of the fan it says: Cooler Master, etc., the company that sells the entire heatsink-fan unit. Unscrewing the fan from the heatsink and looking at the bottom reveals the true manufacturer and model number of the little thing that spins: T&T MW-410M12S. I cannot find any information on the fan on CoolerMaster's web site (http://www.coolermaster.com/home.html); and no product info at all on T&T's web site (http://tranyoung.com.tw/home.asp), which appeared to be broken when I tried it. Fans with sleeve bearings usually have a specified lifespan of about 20,000 hours and single bearing, ball bearing fans roughly twice that long. My experience with chipset fans is limited, but with CPU sleeve fans it shows that you will be lucky if one doesn't break within a year of average use. And before they do break they have a nasty habit of expelling bearing residue in the form of a fine black powder, which seems to have an affinity for motherboards and is probably not too good for them. Passive cooling would be more reliable and the chip/motherboard should be designed to make it possible. If fans are used they should be high quality and have ball bearings.”

Well, the customer who bought the third computer we built with this motherboard a couple of months ago called and said his computer made a funny noise when he turned it on that morning and asked if I had any idea what was causing it. I said yes (sigh!) and he brought it in to my shop. Sure enough, the bearing of the fan on the Northbridge had failed. Well, I searched for a replacement and was about to pay $10.99 for a heatsink-fan with a ball bearing fan and over $10 to have it shipped in ASAP when I decided to pull the fan by unscrewing the four screws securing it to the heatsink and see how hot the heatsink really got without the fan. I was surprised to find that it was barely warm to the touch. I then exercised the system with a bunch of benchmarks and discovered that it hardly got any warmer at all. In fact, the air coming from the Thermaltake Volcano 5 CPU heatsink-fan (http://www.thermaltake.com/) right next to it was warmer. I then checked around and discovered that the MSI (http://www.msicomputer.com/product/chipset/via_kt266.htm) and Gigabyte (http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/products/7vtxh+.htm), KT266A motherboards) use passive cooling for the Northbridge and the heatsinks do not look anymore substantial than the one that was left on the 8kHA+. Usually, I do not like to second-guess a motherboard manufacturer’s engineers, but this time I think EpoX’s engineers have it wrong (they sure had it wrong when they specified a fan with a sleeve bearing. I don’t think the KT266A Northbridge needs a fan. I told the customer so and returned the computer to him without it.

If EpoX wishes to educate me on the reason for the fan, I am more than willing to listen. That is, if they are not going to tell me the fan is there for extreme overclocking because we and the CPU manufacturer (AMD) do not recommend overclocking processors.

I fully realize that the failure of a single fan bearing is statistically insignificant (unless you happen to have built a computer with the fan that failed) as far as reaching any conclusions about the entire population of these fans…

Has anyone else experienced problems with these fans? Larry

1. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #0

Chipsets, much like RAM, only seem to get too hot if you have a poorly ventilated case. If your ambient case temperature is at a reasonable level then there is not really a need to cool either the RAM or the Chipset. My guess on why the fan is there in the first place is probably just to make the board look more powerful, because hey, if the faster CPUs require big fans to keep them cool, perhaps if they stick a fan on the chipset it will make it seem like it produces a lot of heat also, therefore making the chipset seem faster/more powerful. The answer to whether or not the fans are needed: Probably not, unless your are going to do some over clocking, or if you have poor air circulation in your case.

-Iron Hawk

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts Jan-22-02, 08:30 PM (EDT)

3. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #1

>My guess on why the fan is there in the first place is probably just to make the board look more powerful... I had similar thoughts. I wish they would orient their priorities away from overclocking, etc. at the top of the list make reliability and trouble-free operation the highest priority. Adding a mechanical device that is not needed for normal operation decreases the reliability and increases both upfront and long term costs. I was not pleased with the unnecessary problem that occurred with this new computer and the time (and good will) that it cost my customer and myself. Larry

Iron Hawk Charter Member 2 posts Jan-23-02, 02:52 AM (EDT)

4. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #3

I agree. Even though I have my computers over clocked (just a little, not to the extremes that some people take) I would like to see more user-friendly devices being produced. If the end user does want to over clock, then at least let them buy their own "high quality" Fans etc. to do the job (in other words: ditch the fan and give us a heat sink in which we can attach a fan to). I have removed my fans from all of my chipsets, and replaced them with some high quality heat sinks and a bit of Thermal Adhesive. Much quieter. and like you said, there is plenty of airflow from the CPU fan. -Iron Hawk

billybish Charter Member 2 posts Jan-23-02, 03:20 AM (EDT)

5. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #4

I agree with both of you whole heartedly. I bought an Asus A7V-KT133A MB which came with a heatsink fan. My friends and I marveled at it as we had never seen a MB so equipped. We assumed that the motherboard must be doing things "above and beyond" which required the additional cooling. Sure enough, after about two months of ownership my computer started up with this awful sound that was obviously a fan gone bad. After geting over my initial freak-out thinking it was my CPU cooler, I noticed the fine dust you have mentioned. I stuck my finger on the chipset fan and sure enough the sound went away. Well, to make a very long story short, I unplugged the sucker and ran that way out of necessity and never noticed the difference. To this day, the machine is running with neither fan nor heatsink on the chipset with no porblem. My problem is not so much with the unnecessary fan, but with the fact that they charge $140 for a quality MB and can't bother to put a decent bearing fan on the thing? What would the price difference be? $3?

philjackson Member since Jun-9-02 1 posts Jun-09-02, 07:44 AM (EDT)

17. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #5

I have two Asus A7N266-E motherboards that seem to have the same problem. At startup time, they will often have a high-pitched noise coming from the northbridge fans. For one motherboard, the noise goes away in a few seconds and it seems to run normally. For the other, I need to reboot and then the noise typically doesn't occur. Although they are the same motherboard product, the northbridge fans have different labels. If these fans wear out, could that cause damage to the rest of the system? From the other comments I've seen in this thread, it seems like it could be a good idea to simply disconnect the fans, and maybe replace with a passive heatsink...? -- Phil Jackson.

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts Jun-10-02, 12:51 PM (EDT)

18. "RE: EpoX 8KHA DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #17

I would simply unscrew the fans from their heat sinks and remove them from the system. Hold the heatsinks while doing it so you don’t work the thermal compound loose from the Northbridge. After monitoring the computer for about a half an hour, to let the thermals settle-out, I would then feel the Norhthbridge with my hand to see how hot it got. Be careful, some chips can get hot enough to burn flesh. I do not think these will. If they are just moderately warm, as they are on the 8KHA+, I would then feel comfortable that no damage will be done by continuing to run them that way. You may want to stress the computer by running some benchmarks and see how hot they get then. Of course, Larry does not overclock computers. Larry

chrisocp Member since Apr-23-02 1 posts Apr-23-02, 07:11 AM (EDT)

6. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #0

I have the exact same problem. Can I just remove the fan? Is it a difficult thing to do? Thanks

Chris

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts Apr-23-02, 10:27 AM (EDT)

7. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #6

I did. No. Just unscrew the four screws and unplug the fan. I would hold on to the heatsink so as not to break the heatsink loose. BTW I think a second northbridge fan of the three 8KHA+ motherboards I have installed has failed, but I am not on site to eyeball it. Of course you want to remove the power cord to the computer when doing this and keep your hands away from the CPU fan when the computer is running. Be sure one of those four screws is not still in the case before reinstalling the cover. Larry

evkittleman Member since Apr-27-02 1 posts Apr-27-02, 03:28 PM (EDT)

8. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #7

I've been having the same problem. Did a Google search and found this thread about the problem. I'd like to simply remove the fan, but I'm leary about overheating the chipset. Mine feels warm but not hot. I'm not overclocking. I read another review that said the chipset on the 8KHA+ gets quite hot. Maybe that person was doing some serious overclocking; I'm not sure.

So:

1) Do you know of anyone having problems after removing the fan? If I remove the fan, and leave the heatsink, you think it would be alright? 2) If I wanted to replace the fan, what manufacturer/model should I look for?

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Evan

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts Apr-27-02, 04:05 PM (EDT)

9. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #8

>Do you know of anyone having problems after removing the fan? No. The one computer I removed the fan from has been working OK for months.

>If I remove the fan, and leave the heatsink, you think it would be alright?

Yes, but I can't speak for someone who wants to overclock.

After removing the fan, the heatsink was barely warm to the touch. I don't know how many heatsinks you have touched in your life, but I have touched and been burned by many of them.

An aside… I could probably provide a more definitive answer if I could get a spec sheet for the chipset, but VIA's web site FAQs say...

"Can I have the datasheet for my chipset? I need to know how to control my motherboard settings.

Answer: To learn about your motherboard and its settings you need to consult your motherboard manual. Datasheets are only provided to manufacturers and large OEM companies under non disclosure agreements."

Well, my opinion on that answer is: bolderdash (to be kind)! They used have spec sheets available on their web site. One should not have to sign a non-disclosure statement to obtain a spec sheet. That’s ridiculous. What's the big secret, anyway? Why can't we get the temp, electrical, timing, and pin-out info, etc. It makes it very hard to write technical reviews and guides without them, especially when the only documentation is mainly superficial VIA propaganda. I might stop writing about VIA chipsets. Absolute garbage, mushroom management… the more I think about this the madder I get. Have good day. Larry

deerslayer Charter Member 304 posts May-09-02, 11:26 PM (EDT)

10. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #9

From reading other forums, the northridge fan on this board is of poor quality and many people have had problems with it getting noisy/dying.

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts May-10-02, 01:50 AM (EDT)

11. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #10

You know, I don't recall any motherboard that has had more reviews written on it. I wonder why all of those so called experts didn't report this problem. Larry

deerslayer Charter Member 304 posts May-10-02, 10:43 AM (EDT)

12. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #11

probably because the board was free for the review. I take reviews with a grain of salt most of the time. They are either giving favorable reviews because it was free or because of free advertising.

lbyard Charter Member 6608 posts May-10-02, 12:37 PM (EDT)

15. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #12

Someone could give me a board for a review. If it had a flaw I would give the vendor the courtesy of an E-Mail or a phone call, and then, if the problem was not resolved in a reasonable amount of time (and before publication of the review), I would report it in the review. That process was followed for the review of a vendor-furnished product at http://duxcw.com/digest/Reviews/Network/dlink/di701/di701.htm and the original review for a purchased product at http://duxcw.com/digest/Reviews/MBs/Epox/mvp3g2/mvp3g2.htm (EpoX eventually fixed the problem and I revised the review, but still mentioned the problem). So, I am not so concerned about reviews of vendor samples as I am about who they are giving the samples to and their qualifications to review the product, and, of course, as you have pointed-out, their objectivity and integrity. All of the motherboards that have been reviewed to date on this web site were purchased. Larry

totalstranger Member since May-7-02 1 posts May-14-02, 01:11 PM (EDT)

16. "RE: EpoX 8KHA+ DDR AMD Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #0

Active cooling for chipsets has been a debate for quite a while, especially in the overclocking community. I've never read anything to support the use of a fan for extra stability. In fact, in my experience motherboards are no less stable, even when overclocking, when passive cooling is used (only a heatsink). I currently have an Iwill KK266 (KT133A chipset), and have bumped the FSB up to 145 without a single problem. The board doesn't come with a northbridge fan. They're included merely for asthetics, which I think is kinda crappy. You know they're charging more...and in Epox's case...more for an inferior fan. As was said earlier, it gives the illusion of something more than it actually is.

lbyard Charter Member 7240 posts Jul-31-02, 06:07 PM (EDT)

Abit KX7-333/333R Motherboard Northbridge Heatsink-fan Problem" In response to message #0

I just pulled the heatsink fan on the Abit KX7-333R Motherboard I am upgrading my computer with to inspect the back for the real manufacturer's label. It has an ADDA ADO412MS-G70 fan and it has a sleeve bearing! LarryPlease see our Contact page if you have any comments or corrections that would make this article better. Please use our Forums if you need help with a computer or network problem.

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