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G5 9800 Pro Cooler Replacement:Return to News Page
Arctic Cooling VGA Silencer install on 9800 Pro/G5
By John B.
Posted: 10/5/2004

NOTE: This article covers the install on a G5's OEM/BTO 9800 Pro card. The retail Special Edition 9800 Pro is similar (also has DVI+ADC ports), although the Retail 9800 Pro 128MB has a different PCI bracket due to the DVI+VGA+Video out ports vs ADC+DVI on the other 9800 models. However with the single slot end bracket design of this cooler model, that does not matter as it would if the cooler's end bracket was a single piece 2 slots wide as some were.

Intro/Background:
If you have a Radeon 9800 graphics card in your G4 or G5, you've probably noticed the irritating whine of its fan. This article shows how to remedy that whine and get better cooling at the same time.

A previous article (Verax G03 HS/Fan install guide) at Accelerate Your Mac showed how to install a Verax G03 heatsink/fan to get rid of the noise. While well made, the Verax is expensive at $69 and uses the same cooling method as the original heatsink/fan.

Arctic Cooling (http://www.arctic-cooling.com) manufactures a fan called the VGA Silencer (Rev. 3) that exhausts its hot air outside the CPU case. It has a switch that lets you select High or Low speed. At Low speed you can't hear it above the other G5 fans. At High speed it's an over-clocker's dream: still very quiet with no irritating whine. And the price is right. The VGA Silencer was on sale at Cooler-Guys (in 2004, no longer available) for $13.95 plus shipping. List price is shown on Arctic's site as 20 Euros, which at current rates is under $25.
(The VGA silencer cooler was mentioned in the news page last fall but fit problems were noted by G5 owners, as was true of other low cost coolers like the Zalman heatpipe, although workarounds were later found. I think the Verax G03 is extremely overpriced, although it cools far better than the stock 9800 fan/heatsink and is very quiet. The price bites though...-)

Unfortunately, others who have tried to use the Silencer have found that it won't fit in a G5. By modifying part of the Silencer as shown in this article, we can make it fit. Here are the Silencer's specifications from Arctic's site, along with my list of Pros and Cons:

VGA Silencer Specs:
Main Features:

  • First VGA cooler with selectable cooling and noise level: absolute silence or uncompromising cooling performance
  • Unique mounting clip improves the heat transfer of the GPU to the heat sink significantly
  • DHES (Direct Heat Exhaust System) carries the warm exhaust air directly outward
  • Compatibility List: In general the cooler fits on the following graphic boards:
    • ATI Radeon 9500 (Pro), 9700 (Pro), 9800 (Pro) ; not compatible with All in Wonder and XT Versions from Revision 2 compatible with All in Wonder versions
    • Revision 3 (available from mid March) compatible with 9600 (Pro, AIW, XT) - Nvidia Geforce 3 TI (they make several new models now including the NV5 for 6800 cards.)

    Specs:
  • Overall Dimensions: 185 x 84 x 34 mm
  • Weight: 278 g
  • Rated Fan Speeds: 1200 / 2400 RPM
  • Noise Level:
      - ATI's 9800Pro standard cooler 100%
      - VGA Silencer (high speed fan mode) 100%
      - VGA Silencer (low speed) 50%
  • Cooling Performance:
      - ATI's 9800Pro standard cooler 79.6°C (175F)
      - VGA Silencer (high speed) 47.1°C (117F)
      - VGA Silencer (low speed) 58.0°C (136F)

    Pros:
  • Very quiet. At Low speed you can't hear it above the other G5 fans.
  • Less Irritating Fan Sound Frequency. Even at High speed, it makes a pleasant rushing noise. In the specs above, the equal noise levels between ATI's 9800Pro standard and the Silencer at High speed don't account for how irritating the standard fan is.
  • Much better (lower temperature) cooling. See Cooling Performance above.
  • Outboard hot air exhaust. This means less heat for the G5's fans to take care of.
  • Runs on same power as standard fan (the Verax doesn't).
  • Low cost. At time of writing on sale for $13.95.

    Cons:
  • Large Size. You'll lose access to one PCI slot in a G5, and the clearance to the second PCI slot is very small.
  • Will not fit some G4's at all.
  • Heavy. See the caution at the end of this article.
  • Must modify the heatsink clamp to fit in G5's and some G4's.

G4 Owners: riscx.com has an article (www.riscx.com/reviews/9800_arctic_cooler/) on installing the VGA Silencer in a G4 Digital Audio tower. The Silencer took a PCI slot and a RAM slot, but you could use the clamp modifications shown below and probably get the RAM slot back. Depending on the G4's arrangement of slots, the Silencer may not fit at all. I have a G4 Dual 867 MDD, and it appears that the Silencer would interfere with all the RAM slots. (MDD FYI - the Verax G03 heatsink also has fit problems in MDD towers as noted in my G03 install guide)

Preparation: Your basic R9800 AGP 8X graphics card. The OEM circuit board is blue, while the retail model is red. The OEM model has no model name on it and the only ATI mark is on the fan.

The VGA Silencer in its retail packing. At this point you should open it up, familiarize yourself with the parts, and read the instructions that came with it. They're a bit cursory - you'll need the details in this article.

Removing the OEM Heatsink/Fan:
Start by disconnecting the fan power plug. Use a small flat-bladed screwdriver to pry the two latches out a bit so you can rock the plug out. The pencil points to where the fan's power wires were glued to my card. (Note: As shown in the photos in my G03 install guide w/my early OEM 9800 Pro - my card had no glue on the fan pwr connector wires.)

If the wires are glued to your card, you need to make a choice here:

  • If you take your Mac in for warranty service, you may want to re-attach the old fan and heatsink so the technician won't know you modified the card. If you detach the wires, it will be difficult to reassemble the old fan/heatsink and glue the wires down in a way that will look exactly like the factory did it. (If you can remove the glue, you can use common RTV (clear rubber) adhesive to tack the wires back down - the tech that will test the card is never going to notice this. I assumed they used RTV to secure the wires which means it would be easy to remove, but John said his card had hard epoxy glue. Odd since the fan is the highest failure rate item on the card, and epoxing the wires to the board makes no sense unless they never plan on replacing the fan, only the entire board.) In this case, you can leave the wire glued to the card and just lay the fan in an out-of-the-way place on the card. The fan is all plastic - it will not conduct electricity and will not affect the operation of the card.
  • If you don't want to take the warranty precaution or don't like leaving the old fan on the card, cut the wires loose from the card at this point.

If you're cutting the wires loose and removing the old fan from the card, you can skip this step. Otherwise use a very small Phillips screwdriver to remove the three screws that hold the fan to the heatsink. Pull out the fan and set it aside on the card.

Pull out the fan and set it aside on the card. Using needle-nose pliers, pull the retaining pins out of the two heatsink mounting posts.

Turn the card over. Locate the tips of the two mounting posts. Squeeze the tips of the posts together to unlock them from the card. If you use metal pliers to do this, be very careful not to damage the surrounding circuitry. Push the posts out of the card using a non-metallic blunt object.

Remove the heatsink from the front of the card. My heatsink fell right off. If yours doesn't, don't force it.
(Note: My OEM 9800 card had thermal cement, thick and yellowish. If your heatsink is literally glued on like mine was, a tip for removing it is to get the card's GPU hot in use/stress tests (like 3d gaming) first and then shut down, -remove the AC power cord- and then remove the card. My OEM 9800 pro had very thick almost glue-like thermal compound on the GPU (not typical paste). Heat makes that softer and easier to break loose. A hairdryer may also be of some use.)
If it's stuck to the GPU chip, warming it with a hair drier may soften the thermal compund and make the heatsink easier to remove.
Reassemble the heatsink so you won't lose the small parts. Leave the posts in it, reinstall the retaining pins, and, if you left the old fan on the card, screw the three Phillips screws back into the heatsink. Save the assembly in case you need it later for that warranty visit.

On to the Next Page.


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