Dell’s gaming line of laptops are notorious for how bad they handle heat. Although I must admit they did their best cooling the CPU and GPU with dual fan exhaust and multiple heat pipes, it just can’t handle the high temperature peaks during games. Furthermore after 3 years a nice fur of dust had formed on the cooling fins, effectively reducing the cooling abilities. When idle, the fans would constantly run at average speed with CPU/GPU temperatures of 60/70 degrees Celsius respectively. In games however the fans would go ballistic running at full speed with the GPU temperature peaking at 90 degrees Celsius! At some occasions the system would shut down due to overheating!
I wanted to solve this by doing three things: ‘overclock’ the fans of my Zalman laptop stand, remove the dust on the cooling fins and apply Arctic Silver thermally conducting compound between the CPU and GPU core and their heat sinks. Arctic Silver is fantastic at conducting heat! I already wrote an article about overclocking the Zalman (link), so this article will only handle the XPS itself.
First of all, if you’ve got any warranty left, the following steps will definitely void it, so stop right here! Contact Dell, complain about your system overheating and they will solve it! I don’t have experience with it, but Dell’s support is supposed to be excellent. If you want to do what I did, which is completely taking apart your expensive gaming rig, don’t come complaining with me if your system doesn’t work afterwards. I can not be held responsible for anything you do. That being said, let’s continue.
Step 1: stuff you’ll need
From left to right, you’ll need a can of pressurized air to clean the cooling fins, some rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to clean the GPU and CPU cores, a little syringe with Arctic Silver thermally conductive compound (I bought mine on eBay), a normal and a Philips screw driver. Last thing you need, which is not in the picture, is a torx screwdriver to remove the GPU heat sink. I don’t know which size, you’ll have to find out yourself…
Step 2: disassemble your XPS
I will not go into this in detail. All info can be found in the Dell XPS M1710 Service Manual. Take your time to read all the necessary info. My advice is to print all the pages so you can follow the steps. These are some pictures for guidance.
The second to last picture shows the heat pipe of the CPU, the last picture shows the graphic card. By releasing 4 Philips screws, the graphic card can be pulled out. This is necessary in order to work on the CPU heat sink as they overlap.
Step 3: the CPU
After pulling out the graphic card, the CPU heat sink can be removed by releasing 4 Philips screws. This heat sink actually covers two chips. I don’t know what the second one does. Remove any blue thermal pads that Dell tends to use, clean the cores and copper sink with rubbing alcohol (remove the hardened thermal paste) and apply Arctic Silver. On one of the pictures you can see the dust collected by the cooling fins. Remove it with your can of pressurized air and reinstall the CPU heat sink.
Step 4: the GPU
The heat sink is attached to the graphic card with 4 torx screws. Release them, they don’t actually come out completely as the are held by metal parts. I only applied Arctic Silver on the GPU core, I left the other thermal pads as they are quite thick which would be impossible to be substituted by a thick layer of thermal paste.
Reassemble the XPS and fire it up. Since I did all this, the fans rarely work when the system is idle. When gaming, the GPU temperature never exceeds 70 degrees Celsius which is perfect! Dell’s gaming laptops are fantastic but they still have a lot to learn about heat management!