This is my first question asked on SF, so be gentle kids.

As my desktops (approximately 110 or so) have begun to age and with my users resisting Windows 8, I've begun to notice an odd trend. We are primarily an HP shop. So the desktops I am having the issues with are DX2200 and DX2300 series business desktops. (Yes yes, I know they are old, but they are still serviceable for what my users use the machines for.) The users of some of the machines are complaining that the machines are very loud and/or "racing". And they seem to be very slow opening up applications like Outlook and IE. At first I went on the obvious hunt for viruses, but in not finding any and not being able to find a task that was consuming resources, I was stumped. Task man showed very little CPU usage, but the fans were running full out. Typically a sign that the CPU is under heavy load as these have variable speed fans controller by the motherboard.

In trying to solve the problem, I pulled the heatsink and fan assembly off the motherboard. I discovered that the heat sink compound on many of these machines seems to have dried out. I would describe the compound as flaky rather than smooth and gooey. The fix for the issue is embarrassingly simple; Simply clean and reapply some paste as recommended by the manufacturer. I've had this happen in five desktops in the last few weeks. Odd coincidence or simply a matter of finally noticing this? Who knows. This resolves the issue with the CPU in all 5 machines.

While I had never considered this to be an issue, suddenly now I am beginning to wonder if this is unique to my facility. We are a commercial printing facility and have chemicals and solvents in the building. Or if this is simply a matter of maintenance on aging equipment. I am inclined to believe this is an "old machine" issue.

I typically pull the cover off any machine I am working on just to physically inspect fans and heat sinks, but I now have added pulling the CPU heat sink and reapplying compound to any system work done on the bench.

Is anyone else having the same or similar issues with HP desktops/servers?

  • The first Pentium4/Pentium4HT processors were notoriously hot, hence the very noisy fans with extremely "jumpy" fan speed adjustments at that time. – pauska Jul 16 '13 at 21:03
  • To clarify, you've identified the issue, and replacing the heat sink compound with fresh compound solves the CPU overheating problems and the resulting performance issues? – Kaz Jul 17 '13 at 1:07
  • @Kaz, in this case, yes it solved the issue I was having. But this was more of a "Am I the only one with this problem due to the physical enviornment or is this an HP issue?" It looks to be an HP related issue as detailed by longneck below. – MikeAWood Jul 17 '13 at 18:53
  • I have never seen an HP machine from that era that didn't eventually develop high heat and fan speed issues. – Moshe Katz Jul 18 '13 at 18:02
  • @MosheKatz, I have maybe 40 or so of these generation of HP machines still in service. We've had 5 to date, but now that I am aware of the issue, I suspect on inspection, I will certainly find more I wasn't aware of. – MikeAWood Jul 18 '13 at 18:40

I have experienced this exact same issue with similar Pentium 4 computers from HP. Within about 9 months we reapplied thermal compound to nearly all 80 or so of these PC's. They were all about 4 years old at the time.

After the 5th pc or so, our purchasing department leaned on the hp sales guy and he bought us a case of thermal compound that came in little stickers. The funny part is he ordered 10 times too many so we had these stickers hanging around forever. I ended up doing all of my home PC's, too.

We ended up making a weekend day of servicing every pc of this model. Never had a problem again except for the occasional seized fan.

This was a typical office building. No chemical funny business going on nearby.

  • We've had a few seized fans as well, but they have been rare. But it sounds like I am not the only one with issues with this gen of HP desktops, which is basically what I was curious about. – MikeAWood Jul 16 '13 at 21:26

It could be that HP cheapskated when they applied thermal paste to those specific models - who knows after all these years. Like I said in the comment, those processors were notoriously ineffective and hot, which didn't get any better until the Core 2 series.

All your other questions are going to attract too many different opinions for a Q/A site, so I'd strip them out instead of having this question closed, and rather visit us at the Serverfault Chat room to discuss it.

  • I am inclined to think the same thing as far as HP goes. Generally speaking most of these desktops are used by non power users. So it is rare to see the CPUs pushed on these boxes other than on the occasions when large applications are opened. (ie...Outlook). Typically they run at the lowest speed and are pretty quiet. I clarified the question as I am really only looking for a "is it only me or not" answer. – MikeAWood Jul 16 '13 at 21:10

The thermal interface in the OEM cooling systems has not been "gooey" (even when brand new) for a long time now. But it does degrade over time. Those systems should be at least 7 years old now which is way more than the life span they were designed for - so it's hardly a design flaw/manufacturer's fault.

If you want to keep those running - just replace the thermal interface. But there's nothing to complain about

  • No complaint, simply an observation. I am very happy to not have to e-cycle these machines due to degraded performance. Like you said, and I agree, they are well past their typical lifespan. But if they meet the users expectations until MS EOLs the support on XP, I think doing a bit of maintenance is well worth the long term financial gains. They really have been good little machines overall. – MikeAWood Jul 16 '13 at 21:25
  • 3
    Yes there is something to complain about! 25 year old audio amplifiers still have good thermal paste and do not overheat any more than when they rolled off the assembly line. WTF? – Kaz Jul 17 '13 at 1:09
  • Odds are those 25 yo amplifiers were never commidity (read: cheap throw away) devices designed with the intention of only running 4-5 years at most before their MTBF. Most of the machines I referred to in the original question have all had their Hard Drives replaced with SSDs (for performance and/or due to HD failure). Had it not been for SSDs, I would have easily retired these machines years ago. But the hassle for the users outweigh the benefits of switching to a new machine. Not to mention the costs. – MikeAWood Jul 17 '13 at 23:43

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