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M17x-R2 Cooling Mod by Ashtefere

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This cooling mod was originally performed by Ashterfere and is being reproduced here:

This post will be updated with the latest info as we get it.

To start, we need to identify a few parts so you know what to look for.



This is the GPU core. Be careful, its fragile. The HD5870m wont have a metal bumper around the edge, this is just an example image.

Retention Clip


Also known as a retention arm, retention bracket, etc.

This holds down the GPU cooler to the GPU die and ram.

C-Clips, AKA 3/4 washer


These are attached to the screws on the retention clip. They keep the screws held ONTO the retention clip so they dont fall off.

So, to begin.

The "Problem"

I use the term "problem" lightly, as the heat of the HD5870m is within specification. The problem I think is that the default GPU cooler is not being used to anywhere near its full potential.

We will be using Furmark to measure worst case scenario temperatures. No game will ever reach these temperatures, they will in fact run the cards much cooler. But this gives us a good benchmark to work off.

Here is the average temperatures of a user (TurbodTalon) in the forum running furmark before the mod:


71.5c on the display i/o temp, 92.5c on the memory i/o and 82.5c on the shader cores.

These are actually very good temps. My temps before this were ~80c, ~105c, ~90c respectively, as it is winter here and I run the heating pretty high.

If you do ALL of the mods listed here, you will get something like:


61c on the display i/0, 69.0c on the memory i/o and ~65cc (the above screenshot has min accidently ticked instead of max) on the shader core. Keep in mind, my ambient temps are around 27c in the above screenshot (higher than TurbodTalon's) - your result will probably be lower again.

This is a temperature drop of 10c, 24c, and ~22c respectively.

This is huge - and all we are doing is rearranging some things and doing some ghetto.

First you need to know straight up - depending on your country this may or may not void the warranty of your graphics cards. Even if it does, the dell technician that comes out to service you if you need it may not even care OR notice you have done this mod.

Now, how to do it?

First, this is what you need.

  1. AS5 or similar THIN thermal paste
  2. TX-3 or MX3 or similar THICK thermal paste
  3. Electrical tape or similar heat resistant tape that doesnt leave residue
  4. Time
  5. Courage

We will begin from easiest mod to hardest.



All of the heatsink ducts dont sit flush or sealed against the fan ducts. This means air goes out the sides, and doesnt go 100% through the fins. Inefficient, lots of noise and no cooling.

I used duct tape to fix this. Same with CPU cooler (optional). I recommend electrical tape to avoid any residue that may hamper your warranty.

Its fiddly getting it all in for the cards - what I did (optional!) is removed ONE screw from each graphic's cards blower fan assembly.

The screws to remove are the ones you CANT see when the card is in place slotted into the MXM slot.

Obviously, you cant screw this screw, so you need to remove it.

The other 2 should be accessible when you place the card into the mxm slot.

This essentially makes the fan/heatsink/gpu one part, and easier to manage.

What this mod achieves is slightly quieter fan noise and more air through the copper fin arrays.


Here is a rough diagram of how the dell GPU heatsink sits on the Graphics cards:


The pink area in the above diagram is the rather thick and nasty thermal pads that dell use on their cooling block.

The blue area is the OEM dell thermal interface material that dell use.

As you can see, the height of the thermal pads on top of the memory actually increases the gap between the GPU die and the GPU core.

What we want is:


Here we have removed the thermal pad, and replaced the bad thermal interface material with something thinner (AS5 in my case).

This provides much better contact with the GPU core, and reduces the gap between GPU and RAM to < 0.5mm.

So, heres the step by step.


Remove the heatsink and clean off all the thermal interface material.

Save the thermal pads somewhere safe, in case you ever need to RMA

Put them in a ziplock bag so no dust gets on them.


Remove the thermal interface material from the GPU die and RAM chips of the card.


Place a half grain of rice size drop of your THIN thermal interface material on your gpu die.


Place a full grain of rice size drop of your THICK thermal interface material on each ram chip.


Replace the heatsink and screw it down, then replace the cards.


This one is not for the faint of heart. If you are not careful you could crush your GPU die, and then its GG to your GPU.

This mod is done to increase the pressure of the heatsink, so it contacts the GPU Die better, and contacts the ram better.

This mod should be done at the same time as the thermal pad mod, and requires the thermal pad mod to work.


Remove the c-clips from the screws on the retention clip. An easy way to do this is to stick a small hobby probe or screwdriver into one of the 2 gaps on the inner ring of the c-clip, then push the c-clip away from each screw. It will pop out easily, but make sure you direct it towards something that will catch it.

I lost one that decided it wanted to be an astronaut.

I hope it has a safe voyage.


Remove the screws from the retention bracket.


Re-attach the c-clips to the screws while they are OUT of the retention clip.


Re-attach the heatsink to the pre-thermal pasted GPU board.


VERY CAREFULLY put the screws with c-clips attached back into the retention clip, and then screw each screw in numbered order just enough to grip without coming back out. This should be 2-3 turns at most. No more, or you may crack the GPU die.


Check to make sure the board isnt warping to much on one corner. If it is, you have screwed that screw too tight. The board may bend a little, but it will be barely noticable. What will bend the most is the GPU Heatsink. We want this, as it closes the gap between the ram and heatsink even more.

And you are done.

With all of these mods, not only will you get better temps, but the GPU fans will never spin higher than 30%

Cooler AND quieter, with just a bit of fiddling.

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Couldn't you just buy a copper shim and put it between the heatsink and the GPU? I tried it with my W860CU and it worked.

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Couldn't you just buy a copper shim and put it between the heatsink and the GPU? I tried it with my W860CU and it worked.

You could but you get better heat transfer with a retention mod. With a copper shim you're adding an extra layer of metal to transfer heat through.

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Oh, yeah i agree with you there. It's just just less risky. I'm no expert when it comes to this, and I don't treat GPUs delicately - fried my first 5870M by trying the retention mod on the W860CU :(.

Nice site you guys have here by the way, basically all the tech pros from NBR :).

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Any thoughts where to get MX-3 or TX-3 paste cheap? It's about $20 on Amazon.com with shipping. :)

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Well Ive no idea whether that one also works as 'thick' one as suggested in the guide?

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Well Ive no idea whether that one also works as 'thick' one as suggested in the guide?

I just checked MX-4, MX-3 and OCZ Freeze since I have them all open, they are thick enough for the job

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I just checked MX-4, MX-3 and OCZ Freeze since I have them all open, they are thick enough for the job

Good to know you have them each right on hand to compare...smile.png

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Hey, I just did this mod. With HWInfo32 after this mod I still get pretty high temps (95/96C on GPU Core/Memory).

EDIT: Holy crap. I forgot to do the duct tape mod. This mod alone lowered the temp by 10 C !!! Right now Furmark is running at ~86-89 C steadily but with fans on highest.

EDIT2: Could you please provide better resolution screenshot of Furmark? :) I'll be uploading mine in a few mins.

EDIT3: Furmark run w/ monitoring:


Edited by unreal25
Added some stuff + downloaded the newest GPU-Z and works fine. :P

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The duct tape mod helped me a lot and with just a basic addition of washers to the gpu heatsink retention arms... it helped a good amount for having not changed my pastes or thermal pads. Nice job Unreal.

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89C is still way too hot. My GPU with retention mod doesn't go above 82C with full burn.

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OK, so I think I didn't really get the retention mod properly. So, the idea behind taking off c-clips is to move them a little higher? (So you can tighten a screw a little more?)

Btw, there's 1 RAM chip that's not completely covered by the heatsink. What's up with that, Dell? :)

Oh and I used thin precision screwdrivers to tighten the heatsink and the retention brackets. Its harder to put too much pressure with those.

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The washers I used are posted in Michael's R2 teardown. The inner circle is 3mm wide to and outer diameter is 8mm wide.


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Yeah, the purpose of the retention mod is to move the c-clip from the bottom side of the heatsink plate to the top side of the heatsink plate.

Then, you have more than enough pressure - literally more than enough - without any washers.

You also need to be aware that the section of the heatsink that hangs over the VRM and choke modules does not actually cool these modules. Instead, it gets in the way of a level mount. You are best removing the metal sections that push down on the VRM/choke modules entirely (which I have done).

My average GPU temps are very low, but I havent checked them in a while. At 800ish core (i think thats what im running) im getting about 72c-79c without the ducting mod.

This is purely due to removing the aluminium overhang that covers the VRM area.

You get total flatness, no bowing of the board, and can screw the screws down fully with the retention mod applied. The memory heatsinks also get a lot more pressure this way too (which raises the core temp a little, but lowers the ram temp).

Up to you if you want to do this though! No guarantees you wont pop a heatpipe and break the cooler entirely.


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I used a hacksaw then a file to clean it up.


Can you post pics of this mod? I am planning on doing these mods tonight and I guess I could do this one too.

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