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High Temps on an Old PC

ubuntu high temperature temp cpu fan thermal paste heat sink

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#1 Gerowen

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:41

So I'm re-building an old emachines I was given, and I have a couple of questions.

It has 1 GB of RAM and an Intel Pentium 4 @ 3.00 Ghz that reads "EM64T Capable". I installed the 64 bit version of Ubuntu 12.10, but it seems to be "really" sluggish at times, particularly if I try watching a full screen flash video from pretty much any website. I see in the BIOS that Hyperthreading is available and enabled.

Anyway, I'm wondering if the 32 bit version would offer better performance, or if it wouldn't make a difference since this processor is apparently 64 bit. It's an emachines W3615 that was given to me by a neighbor who didn't want it, so I replaced the CPU fan because the old one had worn out and was rattling around inside its housing, put some fresh thermal paste on it and cleaned it out, and I'm giving it to my mother-in-law to use as a general web browsing computer, but it's performance is not all that pleasing at times.

I guess my question is, given the information above, what could I do to improve performance of Ubuntu? I'm currently using Unity, but in my experience using 12.04 a while back, switching from Unity to Ubuntu's version of Gnome 2 didn't really make any difference as far as system performance, so I'm hesitant to start messing around with other desktop environments.

Another question. I've applied fresh thermal paste and put a new fan on top of the heat-sink blowing down. When I first started the computer the CPU was at around 52 degrees celsius according to the "Hardware Monitoring" section in the BIOS. That was after having been shut off for a few days and having just had the thermal paste and heat-sink re-applied, so that was as cold as it was going to get. I booted Ubuntu, played a few high def videos on YouTube to get the CPU cranking and the fan speed has increased, then I rebooted to get into the BIOS and look at the temps. (lmsensors says there are no sensors installed that it supports) I've had it sitting there for about 10 minutes now and it has hung right around 90 degrees celsius, meanwhile my own personal desktop is hanging out at a cool 18 degrees celsius(also running Ubuntu 12.10 64 bit). It's worth mentioning I guess that the CPU fan came out of a Dell PC and had a different wiring configuration so I had to splice the connector from the old fan onto the new fan since the new one wouldn't plug onto the connector on the motherboard. The connections are insulated from each other and the fan is running fine and even changes speed when the CPU is under load, so I don't think that's the issue, and the wires on the two fans were all the same color and the fans were the same size, they just had different connectors so I had to swap them out.


#2 Aheer.R.S.

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:47

Tho I have no experience in ubuntu, my guess, and this is just a guess would be yes.
(Even if there's a remotely tiny chance that the 32 bit OS has that similarity with windows, as in 32bit can use fewer resources etc...)
And for the temp issue, hm... you got me, usually vaccuming out the fins on the heatsink, new paste (when needed) and the occasional repair or replacement of fan is sufficient to cool your cpu
if your base has a removable side panel, try running it without the panel to see if it's still hitting those temps?
(that's all I had dude, sorry)

#3 tim_s

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:53

Is the processor a pentium m?

#4 +Karl L.

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 04:03

Flash always performs poorly, but it sounds exceptionally bad in your case. As far as I know, it sounds like you have done everything right with the hardware. I used to have an EM64T capable Pentium 4 (Prescott) and it always performed poorly running a 64-bit OS. I recommend that you try installing 32-bit Ubuntu 12.10, and see how much of a difference that makes.

Also, you may want to try installing the firmware for your video card (if its an NVIDIA card using the open-source nouveau driver) and the OpenGL 3D acceleration libraries.

sudo apt-get install linux-firmware linux-firmware-nonfree nouveau-firmware libgl1-mesa-glx libgl1-mesa-dri-experimental


#5 tim_s

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 15:35

Just to elaborate on my question,

I use to have an IBM Thinkpad designed to run XP - I installed Ubuntu and I noticed the temperature was going wild. IF I watched anything with Flash the fans would spin up, I never diagnosed this as the machine was old and needed replacing.

(P.s. I will provide more feedback IF the 32-bit OS does not resolve the issue.)

#6 ajcdotme

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 15:39

Just to elaborate on my question,

I use to have an IBM Thinkpad designed to run XP - I installed Ubuntu and I noticed the temperature was going wild. IF I watched anything with Flash the fans would spin up, I never diagnosed this as the machine was old and needed replacing.

(P.s. I will provide more feedback IF the 32-bit OS does not resolve the issue.)


Check BIOS for fan control options. I've noted that many of the control packages for chipset drivers, etc, are not as well (if at all) configured to run *nix operating systems. Usually, especially on a desktop, you can disable fan control (sometimes referred to as "Quiet Mode") in bios and let it run at a set RPM.

If I had to guess, I'd say your chipset drivers for ubuntu aren't signaling bios to scale fan/air movement appropriately based on system load. Passing this control back to bios or disabling it entirely should show a marked improvement in temperature control.

#7 tim_s

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 17:42

Check BIOS for fan control options. I've noted that many of the control packages for chipset drivers, etc, are not as well (if at all) configured to run *nix operating systems. Usually, especially on a desktop, you can disable fan control (sometimes referred to as "Quiet Mode") in bios and let it run at a set RPM.

If I had to guess, I'd say your chipset drivers for ubuntu aren't signaling bios to scale fan/air movement appropriately based on system load. Passing this control back to bios or disabling it entirely should show a marked improvement in temperature control.


Thanks - this machine, however, has not been in use for over 5 years. I only needed the machine temporarily: IF time = money, my money was best spent on upgrading anyways.