CPU Upgrade: Do I need to improve cooling?


New Member
Feb 13, 2013
United States
Hello, friends! You can call me Vardoooguh ;)

I was on the M17x waiting list, and while it was seriously riddled with issues, I loved every minute of that beast. I gave it to a friend... and even though the dual videos don't work... the keys are falling off the keyboard... it's still running strong.

Then, the M18x was announced, and I did that pre-order. This M18x R1 is TEN times the machine my 17x was. In terms of performance, yes, it's 2 years newer - but also, QUALITY. It's rock solid. Pretty darn quiet... cool-running... I love it.

Normally, being 2 years old, I'd be thinking about upgrading, but this thing still feels NEW to me. So, I'm digging in for another two years with this baby.

Here's what I've ALREADY done:

1) Installed dual 512GB SSDs, and set them up in a RAID0. Super fast.

2) Installed 16GB of dual channel (8GBx2) DDR3 1600 RAM (CPUz identifies this as 800mhz RAM), with another 16GB on the way - I just found out there are two more memory banks! And with all the video editing / production I do on this machine, this will be a big help. (A 40min video project today exported in about 2/3 the time that it did with the 2x4GB).


I've learned that these machines have replacable CPUs and GPUs!!

Is that correct?

The GPUs are pretty solid right now (I think): dual 2GB 6900M HDs. Are these still pretty solid? I play BF3 mostly right now, and it seems to handle it just fine.

But my CPU seems like my biggest bottleneck. It's got the lowest Windows Score (though I know this doesn't mean a ton) out of all my components.

My CPU is the i7 2820QM.

It looks like I can get a used 2960XM off eBay for about $500 - which I'm thinking about pulling the trigger on.

What do you think of this? Is this a wise idea (assuming I get a good, reliable CPU from a buyer that I trust)?

And most importantly (I think): Is the heatsync that my machine has good enough for this CPU? Would that have to change?

Overall- please let me know ANYTHING I need to know, or that you think I need to know. Chances are, I could really use your advice!

Thank you so much for your time, my friends.

Pat, aka, Varduga


Resource Administrator / Forum Moderator
Mar 19, 2012
Adelaide, Australia
Welcome to the AWO family!

Your RAM is still running at 1600 even though CPUz has it as 800. DDR means double data rate so it will run at double the 800 that CPUz states. All is good there.

With the other upgrades, if your GPU's are running fine with what you have them doing right now I would suggest to leave them and upgrade them later to higher end AMD or Nvidia cards if you see some good deals around. If you think you need to upgrade the CPU go for it! You may be able to sell your current one for a few bucks too which will help. The 2960XM would be more overclockable than your current CPU too if you ever want to dabble with overclocking. If you can afford it, maybe go for a 3rd Gen 3960XM. Not sure what the price is for those though so $500 for the 2960 may be the better deal.

Good luck!

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P.s. It all comes down to how much you want to spend. Go for dual GTX 680M's if you have the money! :D


Feb 25, 2012
As for your cooling you really should just check what your current temperatures for both your CPU and GPU are at idle and under load. If they are rather high then a simple repaste should fix your problem. Also, if/when you upgrade the CPU you will have to repaste anyway.
The 2960XM is a great CPU, but you will need at least the M18x R1 dual-pipe heat sink for that upgrade to go well. It would be better to purchase a new triple-pipe M18x R2 XM heat sink. The part number to order from Dell is 0MXJ5. This heat sink will fit any CPU in the M18x R1 or R2 and make even a non-XM run cooler.

The single-pipe heat sink that non-XM CPUs have will not cut it if you do any type of overclocking. It will run hotter than you want it to even with a conservative Dell Level 3 setting.

If you decide to upgrade from AMD to NVIDIA GPUs you will need new heat sinks for that because they will not fit correctly across brands. The 6990M uses a different heat sink than the 7970M. It fits, but does not cool quite as as effectively. It should cool well enough to not harm the 7970M from heat. The 580M, 675M and 680M NVIDIA GPUs all use the same heat sink.
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