I use a graphics card in my main desktop computer. My requirement was to add a second display for convenience rather than to gain high definition graphics that were beyond the capabilities of the onboard graphics processor. Sometimes I need to see more than one spreadsheet or a spreadsheet beside a browser window, or multiple configuration files, or whatever, and Windows 7's screen split doesn't always have enough viewable area even on my 24 inch screen. A second display can make life much easier.
Everyone knows the sick feeling you get when anything goes wrong with your desktop or laptop computer. Do I have backups? When was the last backup? Panic! This time it was just the display that suddenly shut down, but when it happens you always think of the worst possible scenario. After a little investigating, I found it was not my whole system that was crashing, just the video. Naturally it had to happen just after I got a warning message that my security software had rolled back an update that had caused some systems to shut down unexpectedly! Now what are the odds of that happening?
This is not a how-to because the whole thing is just too simple. Just change a part and that's all there is to it. This is more or less to let you know you can do it, and very cheap. Assuming, of course, that you are dealing with a heat issue and not a bad graphics card.
I took a quick look on eBay and found plenty of fans and fan/heatsink combinations that would replace my bad fan. I chose to replace the entire heatsink and fan. The new heatsink is smaller on one side, but has more fins, they are thinner, open at the bottom, and the fins are taller. Even though it is shorter on one end, it should cool more efficiently than the old heatsink. The fins are placed in a more "friendly" arrangement with the fan to help airflow.
The only drawback was that all the fans I found that appeared to fit my graphics card were shipped from Hong Kong or somewhere in China. That probably should not be a surprise since most graphics cards seem to be made there. I found an eBay seller with good feedback and placed my order for 2 fan & heatsink units. Cost was almost pocket change for the fans with heatsinks and shipping included (less than $4.00 each). My order arrived in 10 calendar days, and even better, the pins to attach the new heatsink aligned perfectly and snapped right into the holes in my graphics card.
This is the original fan and heatsink. The 2 plastic push pins held the heatsink in place over the graphics processor. To remove the heatsink, pinch the split end of the pins together from the bottom and slide the pins back through the mounting holes in the graphics card circuit board.
By the way, I made the black mark you see in the center of the fan so I could tell if the fan was operating properly. It wasn't! It would try to spin up, then slow down, sometimes having a jerky motion. The mark on the fan made it easy to see the fan was running erratically.
The fan after I removed it from the original heatsink. 3 very small screws held the fan to the heatsink. If you wanted to, you could order a replacement fan and re-attach it to the original heatsink. I found these fans for under $3.00 each with free shipping!
The replacement fan and heatsink. One side is shorter, but the design I think is an improvement. Note the plastic push pins that attach the unit to the graphics card. The placement and spacing is identical to the original and the new unit attaches perfectly in the original holes.
The bottom of the heatsink. Be sure to clean the thermal compound off the GPU and add new compound before setting the heatsink in place.
The 2 fan/heatsink units. I prefer the more compact design of the new unit. It should cool much more efficiently than the old style.
The graphics card with the new heatsink and fan attached, ready to be installed.