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How to Fix Throttling on the Dell XPS 15 9570 / 9560

By Douglas Black , last updated on September 12, 2019

Note: title has been changed to reflect that the XPS 9570 has the same problems and the same solutions as the XPS 9560. I’ll update the contents if needed when I get a 9570 to test (already did, here’s the review), but for now these tweaks will work on both builds.

So, you’ve already maxed out your Dell XPS 15 with 32GB of DDR4 RAM and the best 1TB NVMe SSD for the money—now your XPS 15 is as good as it gets, right? Nope, not yet!

Without some hardware and software tweaks, your brand-new XPS 15 won’t be able to perform anywhere near its potential due to throttling.

In this article we’ll tell you how address this issue, but be aware that while this procedure works and is safe when done correctly, it may void your warranty or damage your computer if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’re just providing a guide and cannot be hold accountable for your actions, so proceed at your own risk.

Before you begin the journey of optimizing your XPS 15, you’ll want the following: 1.5mm 6.0W/mK thermal pads, Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut (best thermal paste at the moment without resorting to the liquid metal variants), some highly pure rubbing alcohol and some microfiber cloths.

As mentioned in our detailed review, the XPS 15 9560 with the Core i7-7700HQ processor (as well as the 9570 with the i7-8750H update) is prone to two types of throttling:

  1. Thermal throttling of the CPU or GPU (generally the CPU) when temperatures get too high
  2. Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) throttling caused by it getting too hot and being unable to deliver enough power

The first type of throttling is quite straightforward to all but the most uninitiated: the CPU and GPU have temperature limits to prevent damage. Exceeding the temperature max (100C for CPU, 97C for GPU) will cause an instantaneous shutdown—but you should never see temperatures anywhere near that as the components will throttle their performance long before they get to that point.

There are softer limits than 100C and 97C for the CPU and GPU respectively, however. The GPU will reduce its clocks to keep its temperature below 78C, and the CPU will dynamically reduce its turbo-clocks based on temperatures and power consumption.

The second type of throttling is also the result of heat, but because people generally look at CPU and GPU temperatures alone when benchmarking, it went undetected for a long time.

The VRM’s job is to convert 5 or 12V power from the adapter or battery into much smaller voltages to feed the CPU and GPU (generally 1.5v or less). A VRM has several components, but we are primarily interested in only two: MOSFETS (short for metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor, but you don’t need to know that for any reason except trivia) and chokes. The MOSFET is responsible for switching the voltage down to a manageable level to feed the CPU and GPU; the chokes stabilize the current.

In this image (courtesy of iunlock of Notebookreview), the MOSFETs and chokes have been identified with their temperatures under load. Throttling occurs around 78C.

To get your XPS 15 to run at its maximum potential, we will need to solve both these problems. First, let’s take care of the CPU and GPU heat directly. For this, you’ll need your Grizzly Kryonaut, 99% rubbing alcohol, and those microfiber cloths.

  1. Use a T5 screwdriver to remove the 10 Torx screws around the edges of the bottom panel.
  2. Open the service hatch and use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the two Phillips-head screws.
  3. If this is your first time opening your XPS 15, it will take a bit of effort to take the bottom plate off, as there are many small clips that keep it attached. Get your fingernails or a plastic card under the sides of the base near the hinge where the casing is most robust, and apply even, steady pressure to pull the bottom off.
  4. Remove the battery connector by pulling gently.
  5. Use your Phillips screwdriver to remove the five screws of the heat sink assembly (a thank you to Jens Andersson for the picture with proper screws highlighted as I no longer have this machine). 
  6. DO NOT PULL ON THE PIPES TO REMOVE IT. The heat sink assembly bends very easily. Carefully remove the heat sink assembly by getting your fingers under the upper edges of the left square (this is the GPU’s heat spreader) and gentle pulling upward on the top edge. The assembly should come up fairly easily once you overcome the glue-like suction of Dell’s abominable paste-job.
  7. Use the microfiber with the rubbing alcohol to remove the existing thermal paste. You’ll want to clean both the CPU and GPU dies as well as the heat spreader. Keep cleaning with the alcohol until you don’t see any grey marks on the cloth after rubbing.
  8. Put a little (half the size of a grain of rice) dollop of the thermal paste onto each die. Don’t worry, it will be pressed flat by the pressure of the heat spreader.
  9. Carefully replace the heat sink assembly flat onto the dies. Keep applying firm downward pressure over the heat spreader areas with one hand while you reinsert the screws with the other.
  10. Tighten each screw only a little at a time, taking turns tightening the screw diagonal to it so the pressure on the heatsink is uniform.
  11. Reconnect the battery.
  12. Place the bottom case cover back on the unit. No need to screw it back on yet, though.
  13. Turn on your laptop and run some tests! If you’ve done it right, you’ll see a pretty good reduction in CPU and GPU operating temperatures.

The next step is using software called ThrottleStop to reduce the power consumption of your CPU. This can reduce the load wattage needed for the CPU by 10W easily.

Generally, all the i7-7700HQs on XPS 15 9560’s I’ve seen can undervolt to -125mv for core and cache. I run -125mv on core/care and -75mv on the iGPU. i7-8750H CPUs on the XPS 15 9570 do well at around -120 mV, but I’ve seen some that were onyl stable at around -11- mV to -110 mV. The link above explains how to use ThrottleStop and how to test for stability.

The final tweak to take care of your CPU and GPU temperatures is to go to the Nvidia Control Panel and change the “Maximum pre-rendered frames” value to “2”. This will prevent the CPU from needlessly being overtaxed to send data to the GPU.

The next step is dealing with the temperatures of the VRM head-on. Take another look at this picture:

Our goal is to cool those MOSFETs with the highest temperature (above the heat spreader) so they don’t hit their throttling temperature. How? We will be using stacked thermal pads to connect the MOSFET to the aluminum bottom cover. Why? When the right type of pads are used, the bottom cover will wick heat away from the MOSFETs.

There is trick to this, and it explains why we use lower performing 6W/mK thermal pads instead of some very high quality ones: if too much heat is transferred to the case it will actually end up heating up the VRM instead of cooling it. This is what will happen if you use an extremely conductive (16W/mK) thermal pad, and it’s why we want the 6W/mK pads for this purpose instead.

The mod is fairly straightforward: cut out small vertical strips from the thermal pad and place them on top of the MOSFETs above the heat spreaders. If you are using 1.5mm thick thermal pads, you will need to stack 3 of them on top of each other in order to reach the case. You want to leave as much open space around the pads so what little airflow there is doesn’t get impeded.

That’s it! Once you have stacked your little padded pillars over the MOSFETs and put the case bottom back on, you should be able to run any game or benchmark without VRM-induced throttling.

After following this guide, your Dell XPS 15 9560/9750 should now be a finely tuned beast of a machine, able to leap mountains in a single bound. If this guide helped you, please let me know in the comments and share this guide.

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Based in Hong Kong, Douglas Black is a veteran editor of Notebookcheck, university lecturer, researcher, and writer.

283 Comments

  1. Tom

    November 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Hi,

    this article is a good head start, but not sufficient. After applying it, I got from like 100°C on VRM to ~ 90°C which wasn't enough to stop throttling. I made some changes and now I got to maximums 76°C VRM, 75°C GPU which clocks at 1600 MHz and around 78°C CPU. What I did extra? Cutted a hole for airflow, padded space between lid and alu cooling pad, custom repadded memory on GPU, downvolted and little underclocked GPU and a little underclocked CPU. Yes and in 3 layers of VRM padding written here, I used 1x 3mm mini coller + 1 pad = same 4.5 mm total height, that helped a couple of deg. Now I don't have any throttling (CPU or GPU) while I play anything for serveral hours (well, with Chrome and my usual apps opened, CPU can throttle a little bit – could downclock GPU even more…)

    Would anyone be interested to read such article? I have had it in my head for months. Thanks.

    • Tom

      November 27, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      Oh and here's one super easy hack for older games to stop throttling:

      1. Open Dell Command Power Manager
      2. Click Thermal Management tab
      3. Set profile to Cool
      4. Play a game

      I will downclock GPU and CPU and spin the hell out of fans. Games will have lower FPS at first, but less generated heat will cause lower VRM temps so no more downlocking CPU to 780 MHz. Good for less demanding games.

    • Paul

      November 30, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      I'd definitely be interested in reading such an article, if you wrote it.

    • Chris

      December 3, 2019 at 2:26 am

      Yes, I would very much like to read the article.
      Thanks

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