Dealing with Thermal and Power Limit Throttling Issues

I’ve been having intermittent issues with my Dell XPS 15 9560 since the day I bought it 2 years ago. It would freeze momentarily and cause stuttering of the mouse from time to time doing normal activities. It wasn’t until I threw Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on the laptop when I discovered the root of the problems.

Turns out, it was the “Power Limit Throttling” and “Thermal Throttling” that was the source of all the problems with performance. When I searched online for the cure, I found plenty of others complaining about the same problem and it really took some trial and error to try and figure out the definitive steps to take to overcome it.

After many hours combing through blogs and Youtube videos, here are the collation of steps I was able to assemble and follow to get my laptop working at peak performance.

Step 1: Install ThrottleStop (Get a Baseline going)

Throttlestop will allow you to assess the situation. Its good to run it so that you get a sense for what’s happening with the machine in its current state so that you know whether you are improving or making things worst. Its also used to adjust under-volting and turbo boost parameters, which we’ll get into later.

Step 2: Re-Paste the CPU (Addresses the Thermal Throttling)

This was critical for me. My CPU was running well over 90C constantly. Once I repasted, the temps came down 10 degrees and that was enough to keep the thermal throttling for happening all the time.

Here is a good link on steps to take for re-pasting the CPU.

Step 3: Remove Intel Thermal Framework Drivers (Addresses the Power Limit Throttling)

Intel and Dell are getting way to conservative with how they are managing and throttling their CPU hardware. As a result we, the consumer, suffer. I probably wouldn’t have even attempted to find a solution if their throttling was gradual…but because they literally take all but 0.8GHz away from you, this made the laptop almost impossible to work with. The software doing this just had to go! I went into Device Manager and Uninstall the Intel Thermal Framework components manually. When it asks whether to uninstall the driver as well…make sure you check it, otherwise windows is just going to reinstall the components again after a reboot.

Once this is done, I also renamed the “c:\windows\system32\Intel\DPTF” folder for extra good measure so that windows wouldn’t try and reinstall.

This reduced the frequency of times I would get Power Limit throttling…but it didn’t eliminate it completely yet. That required under-volting and changing the turbo power limits

Step 4: Under-volt the CPU and GPU

Dell in their ultimate wisdom decided to publish a BIOS version that disabled under-volting. They believe we could tune with just their built in Thermal feature software and wouldn’t need to risk running software like Throttlestop that could damage hardware. Well, Dell’s software doesn’t solve the problem and I found that under-volting was required to get the desired outcome.

I reverted to BIOS v1.18.0 and was able to re-enable the under-volting capability through Throttlestop. I also had to turn off automatic BIOS updates from within the BIOS screens so that 1.19.0 or later versions wouldn’t get automatically installed during the next reboot.

For my system, I could under-volt up to -100mV. for the CPU and CPU Cache to have a stable system. Some have been able to under-volt up to -125 with good results. On the iGPU side, -75mV did the trick.

Step 5: Override Turbo Power Limits

Disabling the “Turbo Boost” feature really didn’t help me with getting rid of the last of the Power Limit Throttling…all it did was allow the CPU to run 2 degrees cooler at the cost of losing 1GHz of CPU power. This seemed like too much to sacrifice for a couple degrees of cooling.

The compromise I found was to override the Turbo Power limits. Using Throttlestop, I was able to click on the “Disable and Lock Turbo Power Limits” to allow for overriding. Once done, I clicked on the “TPL” button to bring up the Turbo Power Limit dialog. From here, I turned off the “Turbo Boost Short Power Max” and I left the “Turbo Boost Long Power Max” enabled and set its value to 100.

Once done, the power limit throttle was a thing of the past and I was getting 3.7GHz of consistent power out of the CPU…Happiness finally kicked in.

WARNING: Keep that “BD PROCHOT” flag checked at all times. Because you are essentially removing all the governors, this is your final safeguard to make sure the laptop doesn’t enter magma stage and melt down.

Conclusion

I found out that managing power and temperatures is a big deal in the laptop world. Sometimes you just have to spend the time to tweak it in order to unleash the full benefit of the hardware…or in my case, simply try eradicating the stuttering and freezing behavior that has annoyed me for years.

Now I have a laptop that can do all the things I throw at it without stuttering…whether it be a Flight Sim, compiling code, or working with video editing software. Wish I took the time 2 years ago to investigate the problem and solve it. It acts like a new machine…amazing!

Good luck with your tweaks.

I am a longtime software builder, fly fisher and professional musician. Living in Montana allows me to follow all of my passions in life.