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GPU core temp getting too high

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Posted 27 January 2015 - 09:33 AM

So this is the first computer I ever built, and I put it together about 7 months ago. I built it with the intention of playing games like Borderlands 2 and Shadow Warrior on max settings but life got in the way for a while and the only things I ended up running on it were less taxing, like Don't Stave and Binding of Issac. I finally tried a taxing game in Borderlands 2 a few days ago, and the night I started it I played for ~2 hours with no sign of errors, albeit on less than max settings. The next day I optimized my settings for what my computer should be able to handle and have had crashes during games ever since. 
Since I am new to high end gaming troubleshooting (but rather well versed in general PC troubleshooting) I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the problem was before finally figuring it out (I think!). I updated all my drivers, uninstalled and re installed just about everything on my machine, ran multiple different virus scans, ran some optimization tools, defragged the HDD, ect.
I checked the GPU core temp and it idled around 30-40°C, but during borderlands 2 it would get to high 90s very quickly and start to lag and often crash leaving me with sound and the PC still running for a minute but no signal on the screen. I believe when it got over 100°C is when it would crash, but not 100% on that. I heard that BL2 has a problem with physx settings so I tried setting it from high to low and the problem persisted.
In order to make sure it wasn't just BL2 causing me issues I tried Shadow Warrior on Ultra settings and it ran stunningly well at 120fps....for about 5-10 minutes. GPU read high 90s and FPS was low 30s before the first Shadow Warrior crash.
I'm a bit worried because after every crash (I believe I pushed it to crashing 6 times total trying to figure this all out) I thought I could smell something odd but when I put my nose up to the PC after taking the side panel off I couldn't smell anything. However, I'm still nervous to play anything until I'm certain I have the issue fixed because I really can't afford to replace this video card right now if it burns out.
So where I'm at now is I've been reading up on other people's similar issues and the fix seems to be to clean out the dust in the GPU fans, check the heat sink contact, and replace the thermal paste. Thermal paste and cleaner are to be ordered soon but for now I just have to sit and wait for them to get here. For peace of mind, I wanted to post my specific situation to see if I'm handling this correctly, because for the most part I'm just winging this by myself hoping I am not about to destroy one of the most expensive things I own. I'm posting this from work, so I am not next to the computer in question at the moment, but can certainly provide any needed info when I get home tonight (5pm est).
Definitely appreciate any help.  Here's a link to a WhoCrashed? report from before I tried to fix much that might give some insight. The driver it mentions has been updated to the most recent version: http://pastebin.com/H5YXHjCd 
My specs:
Edit: One thing I forgot to add was that before the Shadow Warrior crash I had opened up MSI Afterburner and turned off Auto on the Fan and set it to 80%. I then ran Shadow Warrior and played around a bit in survival and watched my FPS slowly drop until I crashed. I didnt get a chance to look at the temps before the crash because I had the monitor open (using a program called GPU Temp) on the desktop and I was fullscreen on SW. After that crash I unplugged my computer and took off the side panel, looked around inside, and called it a night. Computer hasn't been rebooted or even plugged in since then.

Edited by Chris Cosgrove, 28 January 2015 - 06:53 PM.
Moved to 'Internal hardware'

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