Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Technical - Using A Refrigerator To Repair A Graphics Card

It has been a rather unproductive couple of weeks re-building PC's. What started as a decision to rationalize the equipment lying around the Haunt turned into major upgrade and replacement sessions.

The results are good - two Pentium 4 3Ghz units with new motherboards, and the moving of my main PC, a 2Ghz Pentium 4 built in 2002, to a new motherboard as well.

All three PC's are now running on ASUS P4P800-E Deluxe motherboards. After the disappointments with my Gigabyte boards mounted to the point of pain, I decided to move everything to the same model motherboard, and to use a different manufacturer. The requisite research and local availability led me to ASUS.

One of the last niggling chores was an ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder 8500 DV graphics card that had a cooling fan that had eaten its bearings. After surviving the endless demolition noise from across the street for the past 6 months, it was the final straw when the PC began making tortured metal noises.

With my recently acquired knowledge of PC heatsinks and cooling, it was a simple task to find a replacement heatsink/fan combo (HSF) to replace the failed unit. Except for a seemingly small problem - how to get the existing HSF off the ATI GPU chip?

I tried Googling for an answer, and fired off a ticket to ATI tech support. Guess which route produced the right answer...

It turns out that you need a refrigerator, or more precisely, a freezer. Place the offending graphics card in a plastic freezer bag (to prevent ice build-up from humidity) and leave in the freezer for 24 hours. (You really do need to leave it to freeze solid BTW, just cold won't do.)

With a suitably frozen card in hand, it was now time to pry the HSF off the chip. This is a delicate operation because it is easy to
accidentally damage the board . I used a chip pry tool left over from some previous upgrade project and started applying pressure. After a few seconds, the HSF just popped off.

It turns out that ATI uses some sort of thermal glue to hold the HSF. This left a residue that takes some scrapping and alcohol to remove. With a fully cleaned off surface, it was now possible to mount the new HSF on the GPU. I used a Cooler Master Blue Ice HSF as the replacement unit. It is the same size as the ATI GPU, and just sticks on.

The final detail was to connect the power lead for the fan. The original HSF used a 2 pin, 5V connector on the card to power the fan. The new unit was 12 volt, and luckily, a fan connector was still free on the motherboard. I connected the new HSF to this point, and now have the benefit of being able to monitor the fan speed through the ASUS monitoring software.

Oh, and ATI tech support?

"
I have explained. ATI does not offer end user replaceable parts on ATI cards. I cannot assist you with this. ATI does not support or recomend end user repairs to ATI cards."

1 comment:

jack lance said...

Great,I dont know whats the best coolers for card but i think thats make great replacements for existing Video card or motherboard chipset coolers.
refrigeration repair commercial